Ray Kurzweil once wrote, “Our technology, our machines, is part of our humanity. We created them to extend ourselves, and that is what is unique about human beings.” It could be argued that some aspects of humanity are better left unextended. One tweet can derail someone’s career; a single blog post can discredit scientific authority; a two-minute video can embellish the dubious accomplishments of a marginal celebrity. In the most extreme cases, the Web exposes the worst side of human behavior: alienation, distrust, aggression, outrage, and even violence.
From sexting to selfies, from Buzzfeed memes to clickbait listicles, from borecore trolls to body-shaming misogynists, this book seeks to make sense of the way we behave online. The author examines precedents in art, technology and psychology to better understand this emerging subculture, drawing upon case studies that predate the digital channel and inform our sense of accountability.
In an interconnected digital landscape where anonymity is power and culture is ephemeral, the future of human interaction may well hinge upon our ability to navigate the dark side of online consumption. As one Reddit user put it, “If we don’t study the mistakes of the future, we’re doomed to repeat them for the first time.”