Ana Marie Cox

“Chris Stedman brings a compelling combination of intimacy, vulnerability, irony, and brutal honesty to his search for what it means to be ‘real’ both in and out of virtual spaces. We’ve become more dependent than ever on the relationships we form online—and so we’re under more pressure than ever to integrate our identity in something consistent, forever ‘on-brand.’ His testimony opens a space for all of us to stop fetishizing discipline and false coherence and instead dig deeper into uncertainty and connection.”

Nick White

“With IRL, Chris Stedman shares the vulnerable, and often harrowing, account of his search for how to be real in a messy, messy world. By reckoning with his own complicated relationship to social media, he ponders notions of community, friendship, heartache, and, above all, how to live a meaningful life. Filled with humane candor and clear-eyed prose, these pages show a brilliant mind at work on some of the thorniest issues today.”

Thomas Page McBee

IRL is a personal, and often-poignant, investigation into what it means to be real in a digital age. In his writing and exploration, Chris Stedman embraces (rather than resists) the unity of opposite impulses that define our social lives online: critical engagement alongside mob mentality, surprising intimacies and algorithmic bubbles, selfies as vanity projects and selfies as spiritual opportunities. Reading this book made me think more deeply and ethically about the life I lead online and—relatedly, I now see—what it is to be human.”

Briallen Hopper

“In this urgently needed book, Chris Stedman redefines realness, showing how vulnerability, intimacy, self-discovery, and deep connection can flourish in both our online and offline lives. IRL takes the shame out of our dependence on the internet, and helps us imagine new kinds of consolation and community for a fragmented and sometimes lonely world.”

Sam Lansky

“Chris Stedman’s IRL is a deft interrogation of how our increasingly digital lives have reshaped our sense of what’s real, within ourselves and around us. Drawing from equally deep wells of research and reflection, Stedman probes and provokes our expectations of our changing world, and how we fit in it. But as he mines his own experiences for insights and wisdom, Stedman also emerges as a winning storyteller, with a deeply felt and authentic story all his own.”

Garrard Conley

“Chris Stedman’s IRL is full of insight and honesty, but its greatest achievement lies in furthering our vocabulary of what it means to be real. Taking its cue from queer performativity, this book is a much-needed addition to the conversation, providing the side of the story many think pieces ignore: that for many of us, our digital lives were where we first learned to live most fully.”

Meghan O’Gieblyn

IRL is a brilliant and captivating meditation on the complexities of identity in the digital age. Given the many polarized and one-dimensional debates about the merits of social media, Chris Stedman offers a refreshingly nuanced account of how digital spaces both satisfy and complicate the innate human need for community and recognition—particularly for a generation that can no longer find such fulfillment in religion or other traditional spaces. Written with earnestness and wisdom, IRL interrogates conventional binaries—the real versus the fake, the fleeting versus the lasting—and asks us to imagine our online lives as a frontier rich with possibility.”

Augusten Burroughs

“At first, the premise of this book—Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives—was of exactly zero interest to me because I’m too shallow and morally bankrupt to read any book with belonging and meaning in the title. However, I was unexpectedly riveted by Chris Stedman’s fascinating and surprising insights into authenticity both online and off, and I was especially moved by his vulnerability. I think so many people are going to relate to this work of memoir and cultural commentary, especially dismissive and judgmental people like me.”

Alexander Chee

“Chris Stedman’s newest book is a strangely prescient and timely guide to being more real digitally as we enter an era where we will need to be. His idea of digital life as drag has entirely reoriented my sense of self-presentation there, even as this brilliant book does more than that. By turns playful and wise, he makes us legible to ourselves and each other in new ways.”

Hanif Abdurraqib

“I am thankful for IRL, which fits into a line of texts asking important questions of the human need to be seen, to be connected, and to perform for a public. Chris Stedman is equal parts caring and indicting, and I hope this is a book that remains at the forefront of the discussion about our lives—digital and otherwise—for years to come.”