The Happiness Effect by Donna Freitas
*click on either the image or link above to pre-order your own copy! (Releases 2/2017)
My Rating: ★★★★★
Do you have a smartphone? Are you a social media participant, whether it be on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook? Ever feel like social media is taking over your life and happiness and how you look at yourself? And even if not, are you a parent concerned with how social media is—or will be—affecting how your children’s lives and self-image are being shaped? In The Happiness Effect, Donna Freitas addresses so many issues that are so prevalent today as we continue living in the digital age. There is no denying that much of our daily lives today, especially young adults, are ruled by the use of social media—and it will be like this for quite a long time. But perhaps it doesn’t have to be.
As a twenty something year old myself living in the digital age, I knew before going into this book that it will be not only relatable, but also highly educational. The Happiness Effect promises to dig into ‘how social media is driving a generation to appear perfect at any cost,’ and it did just that—and more. Donna Freitas conducted almost 200 in-depth interviews amongst (diverse) students at multiple different college campuses (some religious, some nonreligious) to put this book together, and the result was nothing short of stunning and eye-opening.
I noticed in the beginning of this book how slightly repetitive it became. And fast. This, however, just goes to show how alike most of us young adults are when it comes to what we have to say about social media and how it is affecting us as a user and as well as a human being in general. Although educational, hearing what these interviewed students had to say about what the internet has done to their self-esteem and self-image was also heartbreaking and concerning, to say the least. I’m not going to sit here and act as though social media has never and does not affect me in the way that it has affected more than half of the students in this book. As a matter of fact, this book initially interested me for that very reason. I’m a very active social media user and the changes that it has brought onto my life is undoubtedly immense.
With how many different students Freitas interviewed in this book, you—as a reader—are bound to find at least one person that you can relate to. In a way, this book became personal for me. It opened up some of my long forgotten “wounds,” like having to deal with bullying, racism and sexism online and even losing self-esteem because of the ill side of social media. These are only a portion of what you will learn and get a first-hand look of in The Happiness Effect. As I read on, I started to realize that a lot of the things that I had to deal with when it came to social media (that I thought I was alone in going through) are/were also happening to a lot of other young adults. I must admit that it became a little difficult at times to keep reading as the truth that spilled from the pages of this book was just so disheartening. At the same time, however, I knew that it was exactly why I had to keep reading—no matter how difficult. We need not only be aware but also educated on something that is so prominent in our lives today: social media and all that comes with it, both good and bad.
Social media was initially invented and used so that we could better “connect” with people. But you’d be surprised (or maybe not) just how “detached” and “disconnected” we actually have become because of the use of social media. Now, this book does not only address the issues that come up when we talk about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, and even Yik Yak and etc., it also provides us a closer look on how we could possibly utilize social media a lot better without hurting others and most importantly ourselves and our own self-esteem and image. Just one example that Freitas suggests to take control back from our devices: perhaps have a certain time at home dedicated to not having any phones out, like having a basket readily available where each family members can surrender their devices in. Another example from the many that Freitas provides would be for faculty to ban all devices in classrooms if this can help everyone better focus and learn. There are multiple ways we can take back our control from being so manipulated and affected by the negatives that come from living in the digital age today. We just need to be willing and consistent.
This book did more than just open my eyes for me. It made me reflect. I have, time and time again, thought about laying off social media (if not permanently then at least temporarily) but just never had the heart or courage to do so. The Happiness Effect, however, convinced me that perhaps the healthiest thing for me to do right now after all is to focus on my real self and not who I would like to be on social media. I cannot stress enough how liberating it feels to not have to constantly feel ruled by my accounts online (with the exception of the bookish community I am a part of, like this blog and “bookstagram” of course, because they really are an extension of my true self). I encourage all people of ages—whether you are a young adult or a parent of one, or even a grandparent of one—to add The Happiness Effect on to your “to-be-read” pile. You may think social media is frivolous, but it is affecting so many young adults’ lives not only for the better anymore, but also for the worse. It is something that we all need to be more mindful of and educated about. It is the reality that we live in today. We are living in the digital age and we need tools to help remind us that we are the users of social media and not the other way around. We are not meant to be the one feeling used by social media.
*ARC provided by Oxford University Press in exchange for an honest review*