Top 5 Wednesdays: Books for a Class List on Social Media

I had a really, really hard time coming up with anything for this week’s prompt! I kept struggling to find something that would make a potentially interesting class, and that didn’t only include books that I’ve already talked about often. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to love books that have a social media focus, and I find it very interesting to see how authors address (or ignore) social media in recent books. I’ve seen complaints on both sides — on the one hand, some people think social media references keep a book up-to-date and realistic, and on the other, some people worry that it makes the book seem dated. The way I envision this class, it would explore how social media is used in books in a variety of genres, and will show the evolution of how social media is portrayed over the years, as our own use of it has changed and expanded.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly

21444891I think this book would be a great starting point for the class because it takes on a perspective that I personally see as more dated, even though the book was released in 2014. It is about a young teenager named Thea who gets involved in a relationship with an older guy that she meets through an online RPG. I read this book earlier this year and I somehow found it simultaneously better than I expected and worse than I expected. Thea can be a very irritating character to follow because she is incredibly naive and makes some horrible decisions, but I also found her very realistic. I played around on websites like Neopets and Habbo Hotel when I was Thea’s age, and I can definitely see people getting involved in situations like she did. I think this would be a great book to start a discussion about online safety and online friendships, as well as a caution to people about warning signs that might suggest the person is not who they say they are.

2) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905I feel like I bring this book up a lot, but I think it is genuinely a great fit for a class about social media. The main character, Cath, writes a very popular fanfiction series, and her online life is an important part of her life in general. Cath has social anxiety, and takes a lot of comfort in writing her fanfiction. I think this book would be a great one to discuss the important role being a content creator can have in a person’s life, as well as exploring mental health as it relates to social media. The internet can  have both benefits and problems for mental health and social interactions in general, and I think this book could be an interesting way to start a discussion about the role of internet in our social lives as well as on our mental health. For someone with social anxiety like Cath, the internet can be a great way to connect with other people and share common interests in a setting that is less intimidating than face-to-face, at least initially.

3) You by Caroline Kepnes

20821614This is a much darker book than the previous two, but it is a great one for showing the risks of social media. You is about a man named Joe Goldberg who becomes obsessed with Beck, a woman he meets at the bookstore where he works. Joe decides to look her up on Google, and she has an unusual enough name that allows her to find her social media accounts — and uses them (and their lack of privacy settings) to stalk her with the hopes of winning her over to dating him. The book is told in a very eerie second-person perspective narrated by Joe as he pursues Beck, and he is an incredibly creepy character. I think this book would be a great way to explore the importance of privacy settings and having an awareness about how much personal information you have shared online. Obviously Joe’s pursuit of Beck is not the typical case but it does give a good warning to show an extreme of what could happen if too much information is out there.

4) The Takedown by Corrie Wang

31423554Full disclosure: I have not read this book yet, but it is on my TBR for this year and it is actually one of the books I’ve been most excited to read since I first noticed it at my local bookstore late last year. This book is about a high school student named Kyla Chen who is popular and very involved in her school. Just a week before college applications are due, a viral video is leaked of someone that appears to be Kyla having sex with her English teacher — but it isn’t her (this is not a spoiler, it is in the Goodreads synopsis), leaving Kyla to try and get the video removed from the internet. I think this book is an essential one to show the permanence of things posted online and how it is nearly impossible to get anything removed once it is uploaded. It could also be used to touch on topics about sexting or taking intimate photos/videos and the risks associated with that. It is unfortunately a topic that is becoming more relevant and I think this book could be a great way to highlight the risks.

5) Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia or Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

3193194129414576I was a little hesitant about putting these books on the list, especially Eliza and Her Monsters, because I thought they might be a bit similar to Fangirl. Both of these books feature main characters who are creators of very popular online series. For Eliza, it’s her webcomic Monstrous Sea, and for Tash it’s her modern adaptation of Anna Karenina. I think both books are great examples of how the internet can be a great medium for creativity and art, and the positive role it can play in people’s lives as members of a fandom or as content creators. I think both books are also great for addressing the importance of trying to balance online lives with your “real” life, and how there may not always be such a distinction between the two. For many people, their online friendships and online activity is as real and important as offline, and I think it’s great that these books (especially Eliza) address that.




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