The Visibility Trap: Sexism, Surveillance and Social Media

Mary McGill / Non-Fiction

Book cover

Social media is a new type of public space that has revolutionised the way women express themselves, placing the power of representation in female hands like no technology before. But this increased visibility works both ways, with the gazed upon also gazing back through platforms designed for judgement and surveillance. A man-made tool, social media is now deeply entwined with women’s lives in an always-on culture where new and intrusive forms of comparison, shaming and watchfulness are completely normalised and women’s bodies, minds and emotions are picked apart. While many are acutely aware of this ‘visibility trap’, taking ownership of it remains a minefield.

In The Visibility Trap, Mary McGill blends feminism, media studies and lived experiences to explore the contradictions and dangers of online visibility for women, asking how we can build better, safer digital spaces for everyone. From current research to real-life testimonies, via the Kardashian Industrial Complex (KIC) to image-based sexual abuse — ‘revenge porn’ — and its belated criminalisation, she offers urgent and welcome insights into using social media more consciously, powerfully and positively.

This is a must-read for anyone who loves or hates social media; for the guardians of future social media users and for anyone else who is still half-on, half-off this most twenty-first century of obsessions.


A fascinating exploration of social media and the ways in which it is shaping our lives, THE VISIBILITY TRAP is timely, yes, but it is also a deeply necessary book. McGill combines academia, research, and anecdotal evidence in a manner that feels both accessible and nuanced, offering the reader a masterclass in navigating this brave new world.

- Louise O’Neill: bestselling author, journalist & feminist campaigner (Only Ever Yours, Asking for It, Almost Love, The Surface Breaks)

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