Taylor LorenzOct 3, 2023
The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power on the Internet
Simon & Schuster 2023
Acclaimed Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz presents a groundbreaking social history of the internet—revealing how online influence and the creators who amass it have reshaped our world, online and off. For over a decade, Taylor Lorenz has been the authority on internet culture, documenting its far-reaching effects on all corners of our lives. Her reporting is serious yet entertaining and illuminates deep truths about ourselves and the lives we create online.
In her debut book, Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power on the Internet (Simon & Schuster, 2023), she reveals how online influence came to upend the world, demolishing traditional barriers and creating whole new sectors of the economy. Lorenz shows this phenomenon to be one of the most disruptive changes in modern capitalism. By tracing how the internet has changed what we want and how we go about getting it, Lorenz unearths how social platforms’ power users radically altered our expectations of content, connection, purchasing, and power. Lorenz documents how moms who started blogging were among the first to monetize their personal brands online, how bored teens who began posting selfie videos reinvented fame as we know it, and how young creators on TikTok are leveraging opportunities to opt out of the traditional career pipeline. It’s the real social history of the internet. Emerging seemingly out of nowhere, these shifts in how we use the internet seem easy to dismiss as fads. However, these social and economic transformations have resulted in a digital dynamic so unappreciated and insurgent that it ultimately created new approaches to work, entertainment, fame, and ambition in the 21st century.
Taylor Lorenz is a columnist at The Washington Post covering technology and online culture. Previously she was a technology reporter for the New York Times' business section and a technology reporter at the Atlantic and the Daily Beast. She was a 2019 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, where her research focused on Instagram and news consumption. She is a former affiliate at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and serves on the board of the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society (ATLAS) Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder. And for the purposes of this conversation, I’ll note she has 344.7 thousand followers on Twitter or X or whatever that guy calls his website these days and some 500,000 followers on TikTok.
Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.