Review: Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy

Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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 Alone) 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 increasingly damming digital space.

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