Scrolling Beyond Chaos: A Social Media Strategist's Guide to Books in the Wake of January 6th

Anna R.
January 10, 2024

It’s officially 2024, which means it’s time for caucuses, primaries, and the main event—the 2024 presidential election. Like previous elections, social media will greatly impact the results. In a time where misinformation (information that is incorrect or inaccurate), disinformation (information that is intentionally inaccurate or deceptive), deep fakes, the ousting of a prominent disinformation scholar from a major university, and the increasing spread of alt-right extremist propaganda, this election is possibly more turbulent than 2016 and 2020.


My life, like many others, drastically changed on January 6th. I was managing social media at an ad agency that represented a company whose client flew on a private plane to storm the capital on. I was the primary social media manager and strategist for that account. Within hours of the insurrection, this employee was identified, and the company’s social media was flooded with calls to fire her. Eventually, there was a questioning of that company's ethics, and worse, the company became a beacon for white supremacists. My teammates, many of whom came from marginalized identities, and I were instantly put into crisis communications mode. I had no time to process what was happening before my own eyes, no time to understand how something like this was happening and what this meant for the future of democracy. I knew about QAnon, but I didn’t know enough.

When things settled after a couple of months, and I had the emotional bandwidth to process what happened, I started to learn more about QAnon, the rise of the alt-right movement, and the many factions within the movement, like the Proud Boys and tradwives. There was so much to learn; it was overwhelming, as I imagine it is for most people. But one thing became clear: social media has deeply disrupted our election process and will continue to do so. I love social media, but like everything in life, it has duality. It’s a place for connection and community, but it’s also a place that breeds violent extremism. Ahead of primaries, here are some readings that have helped me (a person who made her way into a social media career) better understand social media company's impact on the January 6th insurrection and political extremism. For what it’s worth some general “standards” I live by in my own use and consumption of social media include ignoring rumors and trolls, valuing fact-checking settings in the platform, not believing everything I see online, thinking critically, and consuming news and readings in conjunction with social media.


Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America

In my opinion (which is why you read this blog, right?), this book is quintessential to understanding the rise of white supremacy and extremism as it pertains to social media. The first time I read it, so much of the puzzle made sense. It covers everything from Alex Jones, forum culture, Stop the Steal, and everything in between. I also really appreciate this book because of its approachability and digestibility.

We Are Proud Boys

A great read for understanding the particular subgroup of white nationalism and extremism that is Proud Boys. Did you know that the group was founded in part by Vice cofounder Gavin McInnes? This book really helped me understand how Republicans justify the events of January 6th as a necessary political action. It also definitely caused me to get some raised eyebrows when reading it in public.

The Chaos Machine

This is one of the best books for understanding just how social media products are created and how, from their inception, they have tools for extremist ideologies. There is also quite a bit of breakdown on what social media companies have to gain from keeping extremism on the platform, and unsurprisingly, it’s a whole lot.

The January 6th Report

Want the full breakdown of the bipartisan Congressional investigation? Look no further than this book. It clearly outlines Trump’s intentional coup and attempt to overthrow the US government, all while encouraging white supremacists and extremists.

Social Media and Elections

This special issue by Science, a peer-reviewed journal, highlights how social media affects political ideology while looking at how specific features (like reshares) impact political opinions or beliefs. This issue was completed with independent academics and Meta’s researchers.

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

Learn how Facebook became Facebook. I found that reading this book helped me understand more of “tech language,” which has helped me be more present in conversations.

Content Authenticity Initiative Blog

The Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) is a group working together to fight misinformation. This is a great place to look to get a better understanding of Deepfakes and what industry leaders are working on."

Additional References 

Engaging Social Media for Advocacy

Posting Into The Void: Studying the Impact of  Shadowbanning on Sex Workers and Activists

Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code

Social Media Platforms Must Do Better When Handling Misinformation, Especially During Moments of Conflict

Two Capitol Riots. Two Very Different Results

I just want to read something short and summarizing: 

1 in 4 Americans say the FBI spurred January 6: poll

11 Details You May Have Missed in the January 6 Report

A Primer on the Meta 2020 US Election Research Studies

Russian troll accounts purged by Twitter pushed Qanon and other conspiracy theories

What Meta’s New Studies Do—and Don’t—Reveal About Social Media and Polarization

Thanks for making it this far; I’ll likely continue to update this as the year progresses. In the meantime, subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date!