Followers by Megan Angelo: An Intriguing Novel on the Over-Trusting Nature We Have With the Internet (Spoilers)

Well that title was a mouthful, wasn’t it? I didn’t really know what else I wanted to title it. This post is going to be part review and part discussion so I kind of just word vomited what I thought was fitting.

Seeing as this is a blog post, on the good ole internet I guess I’ll start off with this question: How safe do you feel using the internet?

In recent years we’ve had increasing jokes about the “FBI guys” in our cameras, we’ve had plenty of conspiracy theories about tech (ALA Shane Dawson and many others), and Black Mirror has sprung plenty of discussions about the future of tech and the world.

Ever since my freshman year of college when I took a class called Media Literacy I’ve been somewhat skeptical of tech. But am I overly cautious? In short, no. In fact I think I could do a lot better with how I use technology. But I do things like cover my cameras, and I’ve slowly but surely deleted accounts of mine and limited what I do on the internet. At the same time though I still overshare. I have a TikTok account where I crack niche jokes about mental health and rant about my customers at work. I walk a fine line with my balance but as far as I’m concerned I’m fine with what I do on the internet.

Followers is a book that takes a look at this relationship that people have with social media and the internet. It’s intriguing and I think it had the potential to be very poignant and relevant but I didn’t love it.

Followers

Synopsis

An electrifying story of two ambitious friends, the dark choices they make and the stunning moment that changes the world as we know it forever

Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss―a striving wannabe A-lister―who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss’s methods are a little shady and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can’t be wrong.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.

Rating

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Review/Discussion

Followers reminded me of the celebrity centered books that I used to read as a teen. The peek into a seemingly glamorous life that so many people crave but this book took a modern spin with adding in the reliance on technology. I can see where the author was coming from, wanting to write a hard-hitting moralistic novel about how we trust the internet with so much and how it could eventually come back to bite us but it wasn’t overly impressive. As a debut novel, I thought that it had showed a lot of promise and if Angelo publishes something else and it sounded interesting enough I would most likely give it a chance.

As someone who is already skeptical about the internet this didn’t read as very electrifying nor did any of the events truly shock me. This was marketed as sci-fi but if I’m being honest, there wasn’t much about it that felt unrealistic. Sure there was technology in the future sections of the book that doesn’t exist but this book mostly centered about personal endeavors and tech critique instead of focusing on the technology itself.

I wasn’t a fan of either of the main characters. Orla and Marlow were both incredibly annoying in their own ways and I thought they were so wishy-washy and unremarkable that I was very quickly bored throughout. My main motivation to finish reading this book was to find out about the cataclysmic event that took place that caused such a strong before and after in the plot. If I’m being honest the event was somewhat unremarkable. Since I’ve grown up with the internet, I’ve done my fair share of oversharing, I’ve done my fair share of dumb things but so has most other people my age. The “current day” portion of the book took place in 2015 and 2016 and to read about what ended up taking place, this event known as the “Spill” I found myself rolling my eyes at how people reacted. From the description and the lead-up, it was obvious that the Spill caused a bunch of people to lose their lives thanks to good ole technology. What I wasn’t expecting was that these people were losing their lives to suicide. The Spill happened because some hackers, in an act of cyber terrorism, shut down technology and then turned on the citizens of the world by sharing their deepest darkest secrets that were on the internet with everyone.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think some of the things that I’ve done on the internet would be pretty humiliating if they got out but even if they got sent to everyone I’ve ever known I don’t think I’d ever kill myself over those things. And especially considering that the internet was down and barely salvageable in the aftermath of this I doubt anyone could use this information against anyone. The bullying could only happen in person, yes relationships could be ruined but if every single person was having their worst shared about them with absolutely everyone, why care? Maybe living the event would be different, or maybe if I was older than I am I would feel different but I’ve grown up with people oversharing. Hell, people share everything online now, people make tasteless jokes and there are hundreds of people making bank off of selling their nudes. So maybe I wasn’t the target audience for this book because I was bored! I didn’t care that all of these people had their lives destroyed by the internet. I do think that people 100% rely too heavily on the internet but I also don’t think that this book is as timely as one might think.

AAAAND now I feel bad for saying that I thought it was unrealistic that people took their lives for having their darkest shared to everyone… I swear I’m not trying to be a horrid person I just personally feel like a lot of people, especially my peers, would not feel the life ending need for these things to come out. I mean back in 2016 I was in college and was dating my first boyfriend. I think the worst that could be put out about me was the smutty fan fiction that I read but nowadays people are open about any and all smut they read, hell there’s even a read-a-thon specifically for reading smutty books.

