The Chaos Machine

The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World

Hardcover, 400 pages

English language

Published Jan. 26, 2022 by Little Brown & Company.


View on OpenLibrary

4 stars (3 reviews)

From a New York Times investigative reporter, this “authoritative and devastating account of the impacts of social media” (New York Times Book Review) tracks the high-stakes inside story of how Big Tech’s breakneck race to drive engagement—and profits—at all costs fractured the world. The Chaos Machine is “an essential book for our times” (Ezra Klein).

We all have a vague sense that social media is bad for our minds, for our children, and for our democracies. But the truth is that its reach and impact run far deeper than we have understood. Building on years of international reporting, Max Fisher tells the gripping and galling inside story of how Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social network preyed on psychological frailties to create the algorithms that drive everyday users to extreme opinions and, increasingly, extreme actions. As Fisher demonstrates, the companies’ founding tenets, combined with a blinkered focus on maximizing engagement, …

7 editions

Lots of inside information and the harms of social media

4 stars

This is a very in depth presentation of facts on how technology can impact society and social movements. It describes in detail how Facebook aimed to increase the number of friends users had (they wanted to surpass the Dunbar limit of 150) by enforcing it through changes in their algorithms. Then it discusses the Trump election and the rise of right-wing posts, videos and groups in social media. Chapters 4 and 5 covers the rise of machine learning algorithms and how all platforms started promoting and amplifying more outrageous/radical content. And how the average user's time on these platforms skyrocketed around 2016. And then, Trump's and Bolsonaro's election in the USA and Brazil respectively, which were fuelled by social media. The rise of alt-right movements. The pandemic and all the misinformation campaigns during that period. It’s a full exposition of how social media had real life dire consequences.

The problem with social media platforms is social media platforms

5 stars

That is the main thesis of the book: that the algorithms deployed by giants like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter do not just allow like-minded people to find each other but that they actively push people together into extremist bubbles through their recommendation engines, up to and including genocide (as in Myanmar and Sri Lanka). The book goes through what seems to be considered now the origin story of radicalization and harassment via social media: gamergate. Things got worse from there, all the way to the January 6th attempted coup. The throughline is how social media platforms algorithmically push people towards extremism and outrage (which is more likely to be found on the right... see Irony and Outrage on this) because outrage keeps people glued to the platforms. The platforms want people on as much as possible, and if the way to get it is to destroy democracy, spread disinformation, destroy …

avatar for emmadilemma

rated it

4 stars