This book review is part of my 2018 Resolution to read more books of substance. It was chosen for the category “a book about technology and/or modern culture.”
When I started Hello, Sunshine, I was intending for it to be nothing more than light, frivolous reading.
It is the story of YouTube celebrity and chef Sunshine McKenzie whose Twitter and Instagram accounts are hacked, revealing that she is a fraud. Everything about her public persona – her marriage, her cooking, even her very self – is a lie. Naturally, the drama is then how she rediscovers her true self and picks up the pieces of her life after reluctantly returning to her hometown.
Honestly, the plot is ridiculous, and Sunshine is an infuriating and unsympathetic heroine. I actually found no character in this story to be tolerable (I know, what a ringing endorsement…)
And while the story is far-fetched, the question facing Sunshine, and the one posed to the reader as well, is an important one for our times:
What is the cost of curating your life on social media?
Spoiler alert, Sunshine learns it costs everything – she loses her show, her book deal, her apartment, and her husband. To be fair, Sunshine lies in a way most people on social media don’t – she doesn’t just post her “highlight reel;” she actively misrepresents just about everything about herself.
But the degree to which you “lie” on social media is not the point.
“I was still trying to figure out what we all lost in broadcasting our lives for everyone else’s consumption,” (page 228) Sunshine asks herself in a crucial moment. And I am starting to ask myself that as well.
Of course the answer is something very important.
When we curate our lives and view everything as an opportunity to get a “like,” we lose the opportunity to connect to people face to face and to relish a moment IN the moment. We settle to be behind the camera, looking for a photo to post online to show everyone else how awesome our life is, instead of just enjoying the awesome for ourselves.
When I look back on my life, I don’t want to view it through the lens of my Instagram account. But unfortunately, that is exactly the path I am on.
Some people can use social media responsibly, for honest connection. But right now I cannot. I wish I could because I live so far away from my family and so many of my dear friends, and Facebook and Instagram are wonderful and easy ways to stay in touch.
But even there lies a second danger – the hours wasted scrolling and refreshing, looking for human connection on a website….instead of finding it from an actual human in front of you.
The scrolling can also keep you from reading a book. Or enjoying a good movie. Or painting your nails or going for a run or any other more productive (or just different) way to spend your time.
I need to be better at both. I need to live my life for myself and for the people in front of me, not for social media; and I need to make connections in person and make more of an effort to live in the moments in front of me.
To that end, I am giving up Facebook and Instagram for Lent. I hope 6 weeks without the addictive scrolling and posting will break me of this dreadful habit.
Ideally, by Easter Sunday, I will have developed a more healthy relationship with social media. Or maybe I will realize I don’t need it at all.