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Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy

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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 pla 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.


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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 pla 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.

30 review for Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy

  1. 5 out of 5

    SocProf

    A highly readable, obviously relevant, critical examination of the deleterious effects Facebook has had on our lives, social structures, polis, and culture. This is a scholarly book (which is a good thing), so, Vaidhyanathan draws connection to Neil Postman's work as well as other media and communication scholars. But as scholarly and informed as the book is, Vaidhyanathan does not mince words when exposing the Facebook effects. He also broadens the discussion under Postman's technopoly framewor A highly readable, obviously relevant, critical examination of the deleterious effects Facebook has had on our lives, social structures, polis, and culture. This is a scholarly book (which is a good thing), so, Vaidhyanathan draws connection to Neil Postman's work as well as other media and communication scholars. But as scholarly and informed as the book is, Vaidhyanathan does not mince words when exposing the Facebook effects. He also broadens the discussion under Postman's technopoly framework where social issues are depoliticized and treated as technical issues. Alas, there is no salvation by algorithm (which we should know by now since there is already substantial literature on this). So, yes, this is a pretty pessimistic account Facebook cannot be "reformed" and its founder still gets it wrong. In the end, Vaidhyanathan offers a few prescriptions that might have a better chance of happening outside the US, considering our current political climate, in part generated and amplified by Facebook. With this book and others (I'm thinking Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil or Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest by Zeynep Tufekci), we are definitely leaving the era of utopian pronouncements on information wanting to be free and disruptive innovation and entering a bleaker (but more realistic) era of social media scholarship. Highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gamespacenl

    If you want to have an informed opinion about the role of Facebook within the wider ecosystem of social media platforms, do yourself a favour and read this book. Even for the well informed (academics studying Facebook like me), there is a lot to learn. Facebook is so big and complex, and its business practice are so opaque, you need books like this to make sense of it. Vaidhyanathan doesn't mince words. It's clear where he stands and that's a good thing. His profiling of Zuckerberg is devastatin If you want to have an informed opinion about the role of Facebook within the wider ecosystem of social media platforms, do yourself a favour and read this book. Even for the well informed (academics studying Facebook like me), there is a lot to learn. Facebook is so big and complex, and its business practice are so opaque, you need books like this to make sense of it. Vaidhyanathan doesn't mince words. It's clear where he stands and that's a good thing. His profiling of Zuckerberg is devastating (rightfully so in my mind) but still fair. Much of this book is written before Cambridge Analytica and before Zuckerberg testifying before Congress. It speaks to the relevance of this book that even after some much "new news" coming out, there is still so much about Facebook that is NOT discussed. Vaidhyanathan offers a solid roadmap to engage in conversations about Facebook: with friends, with students, with colleagues, and with politicians. It helps that the book is very well written and structured. Facebook will not go away anytime soon. That's fore sure. As Vaidhyanathan notes at the end of his book, we therefore need more critical perspectives and informed critiques, like his, to chart out a way forward without deleting profiles or opting out.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marco Pontual

