"In this important and accessible book, Chris Bail shows that if you want to understand what's going on online, don't focus on people's exposure to information. Keep your eye on their quest for status and group identity. The book is rich with insights for anyone who uses social media and is essential reading for anyone who wants to improve our democracy."—Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
"In this brilliant book, Chris Bail—one of the world's leading computational social scientists—brings deep sociological knowledge, cutting-edge research, and profound empathy to one of society's most vexing problems: the increasingly polarized and uncivil nature of political discussion. Engagingly written and brimming with insight, Breaking the Social Media Prism is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand how we got here and how we might escape."—Duncan J. Watts, author of Everything Is Obvious
"A tour de force. Breaking the Social Media Prism is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand our current political climate and engage in positive social and political change."—Mabel Berezin, Cornell University, author of Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Culture, Security, and Populism in the New Europe
"A pathbreaking book about how social media distorts our view of politics, polarization, and people, including those we define ourselves against. Breaking the Social Media Prism illuminates a path out of the echo chamber and offers new ways to see the world, going beyond the numbers to reveal the gap between the things we say online and the things we do in real life."—Eric Klinenberg, author of Palaces for the People
"Incredibly powerful. In this timely, well-written, and brilliant book, Christopher Bail explains why it is up to people, not platforms, to fix the problem of social media echo chambers distorting American politics."—James N. Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University
Coming April, 2021
"A revealing look at how user behavior is powering deep social divisions online—and how we might yet defeat political tribalism on social media"
In an era of increasing social isolation, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are among the most important tools we have to understand each other. We use social media as a mirror to decipher our place in society but, as Chris Bail explains, it functions more like a prism that distorts our identities, empowers status-seeking extremists, and renders moderates all but invisible. Breaking the Social Media Prism challenges common myths about echo chambers, foreign misinformation campaigns, and radicalizing algorithms, revealing that the solution to political tribalism lies deep inside ourselves.
Drawing on innovative online experiments and in-depth interviews with social media users from across the political spectrum, this book explains why stepping outside of our echo chambers can make us more polarized, not less. Bail takes you inside the minds of online extremists through vivid narratives that trace their lives on the platforms and off—detailing how they dominate public discourse at the expense of the moderate majority. Wherever you stand on the spectrum of user behavior and political opinion, he offers fresh solutions to counter political tribalism from the bottom up and the top down. He introduces new apps and bots to help readers avoid misperceptions and engage in better conversations with the other side. Finally, this book explores what the virtual public square might look like if we could hit “reset” and redesign social media from scratch through a first-of-its-kind experiment on a new social media platform built for scientific research.
Providing data-driven recommendations for strengthening our social media connections, Breaking the Social Media Prism
shows how to combat online polarization without deleting our accounts.