Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make our Platforms Less Polarizing
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. His recent book 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, Bail 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. He introduces new apps and bots to help readers avoid misperceptions and engage in better conversations with the other side. 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.
Chris Bail Chris Bail is Professor of Sociology, Public Policy, and Data Science at Duke University, where he directs the Polarization Lab. A leader in the emerging field of computational social science, Bail’s research examines fundamental questions of social psychology, extremism, and political polarization using social media data, bots, and the latest advances in machine learning.
Bail is the recipient of Guggenheim and Carnegie Fellowships. His research appears in top journals, such as Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Sociological Review. His book, Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream, received three awards and resulted in an invitation to address the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Bail regularly lectures to audiences in government, business, and the non-profit sector. He also consults with social media platforms struggling to combat polarization.
Bail is passionate about building the field of computational social science. He is the Editor of the Oxford University Press Series in Computational Social Science and the co-founder of the Summer Institutes in Computational Social Science, which are free training events designed to introduce junior scholars to the field that are held concurrently in seven universities around the world each year. Chris also serves on the Advisory Council to the National Science Foundation's Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, and helped create Duke's Interdisciplinary Data Science Program.