    This book reads like a draft. Maybe if it had gone through some heavy editing it could be more readable, or maybe they'd find out that it has 10 or maybe 15 pages worth of actual relevant and original content. I have the feeling that since there are only a few reviews of this book here on Goodreads many of them come from the author's colleagues or students. This is not by a long shot a 4.38 book. I suggest you use your time with something better and maybe wait to see if they chop this book down to This book reads like a draft. Maybe if it had gone through some heavy editing it could be more readable, or maybe they'd find out that it has 10 or maybe 15 pages worth of actual relevant and original content. I have the feeling that since there are only a few reviews of this book here on Goodreads many of them come from the author's colleagues or students. This is not by a long shot a 4.38 book. I suggest you use your time with something better and maybe wait to see if they chop this book down to 10% its current size.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    A timely and well-researched book. Vaidhyanathan writes clearly, personably, and often wittily. His basic argument is that the large-scale, negative effects of Facebook more than offset the pleasures and conveniences it offers each of us as individual users. And yet . . . I do feel he goes on a bit long. His book is structured as a series of seven different views of Facebook as a "machine" producing certain social effects: pleasure, surveillance, attention, etc. A result is that Vaidhyanathan's a A timely and well-researched book. Vaidhyanathan writes clearly, personably, and often wittily. His basic argument is that the large-scale, negative effects of Facebook more than offset the pleasures and conveniences it offers each of us as individual users. And yet . . . I do feel he goes on a bit long. His book is structured as a series of seven different views of Facebook as a "machine" producing certain social effects: pleasure, surveillance, attention, etc. A result is that Vaidhyanathan's argument tends to repeat itself rather than build or develop. I grew a little tired of the book before it was done, as much as I agreed with what he had to say.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Impeccably researched analysis of how Facebook not only foments confusion, division, and disinformation, but is actually perfectly designed to do so. The take-down of Zuckerberg is made all the more devastating by the gentle, careful hand with which it is done, like being dressed down by your high school principal. I appreciate that the author does not rely on click-bait-y warnings about addiction and deleterious effects of technology but rather carefully considers how the technology could be bu Impeccably researched analysis of how Facebook not only foments confusion, division, and disinformation, but is actually perfectly designed to do so. The take-down of Zuckerberg is made all the more devastating by the gentle, careful hand with which it is done, like being dressed down by your high school principal. I appreciate that the author does not rely on click-bait-y warnings about addiction and deleterious effects of technology but rather carefully considers how the technology could be built differently or regulated in the future.

  6. 5 out of 5

    M.T. Karthik

    S. Vaidhyanathan has comprehended and elucidated what two billion of us vaguely understood when we joined (hit 'agree' quickly without reading the TOS) and couldn't express ourselves to resist. Users of Facebook should be OBLIGED to read this book. It isn't about reform at the corporate level, after all. Users have to take responsibility for what FB has become. PLEASE read this book mtk

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kent Winward

    The problems with Facebook -- overall a very good dissection of the problems created by the social media empire, particularly in relation to politics. Probably would have been five stars, but needed some more meat on ways to address the problem, rather than pulling a Jaron Lanier or Douglas Rushkoff.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lili

    Pre-ordered the paperback version since I was listening to this on audio from my library. Will start again when I receive it because I really liked the information and narrative but was having a hard time concentrating in audio format.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peter O'Kelly

    Some reviews and interviews to explore: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outloo... (Nicholas Carr review) https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... https://thebaffler.com/latest/the-zuc... https://news.virginia.edu/content/qa-... https://www.theatlantic.com/technolog...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim Rossi

    As someone who's been writing and warning about FB for years, I eagerly grabbed a copy of Antisocial Media. He covers many important topics but his predictable elitist partisanship really contaminates the analysis. Example 1: He rightly worries about ads being used to manipulate politics, including by foreign elements (mostly specifically Russians & Trump in 2016); but he makes zero mention of the pervasive political bias in editorial decisions and donations by FB's executives, presumably be As someone who's been writing and warning about FB for years, I eagerly grabbed a copy of Antisocial Media. He covers many important topics but his predictable elitist partisanship really contaminates the analysis. Example 1: He rightly worries about ads being used to manipulate politics, including by foreign elements (mostly specifically Russians & Trump in 2016); but he makes zero mention of the pervasive political bias in editorial decisions and donations by FB's executives, presumably because they favor his political ideology. Example 2: We see the same bias in describing the mainstream news media: left-wing news media like the NY Times, Wired, Washington Post & New Yorker are considered reliable and he relies on them massively for sourcing, while Fox, Breitbart, etc. are "propaganda." Many, many more examples.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jud Barry

