Think Before You Like: Social Media’s Effect on the Brain and the Tools You Need to Navigate Your Newsfeed. By Guy P. Harrison. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2017. ISBN: 978-1633883512. 380 pp. Softcover, $18.00.
The use of social media has risen dramatically in recent years, but our ability to responsibly handle it has not kept pace. Guy Harrison is author of many skeptical books, including Think: Why You Should Question Everything; Good Thinking: What You Need to Know to Be Smarter, Safer, Wealthier, and Wiser; and 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True.
In Think Before You Like, Harrison examines the ways in which social media reinforce our biases, cloud our judgment, and spawn and perpetuate misinformation. He offers practical advice on media literacy and cyber self-defense, as well as insight into issues of privacy, psychology, and personal identity in the digital age. Chapter 2, “Welcome to Your Very Own Customized, Biased Bubble of Psychological Reinforcement, Manipulation, and Lies,” is perhaps the most relevant to skeptics hoping to understand the psychological and social consequences of social media.
As Harrison notes in the introduction:
This book is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of social media … . All that can be said with certainty today is that there is an urgent need for all users to arm themselves with knowledge about how social media companies operate, how our brains function online, and what steps we can take to protect ourselves … . The social media arena is a place where millions of human minds are manipulated and steered for someone else’s gain. High intelligence or traditional educational accomplishments won’t be enough to protect you. There is no place for arrogance here. Those who believe they could never fall for a silly belief already have.
As Harrison’s book was going to press, new revelations emerged about the power and misuse of social media, including Russian troll manipulation to influence the 2016 elections and the misuse of Facebook user data by Cambridge Analytica. Harrison’s book will only become more timely in the coming years.