Why we get pushed to extremes online and how to stop it
Many of us know an anti-vaxxer or a selfie-obsessed narcissist who clutters our social feeds; an online conspiracy theorist or a child whose face is buried in a smartphone. Some of us even live with one. How do we pull these people back from the brink of a digital abyss?
In this compelling account, researcher Jordan Guiao reveals what happens when we fall down the rabbit hole of online addiction and radicalisation. He profiles COVID-19 'freedom fighters', QAnon conspiracists, social media egoists, online gamers and men's rights activists, tracing their path into obsession and how they found their way back. Drawing on psychology, neuroscience and the latest research on addiction, he prompts us to ask: how can we use the tools that connect us to stop isolating us? And what should our governments do to protect us?
In an age of online outrage and social media schisms, where Big Tech tracks our every click, it is time for a conversation about how to use the internet safely and for social good. Let's stop the disconnect and create an online world we can all be proud of.
'As our lives move online, we're all carried along by a vast ocean of data … Well informed, well researched and very readable, Disconnect by Jordan Guiao helps us navigate the great data ocean. It helps us identify these big phenomena and how they affect us as individuals. Armed with that understanding, we're better equipped to survive the data ocean's most terrifying tempests.' - Ed Santow, Australia's former human rights commissioner and professor of responsible technology at the University of Technology Sydney
'A necessary reset of a book … Given how many of us are losing loved ones to conspiracy rabbit holes and brain-shaping tech, this humane, insightful and - yes - practical book couldn't be more timely.' - Benjamin Law, writer, broadcaster and author of The Family Law
'Jordan Guiao is a digital native who brings our disordered online world into focus through the characters in a terrifying new story - many of whom we will have already met in our own social media feed. Guiao fuses personal stories with professional insight, and the result is refreshingly empathetic and practical. Disconnect is both a cautionary tale and a sorely needed rallying call to reclaim a healthy internet.' - Ed Coper, author of Facts and Other Lies and executive director of the Center for Impact Communications
'What do we do when our friends fall prey to conspiracy theories, dating scams or online abuse? When our children become depressed because they can't live up to a social media ideal? Jordan Guiao's Disconnect dissects how social media platforms have been used to exploit our vulnerabilities and what happens to the people who are targeted online. Thankfully, this timely book doesn't reduce such problems to moral panics. Instead, Guiao builds complex case studies of freedom fighters and anti-vaxxers, screen addicts, abusers and victims, offering useful insights into the power of social media to alter our worldviews and polarise societies. Guiao's case that it's time to act to rein in this power gives practical suggestions about how to change our relationships with technology.' - Fiona R. Martin, associate professor in online and convergent media at University of Sydney