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Publisher's Summary

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 listeners avoid misperceptions and engage in better conversations with the other side. Finally, he 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. 

©2021 Chris Bail (P)2021 Recorded Books

What listeners say about Breaking the Social Media Prism

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Phenomenal Book

A comprehensive look at what drives social media polarization and how to stop it. If you find yourself on social media getting frustrated at the level of animosity or incivility coming from friends/family/acquaintances, Bail lets you know you’re not alone in this frustration. The book gives you some nice insights into what the incentives are that drive those individuals to become openly hostile to half the country. A thoughtful nonjudgmental work. 5 stars.

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Must read book on social media and polarization

Many people don't realize it, but there is a lot of misinformation about the effects of social media when it comes to how it affects polarization via tribalism and fake news. It wasn't until recently that researchers like Chris Bail actually put in the work to research this topic, and it's all in this incredible book. I read a lot of books, and usually it takes me a week or two to get through each book, but this one had me hooked. I binged this entire book within 24 hours of it's launch. 

Books like these are extremely important during times where we're extremely divided and find it difficult to have conversations about social issues and/or politics. Chris Bail and his team were curious if social media made people more extreme in their political views and how it affects moderates. They did a bunch of really interesting studies and even created their own app. The results are surprising because they debunk what you see from mainstream media or in documentaries like The Social Dilemma. Not only that, but Bail provides a bunch of practical solutions for how we can use social media in a better way.

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  • Andrew Ball
  • 04-07-21

An extremely insightful read

Wow. This is the best book I've read about the problems posed by social media and their potential solutions. Specifically, it contains evidence based dissection of the problem, and practical (albeit still evolving) solutions. It's a welcome tonic to some of the more alarmist and evidence free contributions from tech industry insiders and journalists.