    If this review had a subtitle, it would be "The problem with subtitles." The problem is that subtitles try to squeeze all the meaning of an entire book into a few words. Functionally, it's stupid. Nobody goes around saying, "Have you read the latest subtitle?" But maybe they should. After all, it's essentially a headline, and how often do we know anything about anything beyond the headlines that parade before us on our "wall" or in our "feed"? Feed. Good word, that, for us human informational bov If this review had a subtitle, it would be "The problem with subtitles." The problem is that subtitles try to squeeze all the meaning of an entire book into a few words. Functionally, it's stupid. Nobody goes around saying, "Have you read the latest subtitle?" But maybe they should. After all, it's essentially a headline, and how often do we know anything about anything beyond the headlines that parade before us on our "wall" or in our "feed"? Feed. Good word, that, for us human informational bovines. Here is a book with a perfectly good title -- Anti-Social Media -- whose subtitle goes on to tell us what the title means -- How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy -- so that we can have something to add to the coffeehouse chatter: "Hey, did you know that Facebook disconnects us and undermines democracy? Terrible, innit? Hey, look what just popped up on my feed: Ronaldo and Neymar, and they're not playing soccer, they're boxing! Hahaha!" I think I prefer the quaint, old-timey way that publishers used to provide a seemingly alternative title: Anti-Social Media -- Or How Facebook Primarily (But Also Google, Not to Mention a Host of Others) Profits by Providing a 'Free' Service that Tickles Our Inner Compulsion to Use the Cotton Gin to Generate Profits and Other Glib Excuses for Enslaving Others. In fact, this book doesn't mention the cotton gin. But if you will allow yourself to go beyond the subtitle and actually read the entire book, you'll learn that author Vaidhynathan is onto something much deeper than the manner in which the architecture of Facebook willy-nilly acts on the human spirit like a steady diet of Coca-Cola acts on a set of teeth. (I said "spirit." I meant "brain." But I couldn't use that word, because it connotes "rational," which as Seth Godin says, no one is. And everybody knows that Seth Godin must be right because Seth Godin is a Marketer and we are all Brands and Brands don't use rationality because it isn't sticky and lacks the potential for virality, which autocorrect wants to change to "virility," but that was another time.) So, anyway: spirit. Why do people drink so much Coke? There's like 9.75 teaspoons of sugar in one 12 oz. can. Imagine putting that much sugar on a bowl of cereal. It's total crap, and it funds an EMPIRE. Full disclosure: part of the empire is a university I got a degree from, so totally worth it, right? Just like slavery, except rotten teeth and obesity! That's the spirit! And then there's Facebook, and not only is it FREE, but it doesn't rot your teeth or make you fat, and it comes complete with an afterlife by keeping you friends with people after they (or you) die! Who wouldn't want it? So, it's completely neutral, right? If you think that, you've never concerned yourself with advertising. Back in the graybeard days of advertising -- all of 15 years ago -- they used to say that 20% of your advertising budget worked, but you didn't know which 20%, so you had to go ahead and spend the other 80% on stuff that didn't work. Now, with Facebook sucking up all kinds of personal and browsing data that its users give up for FREE and fire-hosing it to advertisers, anybody with any kind of advertising budget can customize many messages to many audiences and gauge the responses. With that kind of feedback, no wonder the traditional "Waste 80% of Your Advertising Budget With Us" newspapers are struggling. And guess who have massive advertising budgets to saturate an atomized market with targeted messages? Political marketers, with dictators like Vladimir Putin showing the way. Here's Vaidhyanathan: "By segmenting an electorate into distinct sets, candidates move resources toward efforts to pander to small issues with high emotional appeal instead of those that can affect broad swaths of the electorate and perhaps cross over presumed rifts among voters. It's not necessary -- and may be counterproductive -- for a campaign to issue a general vision of government or society or to articulate a unifying vision. It's still done, but it's not the essence of the game anymore. Voter targeting … encourages narrow-gauge interventions that can operate below the sight of journalists or regulators. A campaign like Trump's can issue small, cheap advertisements via platforms like Facebook and Instagram that disappear after a day or get locked forever in Facebook's servers." (p. 162) "High emotional appeal": your brain on Coca-Cola. We love it, we can't get enough of it, and we are powerless to resist, and the first three letters of Seth Godin's last name are G-O-D. Sweet. Even if Mark Zuckerberg has good intentions, and even if his company makes occasional interventions, they manifest the naiveté of the libertarian Silicon Valley mindset. His creation is a Frankenstein monster, out of his control: "Facebook is simply too large and the variety of human depravity too vast for the company to deploy enough people or computer code to anticipate and regulate the misbehavior of millions." (p. 204) The broader value of the book -- beyond the narrowness of its title and subtitle -- is that Vaidhynathan transcends his own characterization that "Facebook is itself the problem" with the larger problem of people and how they respond to technological innovation: "[N]ot for the first time, market and political forces have turned products of the Enlightenment against enlightenment. … When we make a cult of technology and welcome its immediate rewards and conveniences into our lives without consideration of the long-term costs, we make fools of ourselves." (pp. 202-3) As to what should be done, the author argues both for the application of more accountability and transparency to the lesser problem of Facebook, e.g. by extending Federal Election Commission oversight of political advertising to web-based platforms (presently not the case). As to the larger problem of the human response to technological innovation, at one level he says resistance is futile -- he himself is not leaving Facebook, and it would be a mere "blip" for readers of his book to do so -- but on the other he counsels that we "reinvest and strengthen institutions that generate deep, meaningful knowledge," (p. 215) e.g. universities, museums, libraries, science, responsible journalism. He also says that we must get political. The libertarian mindset of Silicon Valley has produced at the corporate level "the hubris of self-righteousness" that threatens the very notion of democratic self-government. "Only the threat and force of stern state regulation can push companies to straighten up," concludes Vaidhynathan. "That's both how it is and how it should be." (p. 219) So uh who won the boxing match? Neymar or Ronaldo? Wait, wait, don't tell me, it no longer matters, cuz it looks like Scaramucci and Omarosa are gonna tangle, but mostly I can't wait til five years from now when they will be gone. Trump will be gone, the US will have a Green New Deal, Medicare for all, a well-regulated militia armed with flintlocks, Facebook and Google will be public utilities, and the EU will move its capital from Brussels to London. Also, people will have actually read this book, gone beyond its publisher's marketing crapshoot of a subtitle, and brought policy back into fashion. Because yes we can … think. And I will have written a book called 9.75 Teaspoons and the Truth: Drink the Kool-Aid. No, no, no. Listen to my inner Seth Godin; pack it with virality; then go all virile and kick him to the curb: Think the Kool-Aid.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Walter