The internet is a vast place. It is both a dark and light space and I think a lot of people could use some breaks from it from time to time. I think that Followers was a book that posed some interesting questions about influencer culture and the power that the internet holds but overall I was bored with it. This book was thought provoking and I think there is an audience out there for it but it just wasn’t the perfect fit for me.

 

Audiobooks: An Internal Struggle

People love audiobooks. And for years now I’ve wished that I could be one of those people. I really and truly want to try and love audiobooks but no matter what I do they just don’t seem to mesh well with my brain and reading style.

It’s funny because I’ve had this struggle for my entire life. I remember trying to listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks when I was a kid and giving up on them before I made it to the second CD. They just read so slowly! (Maybe this plays into why I hated the Order of the Phoenix for so long!!) And then I couldn’t control the speed of their talking so I just had to read at a snail’s pace along with the narrator.

I want to say that I tried audiobooks for the second time sometime during the end of high school once I had my own car. I’m a little foggy on if this was actually during high school or if this was during my first summer after college but I want to say it was during high school. I figured I might as well try to listen to books while I drove to and from work (like my 15 minute “commute” across town was enough time to get in some good listening lol). But again, it was just never enough time and on most trips, if I wasn’t going to work I had someone else in the car; usually my sister because I was always her go-to chauffeur after I got my license and car.

In college I learned about Scribd and Audible thanks to BookTube, Whitney from WhittyNovels in particular always influenced me to try audiobooks again because I always saw her getting so much reading done with Scribd! I used many, many free trials and never finished a single book. I always thought, “Oh! I can totally use this while I’m cleaning or doing something that requires my eyes but not necessarily my whole brain power.” And then I’d be 20 minutes into the section I was listening to and could not understand any of the story because I’d zoned out from concentrating too hard on cleaning or whatever.

This year I again tried audiobooks after a few years of giving up on them and wow, they yet again sat in my car completely untouched (I checked some out from the library) because I always turned on music when I was driving instead.

Now when I watch reading vlogs where audiobooks are used, or hear about how many audiobooks people listen to I feel oddly jealous. I wish that audiobooks worked for me but they just don’t.

When I’m doing idle work, I like listening to Youtube videos, music, or podcasts. Those never seem to cause me any problems, even when it’s a pretty information heavy educational podcast. So that constantly makes me question why I can’t also pay enough attention to audiobooks to know what happened by the end of it! I can even pay enough attention to Youtube videos to understand what is going on in them while I’m also reading a book but for whatever reason I don’t mesh with audiobooks at all!

I also have a slight aversion to e-books so maybe it’s just some deep seated prejudice towards electronic “reading” that keeps me from utilizing audiobooks. I would love to try a Kindle again but I haven’t decided if I want to go for it or not. I’d love the ease of traveling with a small e-reader and have seen that one of the newer Kindles is waterproof which I think would be an awesome feature.

Audiobooks are amazing and I think that it’s really cool that they’re becoming so innovative with them; like when they have a full cast of people for the characters or just the fact that they’ve become so easily accessible with apps and subscriptions. And while they might not be my cup of tea I do like seeing them become more and more popular as the years go on. I think they’re a great way to encourage reading for those that don’t actually enjoy reading, or even for those who can’t use a physical book.

For now, I think it’s time to set aside my need for wanting to find a way to love audiobooks and just move on and keep trucking with physical books. I’m sure someday I’ll attempt to use audiobooks again but for now, I’ll just take the time to sit down and read even if it does mean I can’t multitask as well!

Do you “read” audiobooks? If so, what’s your favorite part about them? What’s your least favorite part? What is your overall preferred way of reading?

I Fear Boredom: Revisited

Back in April of 2017 I wrote a post about how one of my irrational fears was boredom and empty time. I decided that I wanted to talk about this again because two years later, this is still a really prevalent issue in my life.

In trying to get over this “fear” of boredom I spend countless hours doing meaningless things. Scrolling through social media and doing absolutely nothing. So even though I’m being “busy” I feel horrible about how I spend my days. I feel guilty about the amount of pointless content I consume and yet I can’t stop doing it.

