Once celebrated for connecting people and circulating ideas, social media are facing mounting criticisms about their anticompetitive reach, addictive design, and toxicity to democracy. Known cumulatively as the “techlash,” journalists, users, and politicians are asking social media platforms to account for being too big, too engaging, and too unruly. In the age of the techlash, strategies to regulate how platforms operate technically, economically, and legally, are often stacked against individual tactics to manage the effects of social media by disconnecting from them. These disconnection practices—from restricting screen time and detoxing from device use to deleting apps and accounts—often reinforce rather than confront the ways social media organize attention, everyday life, and society.
Reckoning with Social Media challenges the prevailing critique of social media that pits small gestures against big changes, that either celebrates personal transformation or champions structural reformation. This edited volume reframes evaluative claims about disconnection practices as either restorative or reformative of current social media systems by beginning where other studies conclude: the ambivalence, commodification, and complicity of separating from social media.