    Great read: 5 solid stars. Took me a while to finish this one as I found myself repeatedly going over chapters, re-analyzing the content, going over the references and giving myself ample time to digest the commentary. But before we go any further you'd probably want to know, "will this book make me want to delete my facebook account?" That depends on what you ultimately value. I myself did it many years ago at a time when FB was perhaps 1/10th as influential as it is today. If anything, these pa Great read: 5 solid stars. Took me a while to finish this one as I found myself repeatedly going over chapters, re-analyzing the content, going over the references and giving myself ample time to digest the commentary. But before we go any further you'd probably want to know, "will this book make me want to delete my facebook account?" That depends on what you ultimately value. I myself did it many years ago at a time when FB was perhaps 1/10th as influential as it is today. If anything, these pages should give you enough cause to re-evaluate the role that not only FB but all social media plays in your life. Early on the author points out, "Facebook likely has been—on balance—good for individuals. But Facebook has been—on balance—bad for all of us collectively." Sure, we can share photos and funny status updates and comment on our friends pages, but the overall effect of all this has been a gradual conditioning of the users to welcome exposure to influence outside their immediate social sphere, all of which is mediated and amplified by a commercial platform that just about perfected the practice of turning people into distracted data cattle. It may not be you, but it is us: "In his 1985 bestseller, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil had argued that Americans should not have been paying so much attention to the foreboding picture of totalitarianism in Orwell’s novel. The prospect of that sort of social control—by centralized brute force and fear—was unlikely to spread or find purchase in societies so committed to consumerism, expression, and choice. Instead, Neil argued, we should be heeding the warnings issued by Aldous Huxley in his 1932 futuristic novel Brave New World. “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books,” Neil wrote in 1985. “What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.” Huxley, Neil explained, described a culture deadened by feelings, bored by stimulation, distracted by empty pleasures. What threatens those of us who live rather comfortably is not so much brutality as entertainment. I would only add a coda to Neil’s invocation of Brave New World: our collective inability to think through our problems and our ability to ignore our problems invite brutality—or at least make it that much harder to confront brutality when it arrives and is aimed at the least visible or vocal among us." According to Vaidhyanathan, the mechanics through which FB markets its special brand of subtle "brutality" is deliciously simple and taught in behavioral-psych courses everywhere: "Facebook, as novelist and internet freedom advocate Cory Doctorow has explained, is like a Skinner box. It conditions us by intermittent reinforcement. “You give a rat a lever that dispenses a food pellet every time and he’ll just get one when he’s hungry,” Doctorow told an audience in 2011. “But you give him a lever that only sometimes dispenses a food pellet, he’ll just hit it until he runs out of steam because he’s not sure what the trick is and he thinks he’s going to get it if he just keeps on banging on that lever." This is the essence of FB, Vaidhyanathan argues, whose algorithms are finely tuned to favor content that elicits strong emotional responses from its users thereby shortchanging any possibility of measured, rational debate. Moreover, the type of content displayed to the user has been shown to be highly effective at transforming the user's mood, which can then be leveraged as demand-capital for selling certain kinds of ads (see: Weapons of Math Destruction.). At face value, FB is in the business of selling ads, though its mission statement claims to want to "to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together". Regardless, neither of these goals could be accomplished without some mechanism that generates highly charged content of social import, even if mired in falsehoods. FB wants to know you to your core, segment you for the sake of targeting you with highly specific ads, collect its coin and let you fend for yourself: "By posting a story that solidifies membership in a group, the act generates social value. If the veracity of that post is questioned, sticking by it, defending it, and criticizing the critic further demonstrate group loyalty. This, again, has social value, even if it has many other costs. Even when we post and share demonstrably false stories and claims we do so to declare our affiliation, to assert that our social bonds mean more to us than the question of truth. This fact should give us pause. How can we train billions of people to value truth over their cultural membership when the question of truth holds little at stake for them and the question of social membership holds so much? Some time ago, I remember hearing about "Delete Facebook Day" movement. After the election debacle and all the issues related to user's identities being stolen, trolling, Cambridge Analytica, etc., people were rightly fed up with Zuck's antics. And it worked! In the period of time from March 14th to March 21st ("delete" day), people quit Facebook in droves. Now, would you like to know when was it that Facebook had the most downloads on the Android app store, ever? The day immediately after "Delete day". It is so well embedded into our society and daily mode of operation that it is just too hard to extricate ourselves from its influence. As Chaos Monkeys author Antonio Garcia Martinez put it, "Facebook is basically a digital simulacrum of real community...it is to real community what online porn is to sex. It's this sort of cheap digital copy that no one would use if they had access to the real thing."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike Falconer

