How social media changes us: a look at our current world through the lense of a fictional story.
I recently brought the book "An Absolutely Remarkable Thing" by Hank Green after hearing Ariel Bissett talk about it on instagram stories.
Without hearing much about it, except for a few fleeting instagram stories I just so happened to be in a bookstore and the cover caught my attention again, I read a few pages and decided I would dive in and see what it was like. I have previously liked pretty much all of John Green (Hanks brothers) books so I knew that if they has similar writing styles I would probably like this one too.
"The Carls just appeared. Roaming New York City at three a.m twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture.
Delighted by its appearance and craftmanship-- like a ten foot tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armour-- April and her best friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News spreads quickly that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world - from Beijing to Buenos Aires- and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the centre of an intense international media spotlight.
Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us."
Now this book, while being a fictional story (obvs, it's about giant possibly alien robots) there are bits and pieces of the story that are very very relatable in the "social media age" we are living in right now.
The character, April May, was never a social media person, she had instagram and that was about it and posted things she liked to post about rather than what everyone else was doing and as soon as she gained a "following" this changed everything for her. She suddenly wanted the attention, she wanted people to follow her on twitter and keep up with her every move, she wanted people to recognise her in the streets, she wanted more and more followers and loved seeing her numbers go up and I feel this is very relevant to todays instagram society of the more numbers the better, rather than the more people you connect with and help the better, and this is why buying followers and likes has become such a prevalent issue in the social media community. People are obsessed with people knowing who they are.
I wanna talk about a few quotes that really stood out to me about this topic so here goes..
“I thought maybe I was done, that maybe I could coast forever on what we had done in two weeks. I had run out of that good ambition fuel and maybe we had done all we could do…. Even knowing I could go down in history as the first person who made first contact with an alien, that was somehow fleeting. Those things felt good, but they couldn’t keep me feeling as good as they had felt when they first happened. I felt the hole they left growing inside of me”
This quote goes to show how a little bit of "fame" is never enough, once we become accustomed to being the one in the know, or having people hanging on our every word we don't want those feelings of being wanted to go away, we have to keep posting, we have to try to stay relevant. Kind of like the way the drugs and getting addicted work, like the first time you have a hit its the most incredible feeling ever, and you end up spending all your time trying to feel like you did the first time, but it will never feel that good again, so you keep using more and more until you're completely addicted.
This is how young adults get so caught up in an "instagram world"
They have to keep doing bigger, bolder and 90% of the time stupider things to keep themselves in the limelight. They get so addicted to likes on a photo and numbers underneath their names that at some points they literally are living a lie, none of our lives are as perfect as we make them seem on instagram, and I for one love the fact that a movement is coming into play through all social media channels to start to post the hard stuff, the boring stuff, the stuff that makes us all human, so we know that the people we see on our screens everyday are real everyday people.
"I was still April May, the snarky BFA Grad, but that's not who I wanted the world to see, that wasn't the person who would establish first contact with the alien race. So I was also April May who was surprising, quirky, unassuming, but passionately intelligent speaker for the Carls"
This is also such a great quote to represent what "influencers" want to be seen as, we want the world to see us as someone who cares about human rights, the environment, anything going on in the world at any given time and be able to give intelligent commentary on it even if we actually don't really understand whats going on and therefore shouldnt or don't really have to have an opinion on it. People on the internet expect you to care about every single little thing that is going on in the world and it is getting increasingly hard to keep up with the constant news reports and social media posts about world events.
"Those people were real, and their thoughts were formed by overblown or straight made up stories about me that I could never adequately defend myself against. People all over the world whom I had never met hated me, HATED and what they thought about me was completely out of my control"
This is the other side of internet fame, there is always going to be someone who doesn't like you, who doesn't agree with your opinion, who thinks that because you put your life online that opens you up for criticism about everything from your appearance to how you apply makeup, to how you speak to your family or partner in the ten second clips of your life that you put on your instagram stories.
The thing about this is, these people will never let you explain yourself, you will probably never redeem yourself in their eyes and that is the hardest thing about young people living their lives online, people will forever have screenshots of all the stupid things you tweeted when you were oblivious to the issues surrounding it so even if you delete it straight away or in a few years people will always have the evidence that once upon a time you said shameful or stupid things, and as followers of these online personalities want more and more personal things to be shared, more and more danger of you saying something potentially damaging increases. This is a very very fine line to tread, sharing enough to keep your audience feeling like they know you, but not too much that they get to have an opinion on every single little thing that goes on in your life.
Overall I think this book was a very very interesting look into the social norms and world we are currently living in through the lens of someone on the side of fame. It was also written by somebody with mild internet fame so it makes for an interesting POV.
The writing is easy to read and follow, very similar to John Green which is no surprise, there is enough mystery that it makes you want to keep on reading.
I really liked the sci-fi aspect of this book, I found it interesting and something I personally havent read before.
Although I do find Hank Greens twenty-something female voice isn't quite right, sometimes she would say things that a twenty-something probably wouldn't say which took me out of the story a little because some of the words were far to complex (this is something I also struggle with in Johns books) but overall I think he did a pretty good job.
Let me know what you think if you have read this book, or even if you just have an opinion on my commentary for this book. I would love to hear from you.
Cover Art by Designed by Rosa
Lots of love,