The rapidly growing gap between social media and real life is one of the most powerful sources of political tribalism in the world today. Platforms such as Facebook and X fuel status-seeking extremists and make moderates seem invisible, leaving all of us feel more polarized than we really are. New “middleware” technology can help boost moderation and tamp down extremism via research-driven insights from Duke University’s Polarization Lab.
In an era of increasing social isolation, social media platforms like Facebook and X 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. In his new book, Bail introduces new apps and bots to help people 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.

Tags: Social media, Data Science, Politics, Polarization, Social Psychology

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