IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives

Broadleaf. Oct. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781506463513. $24.99. SOC SCI
What does it mean to be real in the internet age? That is one of the many questions Stedman (Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious) explores in this new work. Through stories that keep circling back to a breakup, a move, and a scabies diagnosis, Stedman discusses his attempts to find authenticity. He expands on his religion and lack thereof, his sexuality, and even his online brand. He poses that drag queens are not fake but an exaggeration of realness, much like the selfies posted on social media. He also asserts that while many use social media for community and closeness, people simplify their lives so much within character limits that it creates more distance not less. While most of the book is written as a first-person narrative, Stedman also cites the many scientists and journalists who have studied the concept of realness and presents their findings and how they relate to his own experience.
VERDICT Stedman remains accessible as he places himself into this technological yet jargon-free narrative; anyone looking to learn more about digital culture and its impact on society will be interested in and able to follow the concepts the author puts forth.
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