The 7 Best Books About Social Media & Digital Life

Social media has become a staple in our digital lives. The rise of social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have changed the way we communicate with each other, what we consume and how society works today. These seven books cover some of those changes through their personal stories about social media culture from its infancy to present day.

The “books on social media dangers” is a list of books that have been written about the topic. The list includes 7 books, each with its own unique perspective on the subject.

Our digital gadgets are more important than any other item of technology in contemporary life. Our phones and computers are vital tools in both our job and entertainment, continuously on our bodies or just a fast reach away, much as primitive man always had a knife at hand to hunt, skin animals, and whittle for pleasure. 

It’s difficult to gain a true perspective on our relationship with our electronics since the connection is so close and unwavering. What does technology provide for us? What exactly is it robbing us of? Is it costing us more than it is giving us? Is there any way to sway the equation in our favor?

It’s difficult to keep these types of issues in the forefront of one’s mind, and, more significantly, to act on the answers, amid the day-to-day rush of existence.

As a result, I’ve found it advantageous to read at least one book a year regarding the intersection of digital technology and life — i.e., individuality, psychology, culture, and everything else that tech affects. This reading allows me to have a better perspective on things. It motivates me to rethink and review the role of digital technology in my life, and to adjust that role to maximize its benefits while minimizing its drawbacks.

I found the following seven books to be especially influential throughout my reading; several of the writers have also been guests on the AoM podcast (the episodes are linked to below and well worth the listen). 

Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism 

Digital Minimalism book cover by CAL NewPort.

Many books on the issue provide trite and/or broad platitudes on how to give up the internet and social media, such as deleting the worst apps, turning off alerts, and turning your phone grayscale to make it less appealing. That type of advise is kind of useful, but it also seems like something you’d offer to a kid. Plus, by the time you’ve executed them, they’ll seem to be half-measures. 

Cal provides the unusual suggestion of going nuclear with your phone: uninstall almost all of your applications and go on a rigorous smartphone fast for at least 30 days (except for work and intimate connection with friends and family). Those who participate in the experiment may find it difficult at first, but they will soon learn that it is similar to a brain cleaning that the soul has been in dire need of. There will be no half-measures here; quit your bad habits completely and only reintroduce the items that provide an undeniable advantage to your life. 

Listen to Cal’s interview on our podcast. 

Christina Crook’s The Joy of Missing Out

The book cover of Joy of Missing Out by Christine Crook.

Whereas Newport takes an engineer’s approach to the problem of digital overload, setting out a concrete point-by-point theory and solution, Crook adopts a more lyrical approach. Rather of addressing the technology, she poses questions, such as, “How does the internet help you?” Is it actually connecting you in ways that bless and invigorate your own and others’ lives?”  

 

The responses to such questions suggest that the wonderful things that makes life worth living is mostly found in the actual world – cooking a meal, strolling with a loved one, caring to a garden. Crook’s observations elicit philosophical thought on almost every page, and her call to accept “good burdens” (“responsibilities that bind us to others and the physical environment”) has stayed with me since I first read it five years ago. 

Listen to Christina’s podcast interview.

Matt Haig’s Notes on a Nervous Planet 

Notes on a Nervous planet book cover by Matt Haig.

Haig’s writing originally caught my attention in his books How to Stop Time and The Humans. Both are entertaining books that examine what it means to be a thriving and contented person via inventive narratives. Notes on a Nervous Planet is a memoir-style dispatch about how internet culture makes us twitchy, and how the globe as a whole seems to be suffering from anxiety. 

Haig talks about his experiences with sleep, utilitarian learning, the dangers of Twitter, and more in short chapters and even bullet-pointed lists at times. The personal touch of Haig’s writing will make you understand that most (but not all) of the time you spend online just helps to heighten your anguish, so read a chapter a day. As with Crook’s work, the end idea is that “we need to figure out what is beneficial for ourselves, and abandon the rest.”

Matt Richtel’s A Deadly Wandering 

A Deadly Wandering book cover by Matt Richtel.

Richtel investigates the then-groundbreaking science of attention via the story of Reggie Shaw in the most emotionally captivating (and heartbreaking) book on our list. Shaw was a college student in Utah in 2006 when he hit another vehicle and killed two scientists on their way to work while driving through the mountains early in the morning. Who’s to blame? Despite Shaw’s denials, the evidence showed that he was texting while driving. 

The reader will learn not only about the science of attention and distraction — notably as it relates to phone usage and driving — but also about the personal reckoning that comes with figuring out how we use that knowledge in our daily lives. When I’m tempted to take a brief glimpse at my phone while driving, I remember this book and how it can be “safe” a million times, but then you might murder someone on the millionth and first glance. This is a book and a narrative that will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading it. 

Manoush Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant

Bored and Brilliant book cover by Manoush Zomorodi.

If Newport’s book is more instructional and Crook’s is more lyrical, Zomorodi’s is a pleasant compromise. Manoush plays with what it’s like to give your smartphone the Newport treatment and remove all the “fun” things using her own weakness for the game Two Dots, which I too had at one point. She mostly discovered her own ennui. With my own 4-week social media fast, I experienced a similar experience. 

 

While being bored might be a bit tedious at times, there are several advantages to being bored. Allowing the mind to wander has shown to be quite beneficial and healthful. Furthermore, as you get more familiar with boredom, you will learn that studying the world around you, making small chat, and spending a few minutes to simply think about things are all more useful than whatever is on your screen.  

Listen to Manoush’s interview on our podcast.

Adam Alter’s Irresistible

Book cover of Irresistible by Adam Alter.

The preceding books on this list have mostly dealt with coping with the drawbacks of our digital lives as well as the advantages of putting our phones down. Adam Alter chronicles how we got here in the first place — how our devices and applications have kidnapped our attention and become so difficult to put down in his book Irresistible. When we browse through Instagram, what’s going on in our heads? How did internet corporations create games and applications that entice us to seek out their digital rewards?

This book will help you recognize and overcome your own behavioral addictions (which, to be sure, are vastly different than biological addictions). There’s a sense of guilt in discovering how addicted you are to your gadgets, but Alter helps you reverse engineer that addiction so you can live a more balanced and meaningful life. While our displays are effective at keeping us enslaved, they are ultimately simply “dumb” computers in our pockets. 

Listen to Adam’s interview on our podcast.

Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows

The Shallows book cover by Nicholas Carr.

This book, more than any other, makes me feel the most disgusted about the internet as a whole. The Shallows was first released a decade ago, yet its insights on how the internet affects our brain and cognition are just as important now as they were then. Carr begins by taking the reader through the history of intellectual technologies and how they’ve impacted our cultures and ways of being, building on Marshall McLuhan’s (and, I’d say, Neil Postman’s) work. The shift from an oral to a visual/reading culture was particularly significant. 

However, we’ve transitioned from a reading culture to an online culture; we’re still reading, but in a new manner. (We’re also YouTubing and TikToking right now.) How people process and think has been radically altered by the medium of a screen. Carr claims that the internet has fundamentally rendered our thinking shallow and unfocused, as the title indicates. When our environment is filtered via the distraction-filled internet, it loses its depth. The Shallows is a much-needed jeremiad that appears to grow in importance as time passes. 

Listen to our chat with Nicholas on the podcast.

Check out What to Read Next, my monthly literary email, if you enjoy these book suggestions.

 

 

The “best books on media industry” is a list of 7 books that are all about the digital life. They include social media, marketing, and other aspects of our lives in this new era.

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