In the past few months I have been trying to be more meaningful with my time. Making sure that I prioritize doing things like blogging and reading and going for walks. I started playing Pokemon Go again and obviously I started using this blog again. I’ve posted consistently and even started reading books again. But then a lot of nights I end up scrolling through Twitter and reading the same tweets seven times in a row because I can’t concentrate enough on what I’m doing to actually consume the media I’m trying to consume.

I know that a lot of this comes from my depression and it makes me hate my mental health problems even more. I feel guilty for not doing things but then I feel equally guilty for actually doing things. I haven’t watched any TV shows in months because I feel like it’s not worth my time to watch anything, so I end up just watching YouTube videos of Vine compilations because I’m so anxious I can’t watch anything else. And yet the list of media I want to consume just keeps getting longer and longer… And longer.

If I do actually do something, I feel guilty for doing it. Why go for a long walk and play Pokemon Go and enjoy the fresh air when there is laundry at home to be done? Why watch a new TV show when you could write a blog post? Why spend a day reading when you could do literally anything else? Why, why, why??? I even feel guilty picking out what book I want to read next because I want to have just read them all already. It feels nearly impossible to truly enjoy myself when doing anything because I always feel like nothing is truly worth my time.

To try and combat the way I feel about my time, I’m trying to just do things. I’ve basically stopped using social media except for Twitter. I’m going to try and watch The Haunting of Hill House sometime soon and Black Mirror season five was released this week so I’ll be watching those three episodes this weekend because even though I have issues with it, I’m obsessed. I’m trying to go to the library for a little bit every week to work on writing and just for browsing and people watching. I’m just picking whatever book I sorta want to read and then reading until I feel like switching to a new book or when I’ve finished that book I first chose.

The next thing I want to do is try to break the idea that I need to monetize my hobbies. I’m going to get back into painting and coloring because I need some color in my life and I’m going to refuse to let myself think I need to be doing something that will make me money. Too much of my life has to revolve around money and it makes me really sad.

Struggling with idleness is a really difficult thing to struggle with. Almost everything makes me anxious no matter if I’m doing something or not doing something. I really wish that it wasn’t like this but for now I’m stuck with it.

So I guess there’s my update on fearing boredom. I hope this wasn’t too depressing for your Friday read. Hope y’all have a good weekend.

Our Final Invention: AI

So do scientists really think that super intelligence is a good idea? Or are they just really really stupid?

Like honestly. In any way shape or form does it even seem okay to have technology be smarter than we are? People may think it’s okay, but I’m going to drag some movies into this.

Exhibit A:

Smart House, made by Disney. Here’s a promo for it:

And oh, what’s that? Some of the technologies are in our everyday lives now?!

Okay, cool. All seemingly harmless pieces of technology, right? Well how long until something is invented that will actually control an entire house, something that is intelligent on its own… And how long until that piece of technology turns bad?

Exhibit B:

So I don’t know if you’ve heard this or not, but scientists have supposedly isolated dinosaur DNA… WHAT

AND THIS

Like I can only see this taking one path

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There are literally four movies now that show how dumb of an idea this is.

I just honestly cannot comprehend how anyone could want to create something that could have the potential to kill us all?

I take that back. People are really that stupid; as can be seen with all of the nuclear technology the world has created.

Well…

Okay. So I’ll just move on past the stupidity of the invention of strong AI and just talk a little bit about some fun (?) things.

So first off, my professor was talking about how if we were to invent robots that were lifelike then we would create them as adults. Then he asked if we could imagine little seven pound robots and all I could think about was this:

Robots.jpg

I then took way too long thinking about how what if this movie was like some weird post human world that could actually exist someday. And then I made myself stop thinking about that and just enjoy this children’s movie as is.

Because honestly? This movie is freaking hilarious. And the world concept is so cool. As can be seen in this scene.

Next, I wanted to share with you a thought provoking video from Crash Course involving AI and personhood.

I thought it was quite interesting to think about. And also a topic that I really don’t like thinking about either. It’s just so confusing and mindboggling.

Okay, so lastly, I want to recommend a book that I read earlier this year called Illuminae. This book is so uniquely written and also had a very central character that is AI. I would highly recommend it if you’re interested in science fiction and AI and really unique books!

After seeing all this information, what do you all think about the seemingly inevitable invention of this insane technology? Will it blend in? Or will it destroy us all?

Hope you all have a wonderful day.

Don’t let the inevitability of a robot takeover get you down.