A guide to understanding the underlying machinery and technology that controls our society, our ability to communicate with one another, to discern friends from foes, and to maintain a functional democracy.
THE ANATOMY OF ANXIETY:
Why Rational People Become Righteous, Scared and Angry on Social Media—and What This Means for Democracy
by Tobias Rose-Stockwell
Hachette US, 2022
There is a noticeable shift that has occurred in the last two decades. The prevalence of hate speech online. The turn toward authoritarianism and populism across the western world. The rise of extremist groups on both the left and the right. Every day, it seems, we’re hearing more angry voices and fearful opinions, we’re seeing more threats and frightening news, and we’re reacting faster and less rationally.
The cause is hidden in plain sight: for the first time, almost all of the information we consume as a species is being controlled and curated by algorithms designed to capture our emotional attention. It is the wide-cast net of social media that is propelled by tech, has been exploited by all of us, and which has been allowed to steadily replace our newspapers, emergency communication systems, town halls, churches, and more.
THE ANATOMY OF ANXIETY is a book about how to navigate a world that has been thoroughly disrupted by technology. It is a primer for explaining the underlying machinery that has come to controls us and a compass to help guide people toward reflection rather than reaction. The culmination of 15 years of research and inquiry, this book will give readers a language with which to comprehend what is happening to society, and offer new mental models for how to manage our time, our technology, and our attention, as well as big-picture recommendations for the way forward, how to redesign these platforms, and methods for fixing this broken system before it “fixes” us. Informed by the author’s experiences working in Silicon Valley, advising top news organizations, and spearheading humanitarian efforts in countries where democracy has failed, this book is The Righteous Mind meets Factfulness for the smart phone era.
Tobias Rose-Stockwell is a designer, writer and technologist based in NYC, where he consults on ethics, strategy, and design for a wide range of companies. He studies technology’s influence on moral emotions, media, and civil consensus, and is currently writing a book about these issues, and what they mean for the future of liberal democracies. His work has been featured on the BBC, Quartz, Good Magazine, NPR and in The Atlantic.