Dear reader, I’ve fallen behind…blame life and ‘adulting’, which brings me seamlessly to book five Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth.
Here’s the premise, meet Jenny McLaine, a 35-year-old journalist, obsessed with social media whose life is pretty much falling apart – her boyfriend has left, her best mate isn’t overly enamoured with her and she’s struggling at work. In her mind she’s failing at being an adult, now haven’t we all been there?
Adults, is (at times) a painfully honest look at how we manage other people’s perceptions of us and our lives through social media, we’re constantly striving for the acceptance of strangers on the ‘Gram’, always looking for likes, always looking like we’re having the best time or #livingourbestlives (eugh) – I hold my hands up, I do this, I don’t use that hash tag though*.
How Jenny is presented to us, is, in itself interesting. I really didn’t like her to begin with; while she was spending hours crafting comments, posts and pictures, she struck me as a little selfish. Ignoring the pleas of her best mate to talk and even detailing checking her phone while having sex. I kind of agreed with her boyfriend for doing one and her best mate for being pissed off but then we start to peel back the layers and we get to know the real Jenny through her memories, hilarious draft emails and aborted posts. What we then see is someone damaged, vulnerable anxious and lost….
“I don’t know who to trust because I don’t know who I am. At thirty-five years old, at halfway. I am still waiting for my life to start”.
Dig deep enough under the Instagram image and in reality, you’ll come across a lot of people hiding and wondering who they are.
This novel shows how easy it is to slide into the pitfalls of social media, Jenny is obsessed with an Instagram star who she’s never met (I’m not there) and desperate to be followed back by her (I’m certainly not there). In this pursuit of social media acceptance, she’s failing to deal with her actual problems. She’s too busy portraying the perfect life to live her life. That starts to seep into her actual relationships, refusing to tell her best friend what she’s been through over the past year (no spoilers here).
“You were doing your I’m fine dance all over town”.
We’ve all done that dance, we always have done only now it’s much easier to show thousands of people that dance in an instant and this is what Emma Jane Unsworth explores, how easy it is to mask reality very publicly. Are our (in some cases) dysfunctional relationships with our phones having an impact on our lives and health? It’s something Jenny starts to see as the fog or insta filter starts to lift:
“This culture of constant checking, of feeling as though everything can be instantly sorted, and accounted for, and gratified – that has to rub off on us physically doesn’t it? I’ll check, I’ll check, I’ll check. The weather, my thighs, my politics, my lunch. Erasing all mystery”…
And it is what we do. Constantly check; we’re glued to our phones (totally guilty), always comparing, documenting every detail of our lives and showing all our best bits but where is the mystery? And at what point does it become an obsession? I don’t have the answers, neither does this book but it does hold up an uncomfortable mirror and it left me more aware of my use of social media.
I won’t be giving up Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (I’ve already stopped shopping after reading book 3) but maybe it’s time to step away from the screen a bit more often. I’ll give our protagonist the final word, “Your life is happening without you so best be in it”.
*if you scroll through my social media accounts and find #livingourbestlives feel free to slap me
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm