Dr Suzana Flores’s book vindicated the worst fears of this reviewer. Social interaction is good and healthy in real life. But is it the same when it happens in a virtual medium? Every sane person will and should have doubts. So, it is inexplicable how so many of us get addicted to their virtual lives and virtual identities. Yet that’s a reality now, perhaps that virtual existence is more real than our real lives? If you think otherwise, read this book.
Most of the activities that make us humans and help to separate us from other animals are to be done solitarily — in silence. You can’t play the violin, write a novel or paint a picture while interacting with your Facebook friends. You can’t be a John Gielgud and act on stage while your eyes remain glued to the screen of your ipad or smartphone. So, if you are on Facebook, voluntarily limit the time you spend there. If you don’t have an account, you are saved! That’s what Dr Flores seems to mean here.
Although deals specifically with the problem of addictive behaviour generated by Facebook and the fallout of such addictions, much of what It says about the negative effect of Facebook applies to other social media. Being an addiction psychiatrist, Dr Flores is in her own domain when she skillfully analyses the many negative effects use of social media may have on the human mind and behaviour. She quotes comments from real Facebook posts to authentically and convincingly illustrate the points she makes. The loss of privacy, constant distraction, lack of awareness about the consequence of our online conduct, loss of concentration, the blurring of the public-private divide and so on are all here. She even details various kinds of criminal behaviour that uses Facebook as a medium, events that should scare many a naïve user. This book should be compulsory reading for every Facebook user but more so for the parents of teenagers with Facebook accounts.
This reviewer, having never used Facebook and having been born many decades before the birth of Facebook, found reading the book somewhat tedious. But, that may have stemmed from his ignorance of social media or his utter contempt for the disruptive capabilities of modern technology. But that, in no way, diminishes the value of this book because it is written for those readers who are active users of Facebook. The real life story narrated in the book of how a few photographs can make a teenage girl unable to escape her past and her online stalker and how her story ends in a suicide is scary indeed! As far as this reviewer is concerned, his only ray of hope lies in these words of the author: “Many people are becoming bored with their Facebook friends or Facebook itself”! Dr Flores, if there is even some truth in that statement, we are blessed!
For the wise users of Facebook, who are adept at drinking the honey without suffering the sting, have words of encouragement too. The book also records the positive effects virtual social interaction may have on your professional and personal lives. But that’s a separate domain and this book has not been written with those users in mind.
The reviewer is obligated to let the readers know that he received a free electronic copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.