I spend too much time on my phone. I know this to be true, and yet I’m shocked each week when my iPhone delivers my screen time report. How can I possibly be spending a daily average of four hours—four hours! That’s longer than The Irishman, a movie so long I had to split my viewing over multiple days—staring at my phone screen? What am I doing?
I like to reassure myself that my average skews high because I often read books on my phone. And, sure, that contributes to some of it. But the reality is that I spend an appalling amount of time scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I know I’m not alone; I can’t walk down the street without seeing dozens of other people hunched over their phones, their gazes focused on the familiar interface of one social media giant or another.
For better or worse, social media and other online communities are an integral part of our modern lives. I don’t think this is inherently bad. In fact, other than my persistent worry that all that screen time is ruining my eyesight, I think it’s largely positive. Social media has allowed me to remain in touch with former classmates, colleagues, and people I’ve met traveling in a way that wouldn’t have been possible twenty years ago. Arguably more important, it lets me connect with readers and other writers, which is an incredible gift in this otherwise solitary writing profession.
But, even as it connects us, the internet opens us up to danger. And when things go bad online, they can go very, very bad. Here are eight books that will make you consider logging off—permanently:
You by Caroline Kepnes
So much of our lives is contained in our phones. Imagine how disastrous it would be if yours ended up in the wrong hands. That’s the nightmare that befalls Beck when the charming but sociopathic Joe snags hers. He uses her phone to gain intimate access to Beck’s email and other communications—and, ultimately, to Beck herself.
Friend Request by Laura Marshall
It’s the question that has plagued us since chat rooms first became a thing: How do we know that people on the internet are really who they claim to be? When Louise gets a friend request from her old classmate Maria, she’s understandably shaken. After all, Maria died more than twenty-five years ago. Or did she? Desperate to discover whether the person claiming to be Maria is authentic or an imposter, Louise sets about uncovering the unpleasant truth about the night Maria is thought to have died.
Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
The flip side of wondering whether internet strangers are who they say they are is the realization that you can be anyone you want online. Minnesotan high school student Hattie dreams of moving to New York and bides her time until graduation hanging around an online forum dedicated to the city. But when Hattie is brutally murdered, investigators must determine whether her secret online life—and her secret online relationship—played any role in her death.
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
Some people’s lives seem perfectly designed to inspire envy on social media. Lavinia, with her fabulous apartment, amazing wardrobe, and carefree, globe-trotting lifestyle, is one such person. Louise, who has none of those things, is instantly charmed when she meets Lavinia—and delighted when she is pulled into Lavinia’s glittering orbit. It’s not long before Louise realizes that the reality of Lavinia isn’t as glamorous as it seems…and that keeping up with her image can be murder.
The Hidden Things by Jamie Mason
Not all social media fame is sought-after…and some of it can be downright dangerous, as fourteen-year-old Carly learns after security camera footage of her defending herself against an attacker goes viral. Most viewers focus on Carly’s impressive self-defense moves. Yet, to some members of the criminal element, Carly is not the only thing of interest in the frame. As the video sweeps the country, these dangerous individuals begin circling Carly’s home and soon disrupt the life she knows.
The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti
Social media can lure people into a false sense of security—online interactions don’t seem quite “real” and so a person might not appreciate their more perilous consequences. This lesson is learned the hard way when high school student Lucia goes missing. As the search for her intensifies and scrutiny turns to the online habits of those surrounding her, at least one character will wish they had been more circumspect with their social media habits.
The Night Before by Wendy Walker
Internet dating can be fraught with potential disaster: What if the individuals featured don’t look like their photos? What if they’re not who they say they are? What if they’re predators using a dating site as their hunting ground? When Laura disappears after a night out with a man she met online, many fear the worst. But, as Laura’s sister races to discover her sister’s whereabouts, she can’t help but wonder whether Laura truly fell victim to him…or whether he fell victim to Laura.
The Arrangement by Robyn Harding
The internet isn’t just for establishing personal relationships; it’s also for conducting business…and for the point where the two commingle. Natalie is desperate for extra cash when a friend encourages her to make a profile on a website connecting young women with sugar daddies. It’s supposed to be safe—but Natalie soon finds herself caught in a dangerous game with one of the rich men she’s met online.