The original internet was not designed to make us upset, distracted, confused, and outraged. But something unexpected happened at the turn of the last decade, when a handful of small features were quietly launched at social media companies with little fanfare. Together, they triggered a cascading set of dramatic changes to how media, politics, and society itself operate—inadvertently creating an Outrage Machine we cannot ignore.
Author, designer, and media researcher Tobias Rose-Stockwell shares the defining shifts caused by these technologies, and how they have ignited a society-wide crisis of trust. Drawing from cutting-edge research and vivid personal anecdotes, Rose-Stockwell illustrates how social media has bound us to an unprecedented system of public performance, training us to react rather than reflect, and attack rather than debate.
Outrage Machine reveals the triggers and tactics used to exploit our anger, unpacking how these tools hack our deep tribal instincts and psychological vulnerabilities, and how they have become opportunistic platforms for authoritarians and a threat to democratic norms everywhere.
But this book is not just about the problem. In a story spanning continents and generations, Rose-Stockwell explores how every new media technology disrupts our ability to make sense of the world, from the printing press to the telegraph, from radio to television. Outrage Machine situates social media within a historical cycle of confusion, violence, and emerging tolerance. Using clear language and powerful illustrations, this book reveals the magnitude of the challenges we face, while offering realistic solutions and a promising pathway out.