Thursday, May 26, 2022

(Not-So)-Mini-Review: We Had to Remove this Post by Hanna Bervoets, trans. Emma Rault

*This was meant to be a mini review, so it's set up in my usual mini review format, but it went a bit longer than I anticipated. Whoops!

We Had to Remove this Post by Hanna Bervoets, trans. Emma Rault
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication: May 24th, 2022
Hardcover. 160 pages.

About We Had to Remove this Post:
"Kayleigh needs money. That’s why she takes a job as a content moderator for a social media platform whose name she isn’t allowed to mention. Her job: reviewing offensive videos and pictures, rants and conspiracy theories, and deciding which need to be removed. It’s grueling work. Kayleigh and her colleagues spend all day watching horrors and hate on their screens, evaluating them with the platform’s ever-changing terms of service while a supervisor sits behind them, timing and scoring their assessments. Yet Kayleigh finds a group of friends, even a new love—and, somehow, the job starts to feel okay. 

But when her colleagues begin to break down; when Sigrid, her new girlfriend, grows increasingly distant and fragile; when her friends start espousing the very conspiracy theories they’re meant to be evaluating; Kayleigh begins to wonder if the job may be too much for them. She’s still totally fine, though—or is she?"

We Had to Remove this Post initially grabbed my eye because the main character, Kayleigh, works as a content moderator for a major social media, a job that I have also (unfortunately?) had. Kayleigh's job as a content moderator is to review content that has been flagged as potentially offensive or inappropriate and determine whether or not that is the case. At Kayleigh's job, she is inundated with constant hate, violence, and other terrible content, and it always seems to take its toll on the people working there. We Had to Remove this Post follows a snapshot of Kayleigh's life and relationships with her colleagues and how things seem to slowly devolve.

What I liked: We Had to Remove this Post was written in a very compelling way and I appreciated how the author explored this work experience via the format of Kayleigh writing to someone who wants her to join a class action lawsuit about the company. I also appreciated that although she discussed what the content moderation consisted of and mentioned a few examples, she never went into unnecessary detail or shared anything horrifying just for the shock value–there was always a purpose. This book provides a really fascinating and important look at the psychological pressures that are placed on the moderations from consistently viewing the horrible content that can be found online, and how those working to "protect" the rest of the world from it as moderators take on the burden of ingesting this content every day. As a previous content moderator, I think Bervoets captured this experience extremely well and the way the horror on the screen becomes its own sort of traumatic monotony. Bervoets depictions of the characters coping with what they see also felt very authentic and I think captured the relationships between each friend really well, and I think this really helped make this novella feel cohesive and compelling. 

What I didn't like: There's nothing that I truly disliked about this book. It has a rather low rating on Goodreads, which I noticed after finishing it, and while I would expect this not to be a book for everyone, I'm a bit perplexed as to why it's quite so low. I think the book leaves a little to be desired in the vein of closure and exploration of some characters, but I don't think it suffered from that, either. The only thing I probably would have appreciated is if this book was longer. I would've really liked to see more of Kayleigh's character arc and interactions with friends. That being said, I'm not really mad about the 160-page size of this novella because I think everything worked perfectly. You get just enough information and content that you need, and any more might just mess up that balance. 

Overall, I've given We Had to Remove this Post four stars! As you might have guessed, there is some difficult and disturbing content, so please do be aware of that going into. This was a really interesting and thoughtful look into social media, what we ingest daily, and how people are affected by the things they see–particular those who have to see the worst of it. 

Buy the book: Amazon |

1 comment:

  1. I've never considered that content moderator was a job! But that makes sense. It sounds both interesting and horrible! The book itself sounds like it would be completely different from what I normally read.