In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age

In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age - Nev Schulman "when i was growing up, if you said something mean to someone, you'd either end up in the principal's office or facedown in the dirt, getting your ass kicked. but now kids can be as evil to one another as they want, and then simply turn off the computer and walk away."

so... weirdly enough, even though i've decided to give up on this book (at 44%,) this review is going to be a positive one. nev is clearly well-educated about the internet, both the good sides and the bad sides. as much as the internet offers us an infinite source of knowledge, it opens the door for bullying, harassment, stalking, and perhaps most infamously, lying. not just using fake photos but chopping a few years off your age and some pounds off your weight, or maybe adding a couple of inches to your height or aging yourself up a bit so you can fit in with the crowd you want to be in.

this book is written in an informative but compulsively readable voice. there's a lot of personal information about nev involved - his ethnicity, his struggles with mental illneses in the past, and some of his personal grievances with himself and the world around him. perhaps most importantly, it offers quite a bit of insight to the situation that the catfish documentary was about, and thankfully, it offers a lot of information about people we've seen in episodes of catfish, including some things that the episodes glossed over!

so why, if i'm leaving this book such a gleaming review, am i deciding that i don't want to finish it? simple: it's a bit repetitive. i feel like it makes its point and then continues to make its point over and over and over and over again. it could be argued that it's applied to different situations, circumstances, people, etc but the main message that i'm getting from this book is that everyone online is a liar, you are wrong/bad for any tiny fibs, and that you should never trust anyone. it isn't like fibbing/white lies started on the internet - they existed long before that, with people lying on the schoolyard about things that went on at home because their classmates would never know the difference, and vice versa to their parents/siblings. this book, to me, implies that the internet is at the heart of our bullying/suicide epidemic and the lies people tell and that's simply not true. stalking, bullying, all of the negative things that the internet undoubtedly fosters and offers a haven to were pre-existing parts of human nature. the internet may allow them to grow but it in no way causes it. to imply that it does takes away from the responsibility that people should have to take for their actions, their lies, their destructive ways; it's almost as if it's the new insanity plea in murder cases, although that analogy is, admittedly, extreme.

it does make a good point or two in the favor of saying that the internet and cellphones are exacerbating negativity and meanness in children by removing the human aspect and thus, numbing the empathy that they would feel in person, especially with this quote from comedian louis c.k.'s appearance on conan:
"i think [cell phones] are toxic, especially for kids... they don't look at people when they talk to them and they don't build empathy. you know, kids are mean, and it's 'cause they're trying it out. they look at a kid and they go, 'you're fat' and then they see the kid's face scrunch up and they go, ' oh, that doesn't feel good to make a person do that.' but they got to start with doing the mean thing. but when they write, 'you're fat', then they just go, 'mmm, that was fun, i like that."

overall, this book is good. nev is well-educated, well-versed, and most importantly, well-spoken. he's charismatic but flawed and all of his charm flows seamlessly into print, making him readable. it's just not for me, personally, because although i do think that meanness has become more rampant and inescapable since the introduction of the internet, it was always around. liars were always around. the internet has only offered a platform to these horrible, hurtful things and helped in their expansion; it has not created them. as much as i like nev and reading his inner thoughts, i do think he's slightly bitter and that it's created something of a bias when it comes to talking about the internet and the people on it.

this is just not the book for me, personally, because i found it very boring and repetitive after a certain amount of time; it's worth mentioning i'm also not much for nonfiction. however, i would also just like to say that i may be misinterpreting his message, because there are passages that imply he also thinks of the internet as simply a platform/enhancer for human kind's mean streaks, such as this:
"sure, most of the unpleasant things that people say online aren't going to cause someone to kill themselves, but all the negativity still has deep-rooted consequences. it's time to start holding people accountable for their online behavior."