Navigating Information Fatigue: Social Media

Jessica Staff Image

The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased our reliance on social media and the Internet for information. This development, combined with underlying political partisanship, has created a breeding ground for disinformation, conspiracy theories, and information overload. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has long provided resources for the best-quality information in the service of the public in Pittsburgh and beyond.

These titles were reviewed and vetted by CLP librarians as well as Calum Matheson, PhD – Assistant Professor of Public Deliberation and Civic Life and Director of Debate (University of Pittsburgh). For more books that focus on civic engagement and education, visit our staff picks page.

NOTE: This list is a supplement to the Navigating Information Fatigue: Social Media 2-Part Series webinar series. 

Social Media Mind: How Social Media Is Changing Business, Politics and Science and Helps Create a New World Order

Like any medium of communication social media has its own tropes which must be mastered in order to use it properly.

In The Social Media Mind, David Amerland illustrates how Social Media is a game changer. It challenges us to rethink our assumptions on almost every sphere where it is applied.

Whether communicating through the web with potential clients, increasing the exposure of a business brand or collaborating with colleagues on shared projects, social media demands that we rethink the standard responses which have guided us in the past and come up with new ones, for a new age.

In carefully laid out arguments, backed by evidence and examples he answers questions like:

Why do some social media marketing campaigns fail and not others? Why is social media so radically different from traditional marketing? How are social media success stories created? How can social media help save costs in business? Why is social media changing so many aspects of our world? What does it take to develop a social media mind? Over the next five years social media is going to change the nature of education, politics, business, science and even the arts. Its imperatives for greater transparency, responsiveness and engagement are behind the trends which are changing our world. This book is key to understanding how to prepare, what to do and how.

The Internet Trap: Five Costs of Living Online

Whether we are checking emails, following friends on Facebook and Twitter, catching up on gossip from TMZ, planning holidays on TripAdvisor, arranging dates on Match.com, watching videos on YouTube, or simply browsing for deals on Amazon, the internet pervades our professional and personal environments. The internet has revolutionized our lives, but at what cost?

In The Internet Trap, Ashesh Mukherjee uses the latest research in consumer psychology to highlight five hidden costs of living online: too many temptations, too much information, too much customization, too many comparisons, and too little privacy. The book uses everyday examples to explain these costs including how surfing the internet anonymously can encourage bad behavior, using social media can make us envious and unhappy, and doing online research can devalue the product finally chosen. The book also provides actionable solutions to minimize these costs. For example, the book reveals how deciding not to choose is as important as deciding what to choose, setting up structural barriers to temptation can reduce overspending on e-commerce websites, and comparisons with others on social media websites needs to be cold rather than hot. The Internet Trap provides a new perspective on the dark side of the internet, and gives readers the tools to become smarter users of the internet.

Breaking the Social Media Prism: How To Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing

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, 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.

Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life

Katherine Ormerod, journalist and social media mogul, is here to burst the Instagram bubble and discuss the real effects of social media ‘perfection’.

The internet has set destructive standards of flawlessness and comparison. We’re working so hard to live up to these new benchmarks that we’re burning ourselves out, and we’re working so hard to maintain them that we’re self-perpetuating an unobtainable reality.

Until girls and women alike see the social media fantasies for what they are – constructed realities – and stop comparing their lifestyles, bodies, partners, even families to those seen on their feeds and screens, they will never be able to realize their potential in the workplace, in the political system or in their quest for happiness.

In How Social Media is Ruining Your Life, Katherine explodes our social-media-addled ideas about body image, money, relationships, motherhood, careers, politics and more, and gives readers the tools they need to control their own online lives, rather than being controlled by them. An important book for any woman who has ever looked at her Instagram feed and thought, ‘Who are these women, and how the hell do they do it?’

Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot To Break America

For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers.

Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica’s “American operations,” which were driven by Steve Bannon’s vision to remake America and fueled by mysterious billionaire Robert Mercer’s money, as it weaponized and wielded the massive store of data it had harvested on individuals–in excess of 87 million–to disunite the United States and set Americans against each other. Bannon had long sensed that deep within America’s soul lurked an explosive tension. Cambridge Analytica had the data to prove it, and in 2016 Bannon had a presidential campaign to use as his proving ground.

Christopher Wylie might have seemed an unlikely figure to be at the center of such an operation. Canadian and liberal in his politics, he was only twenty-four when he got a job with a London firm that worked with the U.K. Ministry of Defense and was charged putatively with helping to build a team of data scientists to create new tools to identify and combat radical extremism online. In short order, those same military tools were turned to political purposes, and Cambridge Analytica was born.

