The best books about social media’s impact on us

Why am I passionate about this?

My own experience on Facebook piqued my interest in digital photography and social media. My emotional response to what I saw there ran the gamut from super anxious or angry to happy and even optimistic. As a scholar of religion with some expertise in traditional media and photography, I wanted to know why and how so I could respond better. I turned to experts in these new technologies – particularly those who write good books aimed at curious people, not just their peers! – for help. I learned a lot from these books and I’m confident you will, too!


I wrote...

Seeing and Believing: Religion, Digital Visual Culture, and Social Justice

By Ellen T. Armour,

Book cover of Seeing and Believing: Religion, Digital Visual Culture, and Social Justice

What is my book about?

Can we believe what we see on social media? I lay out the challenges—technological and ethical—that our visually saturated “new public square” raises for us, especially in this divisive time. I conclude by offering suggestions for how we might turn those challenges into opportunities to see and be differently – and better.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

Ellen T. Armour Why did I love this book?

The title of Turkle’s book aptly describes our social reality these days, I think.

Even when we’re with others, we’re often focused on our own screens, not the other people in the room. Being alone together is impacting our ability to truly be there for each other. She helped me see how important it is to find ways to maximize technology’s benefits while minimizing its downsides – and prompted me to begin to imagine how to do my part.

By Sherry Turkle,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Alone Together as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Technology has become the architect of our intimacies. Online, we fall prey to the illusion of companionship, gathering thousands of Twitter and Facebook friends, and confusing tweets and wall posts with authentic communication. But this relentless connection leads to a new solitude. We turn to new technology to fill the void, but as MIT technology and society specialist Sherry Turkle argues, as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down. Even the presence of sociable robots in our lives that pretend to demonstrate empathy makes us feel more isolated, as Turkle explains in a new introduction updating the book to…


Book cover of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest

Ellen T. Armour Why did I love this book?

Depending on the day, I’m either encouraged or terrified by social media’s effect on our social and political lives.

This book does a fantastic job of illuminating social media’s positive import – and its limits – for social and political organizing. An activist, social organizer, and sociologist, Tufecki draws on both her personal experience and her academic expertise to produce a compelling and insightful narrative.

The examples that ground it, the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, may have been supplanted in our memories with other movements and events, but they’re worth revisiting and the insights Tufecki shares definitely translate. 

By Zeynep Tufekci,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Twitter and Tear Gas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From New York Times opinion columnist Zeynep Tufekci, an firsthand account and incisive analysis of the role of social media in modern protest

"[Tufekci's] personal experience in the squares and streets, melded with her scholarly insights on technology and communication platforms, makes [this] such an unusual and illuminating work."-Carlos Lozada, Washington Post

"Twitter and Tear Gas is packed with evidence on how social media has changed social movements, based on rigorous research and placed in historical context."-Hannah Kuchler, Financial Times

To understand a thwarted Turkish coup, an anti-Wall Street encampment, and a packed Tahrir Square, we must first comprehend the…


Book cover of The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media

Ellen T. Armour Why did I love this book?

Insta’s not the only platform that’s full of photos and videos. Facebook is, too – most of them taken on and posted from someone’s cell phone.

Photography’s role in our private, public, and political lives has dramatically changed thanks to the cell phone camera and social media. Jurgenson helped me think through the impact of what he calls “the social photo” on us and on our world in a super accessible way. 

By Nathan Jurgenson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Social Photo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With the rise of the smart phone and social media, cameras have become ubiquitous, infiltrating nearly every aspect of social life. The glowing camera screen is the lens by which many of us apprehend and communicate our experience. But our thinking about photography has been slow to catch-up; this major fixture of everyday life is still often treated in the terms of art or journalism.

In The Social Photo, social theorist Nathan Jurgenson develops bold new ways of understanding the transformations wrought by these image-making and sharing technologies and the cultural objects they have ushered in: the selfie, the faux-vintage…


Book cover of Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

Ellen T. Armour Why did I love this book?

I rarely think about why I see what I see online. Yes, I know algorithms had something to do with it, but they’re just algebra on steroids, right? Well, not so fast!

This book opened my eyes to how and why bias – in this case, racial bias – shows up online and what we can do about it. I learned a lot about the intricate connections between our online lives and our real ones. 

By Safiya Umoja Noble,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Algorithms of Oppression as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A revealing look at how negative biases against women of color are embedded in search engine results and algorithms
Run a Google search for "black girls"-what will you find? "Big Booty" and other sexually explicit terms are likely to come up as top search terms. But, if you type in "white girls," the results are radically different. The suggested porn sites and un-moderated discussions about "why black women are so sassy" or "why black women are so angry" presents a disturbing portrait of black womanhood in modern society.
In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search…


Book cover of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power

Ellen T. Armour Why did I love this book?

Social media platforms connect us to each other with unprecedented global reach. They function as our new public square, but they are owned and managed by private multinational corporations!

Those corporations make money by tracking what gets our attention – and feeding us more of that! Zuboff’s book will open your eyes to the effects of this new economic engine and how it works – on us, if not always for us. 

By Shoshana Zuboff,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Age of Surveillance Capitalism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE TOP 10 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'Everyone needs to read this book as an act of digital self-defense.' -- Naomi Klein, Author of No Logo, the Shock Doctrine, This Changes Everything and No is Not Enough

The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called "surveillance capitalism," and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control us.

The heady optimism of the Internet's early days is gone. Technologies that were meant to liberate us have deepened inequality and stoked divisions. Tech companies gather our information online and sell…


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Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

Book cover of Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

Leslie Tall Manning Author Of Maggie's Dream

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Mentor Laugher Research nut Avid reader

Leslie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Winner of the Literary Titan Book Award

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family’s happiness.

But Marilyn’s quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by…

Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

What is this book about?

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family's happiness.

But Marilyn's quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by the courts as the new guardian. Caleb…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in information technology, social media, and discrimination?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about information technology, social media, and discrimination.

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Discrimination Explore 34 books about discrimination