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The Status of All Things: It’s Complicated

Last Friday I was feeling pretty miserable — very down in the dumps — and I did something I rarely do. I tweeted about it. About how 2015 has not been a great year so far. The next day I deleted it. Why? Was I worried how being sad would make me look in a sea full of tweets about Muppets and books, amongst cat and sunset pictures? It’s not that. It’s more of a reminder to myself that when I’m feeling frustrated and upset, there are other places — other people — I should be turning to. The vast black hole of the internet, while it may feel like a safe place, does not compare to talking it out, a private conversation, or even being alone with your thoughts.

I think there’s this huge misunderstanding that who you are on the internet — whether you are only sharing the good stuff or a nice mix, whether you’re all in, or sporadically around — is somehow a representation of who you are all the time. It’s not totally unwarranted. These simple shared moments, especially at a time when you are feeling so low and so disconnected, are like little devils on your shoulders. Look at how much better she has it. He’s just living the dream, isn’t he?

Take Kate in The Status of All Things for example. She’s so obsessed with social media and perpetuating this perfect image — the amazing condo, her successful career, her loyal BFFs, her gorgeous and smart fiancé — to the world that’s she missing some mighty big signs. What will she share on Facebook when her fiancé calls off their wedding the night before because he’s in love with someone else? Is there even a hashtag for that? (#disaster #fuck) Unlike most humans, Kate finds herself with a second chance; she’s traveled back in time to make things right and her status updates are now wishes to be granted.

If only.

An old coworker might be the only person in my life without any social media account. Even my dad has broken down and joined Facebook. (He has yet to upload a profile picture.) This practice is so much a part of our culture; it’s hard to remember the days it didn’t exist. There’s no doubt that technology has made our lives so much easier, connecting us with people near and far (I talk to my mom in her house while I’m cooking in my apartment), but, and I’m guilty of this too, it’s also a huge distraction.

What are we missing when we pick up a phone during a dinner date with a friend? What could we have been doing instead of scrolling through a Twitter feed just because? Do we have to share every picture, tweet at every friend we see? Can we wait for an elevator without looking down at our hands? Most of all, do these images of perfection keep us from getting to know people on another level?

As soon as my dad signed me up for AOL, I became an internet junkie. I don’t deny the wonderful opportunities and awesome people I’ve met because of a click and a shared interest. But, let’s be real, sometimes the internet makes me feel awful. This lifelong journey to self-acceptance and satisfaction is hard enough before you get tangled into the Web. When does it all become too much? When does the cycle of insecurity and odd competition partnered with the hurt from tweets you can’t unsee stop? Kate gets the ultimate wake up call; she has to start dissecting her own life with all of its wrinkles instead of depending on the ultimate filter.

SHE HAS TO BE REAL WITH HERSELF.

Because, at the end of the day, knowing you could truly be there for your best friend or have the opportunity to live a happy life in real time is worth more than all the shares, likes, and favorites in the world. Right? Right. So to Instagram or not Instagram — that is the question and a good one it is. Can you still love something without abusing it? Without confusing what’s real with what’s curated? It might take some reminding but #thosenudgesareworthit.

The Status of All Things

The Status of All Things (Washington Square Press/Atria Books) by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke was published on June 2, 2015.

I can guarantee you won’t be tempted to check your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. while swept up in Kate’s story of second chances, perfection, fate, and the Internet. Thoughtful and sweet, frustrating and charming, this contemporary with a sprinkle of fantasy will have you rooting for a complicated main character — who could very well be you. What don’t we see because we choose not to and what don’t we see because we’re so wrapped up in what everyone else thinks? Another winner from this duo who knows how to inject love and the complexities of friendship into their books.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Liz & Lisa on the web

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An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Thanks!