    Warning: This book may alter your perceptions on how the world currently works and your part in democracy’s downfall. Anti-Social Media is actually misnamed. This book is an indictment of Facebook and to a lessor extent the other social media sites that seek to emulate its success. What initially seems to be the book’s raison d’être; an examination of the overreach, and dubious business practices, that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is actually far more wide spread, nuanced, and ultimatel Warning: This book may alter your perceptions on how the world currently works and your part in democracy’s downfall. Anti-Social Media is actually misnamed. This book is an indictment of Facebook and to a lessor extent the other social media sites that seek to emulate its success. What initially seems to be the book’s raison d’être; an examination of the overreach, and dubious business practices, that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is actually far more wide spread, nuanced, and ultimately damning. With possibly its most revealing allegation being that Cambridge Analytica were never anything more than Snake Oil Salesmen; while Facebook’s own employees worked directly for political campaigns in multiple countries with almost universal damage to democracy and the pollical process in the countries in which they worked. Mr. Vaidhyanthan’s case is that Facebook is on its way to becoming, or indeed has already become, the operating system of our lives. While it has been beneficial in general terms for individuals; improving communication with friends and relatives, and even people who we would never have hoped to keep in touch with before its arrival, Facebook has done significant damage to society as a whole. Facebook’s success, Mr. Vaidhyantha argues, is based on two elements. The first being that Facebook is deliberately engineered to be addictive; rewarding interactions likes, and shares, in similar ways to how casinos keep their guests playing. The second element of Facebook’s success being that it has become “one of the most effective advertising machines in history.” Facebook knows so much about us, and offers advertisers such levels of targeting that were never before dreamed of, that it is unparalleled as a sales tool. If Facebook was just an engine for kitten & puppy pictures, along with family updates, and the odd attempt to sell us things, it could quite possibly be the force for good it sincerely believes that it is. However, Facebook has become a major factor in the political world. Facebook encourages weak ties between people, and is great for declaration and reaction. It undoubtedly helps political activists, activism, hyperbole, and alarm. Facebook; however, is useless for political discourse and deliberation. Posts which do not create strong reactions one way of the other fall foul of Facebook’s algorithm and are just not delivered in news feeds. Although the tone of Anti-Social Media, is one of alarm, and it makes a strong case for the damage that Facebook and its ilk do to the world; the author does have some interesting suggestions as to possible ways to close the pandora’s box that Mark Zuckerberg has opened. If fact, Mr. Vaidhyanthan’s historical comparison of Facebook with the East India Company, and their “shared zeal for making the world a better place,” should give us all pause for thought. Facebook’s users are currently its product – Facebook sells highly targeted, and therefore highly effective advertising. Facebook could be forced to treat its users like clients; much like lawyers or financial consultants. If Facebook was to become an informational fiduciary, the argument goes, an only use data in ways that do not harm us, it may finally understand the difference between advertising that tries to sell us products, and political propaganda. The Anti-Social Media is more than an inditement of the social medial filter bubble and Facebook creating more divides while its intentions are to bring us together. The book asks us to look at the changes in society, and in ourselves, as we have been using Facebook as an operating system. It asks us if the kitten and puppy pictures are worth it? Interestingly it does not ask us to give up on Facebook or Social Media; but to understand its societal dangers and the recognize our responsibilities in doing something about it. This is the book that did not make me give up Facebook. It did make me delete Facebook off my phone. And renew a year’s subscription to a highly reputable news organization. It’s that good.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    "Facebook serves us thoughts and feelings that affirm our prejudices and satisfies our desires for attention." "There is a plea for reinvestment on institutions that promote deep thought conducted at analog speed." "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 journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would ma "Facebook serves us thoughts and feelings that affirm our prejudices and satisfies our desires for attention." "There is a plea for reinvestment on institutions that promote deep thought conducted at analog speed." "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 journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook." "Facebook puts everyone in one big room and calls them friends. It scrambles the commercial world by dominating the advertising economy and pulling revenue away from other sources of news and information. It scrambles the political world by proliferating misinformation and disinformation to distract and divide a community. Facebook is disorientating." "Zuckerberg lacks a historical sense of the horrible things that humans are capable of doing to each other and the planet. But when someone gets that rich that fast, powerful people start taking him seriously about matters on which he lacks any understanding." "Photos on Facebook are tagged with metadata revealing times and location. People tag photographs with names, revealing their presence and movements to others." "There are many ways that Facebook ensures users lack control over their information. Facebook recommends friending people that you hardly know. Users are tricked at the moment they register to upload their contacts for the sake of convenience. Facebook never invites users to consider the consequences of that action." "Privacy is dead." "Attention is scarce. Information is not scarce. It is too abundant." "Facebook has allowed advertisers to exclude Jews, African Americans, women and Spanish speakers from advertising campaigns, including those for housing and employment." "Facebook frequently will advertise to a user that their friends have responded to something that they never have." "Facebook can access all of a users personal information and distribute it as they see fit. t is unlikely to face any regulatory restrictions on how it might use the data." "Learning has become a matter of searching, copying and pasting rather than immersing, considering and deliberating."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

