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.

  • In stock
  • Quantity discount
    • # of Items Price
    • 1 to 5$24.99
    • 6 to 24$14.99
    • 25 to 99$12.49
    • 100 to 499$11.25
    • 500 or more$10.00


  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506463513
  • Age/Grade Range Adult
  • Dimensions 6.25 x 9.25
  • Pages 331
  • 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

"There's never been a better time for a book like IRL. It's a book that deals with elemental urges in plain, direct language. . . . There are dozens of vivid metaphors in the course of this book. . . . Odds are we're all going to be living online for the foreseeable future. Stedman's hard-won wisdom on the subject is well worth heeding."
Open Letters Review

"Jam-packed with metaphors and beautifully described vignettes. . . . Stedman reminds us throughout IRL that these digital lives, though different, aren't any less real than our offline ones, so they must be managed with care."
Lambda Literary

"Sensitive, intelligent."
MEL Magazine

"A must-read for anyone who's condemned the internet for creating huge social disconnect, and everyone whose lived experiences prove otherwise."
BuzzFeed Books

"Stedman is at ease in the existential, both digitally and IRL (in real life). . . . IRL is a fascinating contribution to this all-important conversation."
Foreword Reviews

"A book that will change the online (and offline) you."
Input Mag

"Thoughtful, prescient, and hyper-relevant."
Killing the Buddha

"In Stedman's new book, IRL, he cements his position as a powerful cultural critic and gifted author."
Loft Literary

"IRL is a profound and necessary exploration of our identities online and how we interact with each other."
Largehearted Boy

"[IRL] is erudite yet highly readable, a deeply confessional memoir that mixes philosophy with pop culture and media studies."

"In Stedman's latest work, the author turns his thoughtful yet thorough gaze upon the internet as a means of constructing purpose and identity. A hybrid of memoir, criticism, and reportage . . . all held together by Stedman's moments of bracing honesty. . . . Vital
The Believer

"Honest and careful, . . . [Stedman] offers compelling new ways to think about our own engagement in the digital world, constantly pushing us to consider what is real. . . . Provocative, unlikely, and fascinating."
Vocation Matters

"Tackles big questions about what it means to be authentic in a world where so much of our social interaction is now taking place online. The book goes to deep places, but it doesn't burden the reader with an overly serious tone. Instead, [Stedman] brings a lightness by blending memoir, interviews, and social science, all arranged in vignettes so that reading feels like scrolling through a carefully curated Instagram feed. . . . A glowing example of what it means to think relationally about our own lives and the lives of others."
The Society Pages

"If you've ever wondered why you can't stop drunk-tweeting or stick to your commitment to delete Facebook from your phone, Stedman's book might help you feel better about--and maybe even better understand--your behavior."
Minneapolis City Pages

"A perfect book for our Twitter-fingered, selfie-obsessed times."
MyTalk Minnesota

"I found myself remarkably moved, stirred time and time again, and convinced that Stedman has hit upon the human condition. . . . One of the most important volumes in the last decade on the intersection of technology, social media, and humanity."
The Journal of Interreligious Studies

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