October 6, 2015 - 12:01 am

Beyond the Pages: Musings On Internet Life - […] picked this book up in the first place was because of a post by my friend Estelle who wrote a much more articulate and WAY more succinct post about this book that I highly […]

July 31, 2015 - 9:40 am

Hannah @ So Obsessed With - I hope you know how much I loved this post! I wrote about in my June recap, but I just realized that I never commented and told you how much I enjoyed reading it. I’ve told you over and over again lately – your ability to write reflections about books and to tie them to your experiences is one of my favorite things about you and your reviews. For the most part, I only read reviews for books that interest me. But that’s not the case with you! I’ll enjoy reading ALL of your reviews, even for books that probably aren’t for me. You’ve got such a way with words, and I love how deeply you think about the things you read! <3

July 3, 2015 - 12:38 am

Holly J - Oh, I LOVE this post! I have a love/hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, I have made so many genuine friendships with internet people (something I never thought I WOULD ever say). On the other, it can really affect my real life. Sometimes I spend HOURS, literally hours, on Twitter. I’ve been backing away more, trying to spend less time online. But it is hard, especially since social media is the biggest way I communicate with the friends I’ve made through blogging. It’s also hard too, because I’m not very open in real life. It’s easier for me to share things online. And I know that’s bad, and it’s something I’m trying to work on. Because it’s really hindered my IRL relationships. I don’t wanna put too much importance on a thing that shouldn’t have so much value. Social media has many positives, but it also has as many downfalls.

I think you hit so much of that in your post. I know I want to start stepping away as much as possible, because letting those days go by always spending them on social media and ignoring the people in my life is not worth it. As much as I love Twitter and my blogging friends (not that I would stop talking to them if I quit social media), sometimes I need to remember that I’m losing time with those I hold dearest to my heart.

Lovely post, Estelle! 🙂

July 2, 2015 - 3:51 pm

Looking Back on June 2015! | Bring My Books - […] wrote this really thought provoking post about social media; it’s pros, cons, and all the complicated feelings she has for it. (Note: […]

June 28, 2015 - 10:57 am

Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages - It’s hard to say that I hate the Internet and social media when I have a blog and many social media accounts and when I think it’s brought great people like you into my life, but still, I kind of do. I’ve definitely tried to distance myself from social media and keep proper perspective when I do dive in. I was looking through Instagram the other day and a friend of a friend or some blogger’s profile I was looking at said something like “this is my highlight reel” and, even though I had heard that sentiment before, I really liked the positioning of it in her profile.

June 27, 2015 - 5:12 pm

Emma @ Miss Print - Estelle, I always love how you can review a book while bringing it back to your own life. It’s something I find difficult and rarely attempt. This also reminds me of when my graduate school class left me (and everyone else) completely terrified of social media. I actually just set my Facebook to delete this week because I couldn’t take it anymore.

Between the social media aspect and the ideas of fate and causality, this one sounds really fascinating. I have no idea when I’ll get to it (so slammed with reading) but it’s going on the TBR list right now.

June 26, 2015 - 11:21 am

Laura @ Scribbles & Wanderlust - I’ve had this same issue — throwing a feeling out into the world and later deleting it — for about 4 years now. We see the internet as a safe outlet to expose our feelings and find comfort from others for the sudden, jarring difference in our usual daily communications. But then we don’t get a response from the faceless mass, and it makes us feel worse. So why DON’T we speak to family and friends, or write it down privately? That always brought me comfort before, so why this compulsive need to share it with the world that won’t respond back? Who knows.

But at the same time, there’s that guilt for sharing something “out of the ordinary.” Which is so bizarre, because we’re all human, we all have our days. And the internet has turned our online identity and presence as a brand. We’ve branded ourselves. For me, it’s always talking about books and lit agent stuff, and now it feels weird to talk about anything other than that online. But that’s not who I am. I’m a musician, a traveler, a friend. Yet I rarely, if ever, talk about other activities. A deviation feels weird.

Anyway. This was an excellent post. (And now I’m super curious about that book.)

June 26, 2015 - 11:08 am

Ellice Y - I love this post, and I love YOU, E. And ironically, I wouldn’t even know you if it weren’t for the Internet and this technology that you’re referring to. That said,there are times when I think it’s okay, maybe even HEALTHY, to step away from one form of social media or another for as long as you need. For me, Facebook is the form of social media that often causes the feelings that you described. Does something that Suzy posted about her “perfect” life have me so distracted that I miss the good things in my own life? I try to keep that in mind. I also try to remember that social media can create a majorly false image–you only see what people want you to see, and pictures can be very deceiving. Keeping that mentality keeps me from going crazy in this world of over-sharing! Also, if I’m feeling disconnected because I don’t have time to be on Twitter (which is where I talk to some of my best friends) much because of work,I find it nice to revert to “old-school” email (how insane is it that just sending an email feels old-school now), and even more primitive, snail mail to keep in touch. That might be an option if you ever choose to back away from social media a bit? Selfishly, I hope that you never do because I love being able to talk to you through different mediums– but you have to do what makes YOU happy. That’s most important 🙂

This is SUCH a rambling comment, and I hope you can make sense out of it. Would it be incredibly ironic to tell you to text me or email me? Haha. MUAH!

June 26, 2015 - 10:46 am

Kristin @ Simply Bookish Things - This post is totally on point! 😀
Lovely post! XD

June 26, 2015 - 10:41 am

Alexa S. - I have so much to say regarding this post, but it all boils down to: I agree 100%. There are both advantages and disadvantages to social media and the internet, really. I can’t say I’d ever really be able to give it up completely, but I do think that being thoughtful and intentional about how and when I use it is a habit worth cultivating.

June 26, 2015 - 10:28 am

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - This is an EXCELLENT topic. I’ve really been feeling all of these things lately. Especially as a blogger (who’s a bit too obsessed with her blog and the book community), it’s really hard for me to disconnect… but I kind of have disconnected personally. The internet is just an easy place to say something quickly and leave it out there for anyone to see. Maybe you tweet something because you need to get it off your chest or just want someone to reply… But happy or sad, beautiful or ugly, any tweet/post/photo will be seen by many and consequently assessed. I like what you said — it really is just pieces of your life. I don’t share a LOT on social media because that’s my personal business and I’m not that close with ALL of my Facebook friends and the 3000 people on Twitter who follow me. It doesn’t need to be shared. I try to pick and choose the personal things because I do like showing that personal side of myself and allowing people to see who I really am but I try to stay away from the negative (especially when I see so much negative myself).
It’s REALLY hard not to “judge” (I put it in quotes because I don’t have a better word) who people are on social media from their posts. I’d like to think I know a certain person well but then again, I have no idea what happens in their personal life. It’s so hard to draw the line on how much to share and who you share it with.
And YES it’s so hard to put the phone down. I kill time with my phone. I’m so, so awkward so it’s my excuse not to talk to strangers/make small talk. (It’s not BECAUSE of social media, though. I’ve always been shy and had a hard time making small talk.) I try very hard to make sure I’m not ignoring my husband and I try to keep my phone put away when hanging out with friends (unless we’re at a book event or something in which case we’re all checking what’s going on and who is where). It’s really hard! You feel like you’re missing something if you don’t… And the sense of immediacy I think it what’s starting to kill those personal, face-to-face friendships. I know I feel the need to constantly check my phone for missed texts/tweets/emails but then I miss the people I’m with (which let’s face it — I actually have less time with them to begin with).
I guess I said nothing new but it’s really interesting to think about and talk about! I’d love to pull away from social media and technology every once in a while. I do try to take breaks… but it’s always hard to leave and feeling “missing”!

June 26, 2015 - 10:28 am

Cassie (Happy Book Lovers) - I love this piece so much. I felt this way during my senior year of college. I was so overwhelmed with everything and not doing so great, and I was upset about my usage of social media. So I did a little experiment and it ended up being so liberating. I turned my phone off.
I still carried it with me because emergencies may happen, but it was off and in the bottom of my backpack. I got through hours of studying so much faster, spent more time reading and talking to friends, and I was so happy with the result. I think every once in a while, it’s good to just unplug, even if it’s just for a few hours. 🙂

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