    Like other recent books Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics, New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future, and Your Happiness was Hacked, Vaidhyanathan takes a critical look at social media, most particularly and damming, Facebook. He pays particular attention to its role in Brexit and the 2016 US elections, but is more systematic in exploring the ways in which Zuckerberg and the entire Facebook team are creating an addictive platform t Like other recent books Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics, New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future, and Your Happiness was Hacked, Vaidhyanathan takes a critical look at social media, most particularly and damming, Facebook. He pays particular attention to its role in Brexit and the 2016 US elections, but is more systematic in exploring the ways in which Zuckerberg and the entire Facebook team are creating an addictive platform that undermines the democratic values and social good that the organization (and other social media and Silicon Valley companies) often purport, through sophistication manipulation of information presented to users in ways that encourage them to feel more, think less, and orient themselves towards buying. Vaidhyanathan delves into the philosophical underpinnings (and absences) of Zuckerberg and his naivete in building a platform on advertising but somehow arguing it can do good without compromising democracy. He looks to several situations (e.g. the Arab Spring) to deconstruct how such claims to the positivity of social media for democracies has further undermined democracy in these countries (And when it's not Facebook; it's similar social media platforms). He takes his intellectual lead from both Robert Putnam (Bowling Along) and Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death). For those who want to think a bit more critically about the role social media is playing not just in their lives but in their institutions and world affairs, Vaidhyanathan's book will fill that gap, though it will leave readers wondering just what can really be done to fix this increaingly daming digital space.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chey

