IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives

IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives

What Does "IRL (In Real Life)" Really Mean in Today's Digital Age?

It's easy and reflexive to view our online presence as fake, to see the internet as a space we enter when we aren't living our real, offline lives. Yet so much of who we are and what we do now happens online, making it hard to know which parts of our lives are real.

IRL, Chris Stedman's personal and searing exploration of authenticity in the digital age, shines a light on how age-old notions of realness--who we are and where we fit in the world--can be freshly understood in our increasingly online lives. Stedman offers a different way of seeing the supposed split between our online and offline selves: the internet and social media are new tools for understanding and expressing ourselves, and the not-always-graceful ways we use these tools can reveal new insights into far older human behaviors and desires.

IRL invites readers to consider how we use the internet to fulfill the essential human need to feel real--a need many of us once met in institutions, but now seek to do on our own, online--as well as the ways we edit or curate ourselves for digital audiences. The digital search for meaning and belonging presents challenges, Stedman suggests, but also myriad opportunities to become more fully human. In the end, he makes a bold case for embracing realness in all of its uncertainty, online and off, even when it feels risky.

Continue the search of realness, meaning, and belonging in the digital age with the IRL Reader Guide.

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  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506463513
  • Age/Grade Range Adult
  • Dimensions 6.25 x 9.25
  • Pages 336
  • Publication Date October 20, 2020


"Even without the pandemic, IRL would be a vital read, a thoughtful examination of our perpetually "logged on" existence, and a measured critique of the social systems that define our time online."
AV Club

"Stedman remains accessible as he places himself into this technological yet jargon-free narrative; anyone looking to learn more about digital culture and its impact on society will be interested in and able to follow the concepts the author puts forth."
Library Journal

"Stedman's humorous, thoughtful guide to how we can rehumanize the online world is needed more than ever."
America Magazine

"A handy user's manual for leading an online life full of meaning and connection."
Kirkus Review

Table of Contents

Introduction: Anxietweets
Chapter 1: Mapping Our Digital Selves
Chapter 2: Drafting Distance
Chapter 3: Intimacy Granted
Chapter 4: Inked
Chapter 5: Never Alone, But Always by Ourselves
Chapter 6: The Roles We Play
Conclusion: The Velveteen Habit