Monday, January 23, 2017

The Happiness Effect by Donna Freitas

With a subtitle like "How Social Media is Driving a Generation To Appear Perfect At Any Cost", how could I not request this book from NetGalley?

Based on interviews with many students across campuses in America, The Happiness Effect looks at social media and topics like:

- The importance of being 'Liked'

- The Professionalisation of Facebook

- Selfies

- Religion on (and Off) social media

- Anonymity (like Yik Yak)

- Bullying

- Facebook official

- Smartphones

- Taking a Timeout

and so on. It's mostly a collection of interviews, so the voices of the students really shine through.

For me, I really loved this book. A lot of what it says rings true. It is, however, very country-specific. For example, most of my Singaporean friends on 'Facebook' don't seem to do the 'Professionalism' thing, while it's the total opposite in Japan. In Japan, Facebook is like LinkedIn. It seems to be the same in America, where Facebook and Twitter are considered 'Professional'. On the other hand, it seems like Twitter is to Japan what Snapchat is to America.

So the book may not be very relevant once you're out of America. Still, it is fairly relevant, because we are getting more and more dependent on smartphones. And the chapter of anonymity and how people start refraining from giving the unpopular opinion reminded me why some people use apps Dayre - because it provides a greater level of anonymity than Facebook (though of course, it is not totally anonymous. But that is probably related to a discussion of Networked Privacy).
"Our devices and our compulsive posting and checking are helping us flee ourselves."
I actually agree a lot with this quote. I've been very restless lately, and I realise that I pick up my smartphone whenever my brain doesn't want to engage. While I don't post much, I do lurk a lot, and that's not a good thing. It is time for me to add a bit more of intentional stillness into my life.

Ok, this is a rather disjointed review, but I wanted to end with this quote:
"What I have called the happiness effect throughout his book - the requirement to appear happy on social media regardless of what a person actually feels - is an effect of our own making. We are the ones who have created this problem. Young adults have internalised the lesson that if you want say anything happy, you shouldn't say anything at all, even if you feel despair, dismay, anger, or any number of other emotions common to human experience, from us."
This book isn't out yet, but I think that if you're at all interested in thinking about social media, you should definitely get it once it's published.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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