    I found out about this book through a retweet of the author, which then led me to his profile, where he announces this book release. I had it in my Amazon cart within the hour. The irony is not lost on me. Anti-Social Media is a great recap of the recent history of the creation of Facebook all the way up to the 2016 elections and today. Perhaps like many people, I think I almost got whiplash with going back and forth between each story during that time— from inauguration body counts to Russian me I found out about this book through a retweet of the author, which then led me to his profile, where he announces this book release. I had it in my Amazon cart within the hour. The irony is not lost on me. Anti-Social Media is a great recap of the recent history of the creation of Facebook all the way up to the 2016 elections and today. Perhaps like many people, I think I almost got whiplash with going back and forth between each story during that time— from inauguration body counts to Russian meddling. Sida’s book lays everything out in a neat timeline, with Facebook’s role front and center. I feel like it would be easy to get caught up with all the facts and figures and dates, but his narrative style makes the book interesting to read. A warning however: the book does come across with a slight liberal bias. Perhaps I am reading with Democrat-colored glasses, but I did pick up a hint of it (which, is fine by me, but maybe not for others). It does not appear to affect the truths in this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Serge

    Vaidhyanathan extends the fundamental arguments made by his mentor Neil Postman with respect to the corrosive effects of technopoly. He warns against adopting Facebook as an OS for our public lives because of the very real dangers of confirmation bias and self-gratification. By constantly curating our lives, we allow ourselves to be corrupted by “constant, alarming, exhausting, disruptive, narcotic, neurotic” hypermedia. Out civic institutions suffer immeasurably because of this debasement withi Vaidhyanathan extends the fundamental arguments made by his mentor Neil Postman with respect to the corrosive effects of technopoly. He warns against adopting Facebook as an OS for our public lives because of the very real dangers of confirmation bias and self-gratification. By constantly curating our lives, we allow ourselves to be corrupted by “constant, alarming, exhausting, disruptive, narcotic, neurotic” hypermedia. Out civic institutions suffer immeasurably because of this debasement within surveillance states (he calls it the Cryptopticon). Of particular concern is data-driven voter targeting and manipulation on the scale undertaken by Cambridge Analytica with the witting/unwitting aid of Facebook. Concentrations of power and capital facilitate the rise of marginal political actors in an image-driven public forum.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Neil H

