Posted on April 11, 2011, by Gary Kingsnorth

With social media playing an increasingly dominant role in our lives, it was about time somebody undertook a serious academic study of the way the Facebook phenomenon is changing and shaping behaviour. Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at University College London and his latest work, Tales From Facebook, offers a fascinating insight into the site that 500 million of us spend hours on every day.

The ‘tales’ of the title refer to individual stories of lives changed by Facebook – from people finding relationships or emerging from the isolation of illness or shyness, to marriages breaking up and privacy being destroyed by scandal. Miller analyses the way our online personas are becoming more ‘real’ to people, and how the social media site is becoming increasingly vital to business and advertising.

For an anthropologist, the habits and manners of the social network are just as fascinating as any forgotten Amazonian tribe, and as we live out more of our lives in a virtual world, a rigorous understanding of where this might lead is increasingly important. Whatever your feelings about the ever-present Facebook, Twitter etc, they are here to stay, so this book is an intruiging guide to as-yet uncharted territory.

Tales From Facebook, Daniel Mille (Polity Books, 2011)

“Tales from Facebook is a genre-busting tour de force.” Tom Boellstorff, Professor of Anthropology, University of California

“For anyone keen to understand what human culture is becoming as the internet becomes its nearly universal vehicle, Tales from Facebook is obligatory reading.” Julian Dibbell, contributing editor, Wired.