Wylie’s decision to become a whistleblower prompted the largest data-crime investigation in history. His story is both exposé and dire warning about a sudden problem born of very new and powerful capabilities. It has not only laid bare the profound vulnerabilities–and profound carelessness–in the enormous companies that drive the attention economy, it has also exposed the profound vulnerabilities of democracy itself. What happened in 2016 was just a trial run. Ruthless actors are coming for your data, and they want to control what you think.

Generation Like

FRONTLINE correspondent Douglas Rushkoff explores how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media, and exposes the game of cat and mouse that corporations are playing with these young consumers. Here is a powerful examination of the evolving and complicated relationship between teens and the companies that are increasingly working to target them.

Friends, Followers, and the Future: How Social Media Are Changing Politics, Threatening Big Brands, and Killing Traditional Media

There’s a revolution going on, as ever-accelerating developments in digital information technologies change nearly every aspect of how we live, work, play, do business and engage in politics. Share and share alike–the numbers say it all as billions of people worldwide flock to online media and use social networks to discover and spread news and information.

In the process, ever-growing networks of “ordinary people” are using these powerful new tools to trim the influence long held by Big Business, Big Government and Big Media. No longer just passive recipients, participants in social networks now regularly make and break news while organizing civic and political actions that bypass censors, outpace traditional media, attract massive audiences and influence the rise and fall of brands, industries, politicians and even governments.

In this insider’s look at how social media are transforming our world, Rory O’Connor explains the trends and explores what tech visionaries, media makers, political advisers and businesspeople are saying about the meteoric rise of the various social networks of friends and followers, and what they bode for our future.

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change

“Merchants of Doubt ” tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades that link smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole.

This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality

Learn how the perception of truth has been weaponized in modern politics with this “insightful” account of propaganda in Russia and beyond during the age of disinformation (New York Times).

When information is a weapon, every opinion is an act of war.

We live in a world of influence operations run amok, where dark ads, psyops, hacks, bots, soft facts, ISIS, Putin, trolls, and Trump seek to shape our very reality. In this surreal atmosphere created to disorient us and undermine our sense of truth, we’ve lost not only our grip on peace and democracy — but our very notion of what those words even mean.

Peter Pomerantsev takes us to the front lines of the disinformation age, where he meets Twitter revolutionaries and pop-up populists, “behavioral change” salesmen, Jihadi fanboys, Identitarians, truth cops, and many others. Forty years after his dissident parents were pursued by the KGB, Pomerantsev finds the Kremlin re-emerging as a great propaganda power. His research takes him back to Russia — but the answers he finds there are not what he expected.

Blending reportage, family history, and intellectual adventure, This Is Not Propaganda explores how we can reimagine our politics and ourselves when reality seems to be coming apart.

Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas

Recent decades have seen a dramatic shift away from social forms of gambling played around roulette wheels and card tables to solitary gambling at electronic terminals. Addiction by Design takes readers into the intriguing world of machine gambling, an increasingly popular and absorbing form of play that blurs the line between human and machine, compulsion and control, risk and reward. Drawing on fifteen years of field research in Las Vegas, anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll shows how the mechanical rhythm of electronic gambling pulls players into a trancelike state they call the “machine zone,” in which daily worries, social demands, and even bodily awareness fade away.

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads

Feeling attention challenged? Even assaulted? American business depends on it. In nearly every moment of our waking lives, we face a barrage of messaging, advertising enticements, branding, sponsored social media, and other efforts to harvest our attention. Few moments or spaces of our day remain uncultivated by the “attention merchants,” contributing to the distracted, unfocused tenor of our times. Tim Wu argues that this condition is not simply the byproduct of recent technological innovations but the result of more than a century’s growth and expansion in the industries that feed on human attention.

From the pre-Madison Avenue birth of advertising to the explosion of the mobile web; from AOL and the invention of email to the attention monopolies of Google and Facebook; from Ed Sullivan to celebrity power brands like Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump, the basic business model of “attention merchants” has never changed: free diversion in exchange for a moment of your consideration, sold in turn to the highest-bidding advertiser.

Wu describes the revolts that have risen against the relentless siege of our awareness, from the remote control to the creation of public broadcasting to Apple’s ad-blocking OS. But he makes clear that attention merchants are always growing new heads, even as their means of getting inside our heads are changing our very nature–cognitive, social, political and otherwise–in ways unimaginable even a generation ago.

Machine Man

A story for the age of pervasive technology, Machine Man is a gruesomely funny unraveling of one man’s quest for ultimate self-improvement. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook on OverDrive.

The Enigma of Reason

Ambitious, provocative, and entertaining, The Enigma of Reason will spark debate among psychologists and philosophers, and make many reasonable people rethink their own thinking.