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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  370 ratings  ·  71 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 21st 2018 by Oxford University Press (first published May 15th 2018)
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May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Marco Pontual
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
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
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Written by cultural historian and media scholar, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy is a thought-provoking and well-argued exploration of how an innocent social media platform built with good intentions has transformed into a force that polarizes groups of individuals, limits deliberation, and ultimately undermines democracy around the world. With accessible language and clearly explained concepts, this book will appeal to anyone interested ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jim Rossi
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 becaus ...more
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: digital
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
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
M.T. Karthik
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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

Syd Botz
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tech-and-society
Vaidhyanathan argues that Facebook impairs our collective ability to actively think and deliberate about the issues that we are all struggling against. Vaidhyanathan points to how Facebook is designed (News Feeds that do not encourage engagement with more than a headline, likes and comments all act as measures of both positive/negative engagement with content, etc) in combination with market forces (Facebook profits from data-driven marketing) and scale (billions of people in unique locals aroun ...more
Kent Winward
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jul 17, 2019 marked it as to-read
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.
Apr 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: technology
I bought this book because I'm interested in social media, however this book is exclusively about Facebook (I should have paid more attention to the subtitle). I think if you're interested in this topic already the book just tells you things that you already know. Also it drags on too much.
Jud Barry
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Scott Johnson
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Mike Falconer
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: media
"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
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 ...more
Strong Start, Weaker Finish

A good conversation starter for this important topic. The author raises several serious questions that require more deliberation and research.

This book's great benefits comes from its well-documented sources (nearly 40 pages), most of which have active links available for further review and its systematic review of key issues in a historical context.

Although well written and generally apolitical, the content occasionally becomes pedantic and repetitive but still lay
Mark Valentine
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reading Vaidhyanathan's book has made me very cynical about FacePlant. I don't think I will delete my account soon but I will use it much more gingerly since I have come to learn of its enormous power to stifle democracy and deliberative process that is foundational for a republic like ours.

In graphic detail, he documents how FB has become the largest advertising machine in the history of the world. It does this by allowing customers "free" access to let our personal information be mined, packag
Sep 17, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Josh Preuss
Oct 08, 2020 rated it liked it
This dude is extremely narcissistic and writes in an agitated black and white manner, like a true partisan. In addition, most of the book is filled with stories about himself, none of which are very interesting. The book has a ton of interesting material. However, I keep not being able to read it due to the anger, and the narcissism.

Good bits: reading about the history of "media ecology" was interesting. Reading the notes at the end has been fruitful because Siva has for sure done his research.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Neil H
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
If you really want to understand the evils of Social media without a biased opinion, This book is definitely not an option for you.

Though book starts with grandiose narrative to expose the evils of social media, due to prejudice , hatred, and biased opinions in an author writing, the goal of the book gets sidetracked. The author goes on blaming Trump, Modi, and Russia in his entire book rather than giving importance to the main theme of the book.

The author's writing style is like a half baked j
Oct 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book didn't make a great impression. It is focused on an interesting area and has a few good points. But I also have a few objections.
I liked how it's structured, describing how FB influences different areas.
What I didn't like: repetitions. I felt like each chapter I read had some thoughts from the previous ones. Constantly pointing to the same arguments. And even if it's the outcome of long academic work, sometimes I felt (especially when reading the last chapter) like I'm hearing a preac
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Scott Holstad
Excellent book and I totally agree. In fact, Siva Vaidhyanathan must have gotten his thesis from me, as I've been trying to convince people of these things since at least 2016 and this book was published two years later! No, of course the author didn't get their idea from me, but it's a worthy subject and treated intelligently here and I wish like hell more people would read this b0ok, and others like it, because I think we're talking about very important issues that are world changing and gener ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
OMG. Does this guy know when to quit already? The end goes on, and on, and on, then back to the start, then on, then back onto the soapbox, and on and on, then repeat, and more and again.

And this is from me, a guy who agrees with him! I can't imagine what those who don't would make of it. Too much soapboxing, with a dose of massive hubris, because he does the very same thing that he (rightly) accuses Mark Zuckerberg of.

Read Nicholas Carr instead. You will save your sanity, and learn a lot more.
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Robertson Family Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia.

Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin.

B.A., University of Texas at Austin.

Siva Vaidhyanathan is a cultural historian and media scholar, and is currently a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. From 1999 through the summer of 2007 he worked in the Department of Culture and Communication at New York Universi

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You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
45 likes · 20 comments
“I’ve certainly scolded myself for an hour or more blown on a flow of dog videos, family updates, shallow political expressions, and pleas for funds. Every one of those items has some value to me, just as each potato chip delivers some pleasure, some flavor. I savor them. But I lose count. And upon reflection I feel just horrible. But the thing is, snack foods are explicitly designed to make us behave this way. Food producers have studied, mastered, and tinkered with the ratios of salt, sugar, and fat to keep us coming back, even when the taste of much of the food is unremarkable. Facebook is designed to be habit-forming in just the same way.” 1 likes
“Extremism will generate both positive and negative reactions, or “engagements.” Facebook measures engagement by the number of clicks, “likes,” shares, and comments. This design feature—or flaw, if you care about the quality of knowledge and debate—ensures that the most inflammatory material will travel the farthest and the fastest. Sober, measured accounts of the world have no chance on Facebook. And when Facebook dominates our sense of the world and our social circles, we all potentially become carriers of extremist nonsense” 1 likes
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