5 Tips for Finding Social Media Balance Inspired by Friend Me

If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t belong or like social media was your only friend in the world, then we have just the book pick for you! It’s a suspenseful middle school thriller called Friend Me that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Rather than tell you about the book ourselves, we have an extra special treat for you! Author and technology journalist Sheila M. Averbuch is here to dish on the inspirations behind the story and share 5 tips for how you can find balance on social media.

Author Sheila M. Averbuch Dishes on the Inspiration Behind Friend Me:

What happens when an online friend becomes a real-life nightmare?

Roisin hasn’t made a single friend since moving from Ireland to Massachusetts. In fact, she is falling apart under constant abuse from a school bully, Zara. Zara torments Roisin in person and on social media. She makes Roisin the laughingstock of the whole school.

Roisin feels utterly alone… until she bonds with Haley online. Finally there’s someone who gets her. Haley is smart, strong, and shares anti-mean-girl memes that make Roisin laugh. Together, they are able to imagine what life could look like without Zara. Haley quickly becomes Roisin’s lifeline.
Then Zara has a painful accident, police investigate, and Roisin panics. Could her chats with Haley look incriminating?

Roisin wants Haley to delete her copies of their messages, but when she tries to meet Haley in person, she can’t find her anywhere. What’s going on? Her best friend would never have lied to her, right? Or is Haley not who she says she is…

With twists, turns, and lightning-fast pacing, this is a middle-grade thriller about bullying, revenge, and tech that young readers won’t be able to put down.

Friend Me
AUTHOR: Sheila M. Averbuch
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Press
DATE: November 10, 2020

“It was just a joke.” 

“You’re so sensitive.” 

What are you wearing?”

We all know that mean girls have a million ways to make you feel like you’re stupid, small, or a misfit who nobody likes. When I was thinking about the story I wanted to tell for my first book, a thriller called Friend Me, I knew I wanted it to be about a seventh-grader who’s just moved to the US, and who struggles to make friends — and avoid enemies. Most of all, I was curious about how social media could influence all of that, both for good and for bad.

First, the bad: has anyone ever said your name wrong? Maybe they’ve given you the side-eye because of your clothes? The main character in Friend Me is Roisin —  pronounced RO-sheen (with the emphasis on RO); it’s the Irish word for ‘rose’ — and both in-person and on social media, a girl called Zara targets Roisin with non-stop meanness. Zara claims she’s joking, but the way her comments affect Roisin is no joke. Roisin braces herself every day, wondering how Zara will mock her next.

But then, something amazing happens: Roisin’s app suggests a list of people to friend, and she finds Haley. Haley is confident, kind and funny. She tells Roisin how she’s been bullied, too, how she stood up to the mean girls, and what Roisin can do to stand up to Zara.

(Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash)

What makes a real friend?

Before I wrote Friend Me, my son (he was in 8th grade then) told me that it was his best friend’s birthday. I suggested he should call his friend on the phone, but my son said no — that would be weird; he’d just text him. That was the real inspiration for Friend Me: I realized that a lot of young people feel more comfortable texting than talking. It would be totally believable to have a whole friendship with someone without speaking to them.

That got me wondering: would it be a real friendship if the two people never spoke? I kept thinking about this character, Roisin. I knew it would be so hard for her to avoid the poison of Zara’s bullying on social media, because social media was also the place that Roisin found the antidote — Haley’s friendship. 

If you read Friend Me, you’ll see how Haley helps Roisin and boosts her confidence just when she needs it most. But you’ll also see how Roisin keeps passing up the chance to hang out with people IRL, including potential new friends because she’s so focused on Haley. 

5 Tips for Finding a Balance Between the Good and the Bad of Social Media:

(Photo by Pratik Gupta on Unsplash)

If you’ve used social media for a long time, you may already know what I’m about to say. But I want to share a few tips that help Roisin feel better and handle Zara:

Unfollow and Block:

Is someone making you feel awful because of their mean posts or DMs? Unfollow and block them. Don’t wait. It’s your phone: you decide who follows you and who you’ll follow.

Screenshot and Report:

If there is a bully or mean girl whose comments are hateful and abusive, report them on the app, and take a screenshot. Show it to someone — a parent, teacher, older sibling, sports coach, family doctor, grandparent; they want to help. You don’t deserve that abuse and the bully needs to be stopped.

Be Choosy About the Apps You Use:

The people who built social media apps had one goal: to make them so addictive, it’s hard to stop using them. You don’t have to use every app: choose one or two you love, and remember that if you find it hard to switch off, that’s because the builders designed them that way! If you feel worse after you use an app than before you opened it, pay attention to that feeling and consider dropping that app.

Disable Notifications:

Dig around in your settings and disable notifications — these are one of those addictive features that the designers invented to make you spend more time in the app. When you disable notifications, you’re in control: you can check the app when it’s the right time for you, not because the software is forcing you to.

Read a Book:

There’s a great book called The Guide to Teenage Stress by Nicola Morgan, written for readers aged 11 and up. If you feel a little low, it can help you figure out why, let you know that you’re not the only one who feels that way, and give you advice on how to cope.

Want to snag a copy? Friend Me is now available at your favorite bookstore and signed copies are available through Sheila’s local bookseller in Scotland, here!

In need of even more riveting reads? We think you’ll love Hide and Seeker, a bone-chilling tale about a game of hide and seek gone wrong!

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