    This book is a sobering account of humanity's basest instincts and its influences. How do we account and deal with the most galvanising technology we have since invented. The power of the Internet was meant to persuade, gather and empathise with people across all divides. Now it seems that we have let the "freeness" of Google and Facebook mold us into potential mindless click baits and narcissistic identity pushers. Made us shallow, rude, unthinking and yet at the same time glorified in our own This book is a sobering account of humanity's basest instincts and its influences. How do we account and deal with the most galvanising technology we have since invented. The power of the Internet was meant to persuade, gather and empathise with people across all divides. Now it seems that we have let the "freeness" of Google and Facebook mold us into potential mindless click baits and narcissistic identity pushers. Made us shallow, rude, unthinking and yet at the same time glorified in our own smugness. Hannah Arendt is right. When dealing with easy technology masquerading as Gods. We need to 'Stop & Think' not just for our selfish wants, but if we are contributing to a humanity unworthy of its name.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Facebook is a wonderful tool that allows us to stay in touch, reconnect, and find like-minded people. It is also a tool for manipulating political campaigns, creating misinformation that distracts, has taught us to be superficial, and, most importantly, has lead to our inability to collectively address common challenges. Facebook as a company benefits from increasing superficiality and polarization as user engagement is elevated and ad revenues increase. It is an insidious challenge that can lik Facebook is a wonderful tool that allows us to stay in touch, reconnect, and find like-minded people. It is also a tool for manipulating political campaigns, creating misinformation that distracts, has taught us to be superficial, and, most importantly, has lead to our inability to collectively address common challenges. Facebook as a company benefits from increasing superficiality and polarization as user engagement is elevated and ad revenues increase. It is an insidious challenge that can likely only be addressed through government regulation. This is an important book about the most important meta-topic of our time. Highly recommend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tim Cavale

    This is a thorough and insightful examination of Facebook and the impact it has individually and globally. It is a must-read for anyone interested in politics and political trends. It's about algorithms and advertising and how Facebook (and other social media) are being exploited to spread disinformation that cannot be easily tracked or disputed until well after its impact has been felt and the desired effect delivered vis these systems. It'll disturb the hell out of you.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Scott Johnson

    I no longer think Mark Zuckerberg is evil, but he is astoundingly stupid. I'm very much of the same mind as this author. If it wasn't the only way I keep in touch with many people, or if it wouldn't feel so socially isolating (most people we knew here in town moved away), I would probably delete my account at this point.

  22. 4 out of 5

    J Haydel

    Thoughtful and relatively nuanced argument. I read it at the same time as a book on poetry in WWI, which has made me wonder how much of the phenomenon he describes has to do with amplification effects of Facebook algorithms and how much is completely unrelated to technology... a question he also considers in the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Many of the topics Vaidhyanathan discusses have been dealt with elsewhere, but his reach is broad and deep and he is the only social media theorist who consolidates it in one place. He also has a unique international perspective, bringing in rich insight about events and developments in India and other Asian cultures. This is a great overview for my 200-level social media students.

  24. 5 out of 5

    R.Z.

    I didn't finish this book. It was interesting, but too biased and convoluted to be readable. Although I agree with the premise of the book, that Facebook is a dangerous addition to social media, I continually use it to keep in touch with friends and family. I, too, am hooked. I agree with the author that Facebook needs oversight and regulation, because it is failing to police itself.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    If you’re uneasy about Facebook — and who isn’t — this book will help spell out why. It’s pretty convincing that we’d all be better off if we stuck to cat videos. The author’s core point is that Facebook’s very nature makes it not just unsuitable for political discourse, but actively destructive of it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    TK40

    Despite the seemingly left slant by the author by giving Facebook a lot of credit for Trump winning, I was still satisfied on what I learned listening to this book. The author goes into sufficient detail on a number of reasons why (I think) Facebook has done more harm than good. The book goes deep and past the obvious.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jay Dougherty

    A crucial study of not only facebook, but the entire social media landscape. The international examples from India and the Phillipines were extremely interesting, and something that I was not aware of.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Enid

    Really interesting read for a report for school. Facebook does lots of things I didn't know about, such as embed staff in political campaigns. Lots of interesting and potentially scary bits of information.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Roger Mexico

    A little long (and, in some parts, a little slow)but overall, a great treatment of an important topic. We all have a responsibility to understand how tech works and the ways and reasons it is employed and used. This goes double for policy makers.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    The problem with Facebook is Facebook. In the words of Hannah Arendt, “stop and think.” Clear explanations of why and how Facebook is an attention machine, a surveillance machine, a protest machine, a propaganda machine.

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