ISBN : 9780190841164
If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine respectable journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook. Of course, none of that was part of the plan.
In Antisocial Media, Siva Vaidhyanathan explains how Facebook devolved from an innocent social site hacked together by Harvard students into a force that, while it may make personal life just a little more pleasurable, makes democracy a lot more challenging. It's an account of the hubris of good intentions, a missionary spirit, and an ideology that sees computer code as the universal solvent for all human problems. And it's an indictment of how "social media" has fostered the deterioration of democratic culture around the world, from facilitating Russian meddling in support of Trump's election to the exploitation of the platform by murderous authoritarians in Burma and the Philippines.
Facebook grew out of an ideological commitment to data-driven decision making and logical thinking. Its culture is explicitly tolerant of difference and dissent. Both its market orientation and its labor force are global. It preaches the power of connectivity to change lives for the better. Indeed, no company better represents the dream of a fully connected planet "sharing" words, ideas, and images, and no company has better leveraged those ideas into wealth and influence. Yet no company has contributed more to the global collapse of basic tenets of deliberation and democracy. Both authoritative and trenchant, Antisocial Media shows how Facebook's mission went so wrong.
"an excellent critique" - John Naughton, The Observer
"Fortunately, finally, we seem ready to have the necessary conversations about how social media has changed our hearts and minds and politics, including the hard conversations. And this is the right book for our moment. It lays out, in crisp, compelling language, why Facebook may be good for some individuals but not good for democracy. Antisocial Mediais not negative or defeatist. But it does not sugarcoat the facts. We can only remake technology to conform to new social values if we do the hard work of committing to what they are. That's a problem that Facebook can't solve. This is history, philosophy, and a call to action." -Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, MIT, and author of Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together
"An eye -opening and provocative examination of the unintended consequences that this tech giant inflicted on the global community it created." --Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Cyberwar
"Facebook's plan to connect the world has backfired. Democratic societies are unraveling everywhere. Conflict is trumping community, suspicion is undermining trust. Antisocial Media is the best account of how and why the world's leading tech firms have contributed to this crisis, here and across the globe. Vaidhyanathan's message is not merely necessary; it's urgent." --Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology at NYU and author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life
"Vaidhyanathan does have some solutions in mind, but they are not the simple tweaks Facebook proposes. There's no way at this point to reengineer a platform that rewards hasty, emotional, shallow engagement or moderates content to ensure two billion people behave themselves. We need to work across borders to make these steps multinational if not global. And we need to do it soon. The lamps are going out all over Europe again, and far beyond." -- Barbara Fister, Inside HigherEd
"In "Antisocial Media," University of Virginia professor Siva Vaidhyanathan gives a full and rigorous accounting of Facebook's sins. Much of the criticism will be familiar to anyone who has been following the news about the company. What distinguishes the book is Vaidhyanathan's skill in putting the social media phenomenon into a broader context - legal, historical and political." -- Nicholas Carr, The Washington Post
"Vaidhyanathan has written a structured response to the behemoth that is Facebook. He acknowledges all the rhetorically valid ways in which Facebook might offer emotionally fulfilling interactions (the author himself is a user), but he buttresses these emotive motivations with close readings of the filter bubble, monetization of all transactions on the platform, and even the inherent vice of "good" business... Verdict: Ideal for readers who live in the world of social media who want to put these platforms into context." --Jesse A. Lambertson, Library Journal
"An excellent critique of the social media giant underlines the threat it poses to us all - and suggests how it can be tamed. -- John Naughton, The Guardian
"With 30 per cent of the world's population on Facebook, Vaidhyanathan contends that the platform could become the operating system of our lives. And while it's fun to catch up with old school friends, its "mediated cacophony" is a powerful tool for the vocal minority to quickly subvert silent majorities. Zuckerberg himself is curiously complacent. Facebook, he says, "is just too big to govern. We are victims of its success." -- Nick Smith, Engineering & Technology
"This thoroughly researched and persuasively argued account of social media's noxious effects on the very fabric of society is the first study of its kind: a trenchant analysis of Facebook's unwholesome side effects. It needed saying, and it's supremely well said." - Juanita Coulson, The Lady
Chapter 1: The Pleasure Machine
Chapter 2: The Surveillance Machine
Chapter 3: The Attention Machine
Chapter 4: The Benevolence Machine
Chapter 5: The Protest Machine
Chapter 6: The Politics Machine
Chapter 7: The Disinformation Machine
Conclusion: The Nonsense Machine