My colleague Alex Goldman told me he thinks of this as “a mesmerizing stock ticker of the world’s perversions.”
Today’s tween is no longer a child but not yet an adolescent; too old for Barbie dolls and Disney Junior, too young for Facebook and to understand the search results that pop up when she googles “sexy.” She is old enough to text, want designer jeans and use Instagram, but too young to have her own credit card and driver’s license. Still, she is a malleable thinker, consumer and marketing target. Each day, she is exposed to eight to 12 hours of media, depending on her age, that hones her understanding of how she is supposed to act. She spends a significant portion of her day plugged in – communicating, posting photos, playing games, surfing the web, watching videos and socializing. When TV, music, social media and the Internet are used as baby-sitters – when adults don’t ask girls questions or encourage them to think critically (and sometimes even when they do) – a dangerous scenario emerges: The media start to parent.
Abigail Jones, Sex and the Single Tween, Newsweek.
An important and slightly horrifying long-read on pre-teen girls and media.
Related 01, and Horrifying: The YoutTube trend in which girls ask they internet if they are pretty or ugly.
Related 02, and Awesome: It’s Girls Being Girls, a YouTube Channel and Tumblr by Tessa, a senior at ASU, featuring and supporting cool, interesting, personal, inspiring content for girls by girls. Get in touch with her if you want to contribute!
In a dictatorship, independent journalism by default becomes a form of activism, and the spread of information is essentially an act of agitation.
It’s also possible that we actively opt not to pay much attention to the scenes we capture, because we’re counting on photos to record everything so we don’t mentally have to. If that’s the case, that would mean that you’re farming out your memory to Instagram as you move through the world.
Emily Badger, How Instagram Alters Your Memory, The Atlantic Cities.
To test this, Henkel, a researcher at Fairfield University, concocted a series of experiments leading undergraduate students on guided tours through the university’s Bellarmine Museum of Art. They looked at paintings, sculptures, pottery, jewelry and mosaics. The students were given digital cameras to photograph some of the objects and were told to simply observe the others. The next day, they were given a series of recall tests, trying to detect which objects they remembered best in name and detail.
As it turned out, people remembered fewer of the photographed objects, and fewer of the details about them, relative to the pieces of art they’d actively observed with their own eyes.
…There was one catch in Henkel’s findings: She also asked participants to zoom in on and photograph the details of some of these art pieces. And people who did that were much better at remembering the works of art that those who simply wedged entire objects into one frame and then walked away. Perhaps, by focusing consciously on the details, we can cut back on some of this “photo-taking impairment effect.”
The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind.
Charlie Kaufman in his (now very famous) BAFTA speech as part of the 2011 Screenwriters’ Lecture Series. Discovered via Bitch Magazine’s recent interview with the ever-wise, ever-creative Rookie Mag editor Tavi Gevinson, on the future of Rookie and teenagerhood.
More: An incredibly moving excerpt from the speech was turned into this 2012 short film by Eliot Rausch and Phos Pictures: What I have to Offer. And, the entire BAFTA series via iTunes podcast is here, much of which is lovely and inspiring and important for writers of all stripes and colors.
Filed under: Media can be therapeutic. And in the ever-forward, way-too-fast cycles of discovery, we have to remember to revisit the best of it often.
Yes, much of the Internet is free. But it takes time and energy to develop the skills and habits necessary to successfully derive value from today’s media. Knowing how to tell a troll from a serious thinker, spotting linkbait, understanding a meme, cross checking articles against each other, even posting a comment to disagree with something–these are skills. They might not feel like it, but they are. And they’re easier to acquire the higher your tax bracket.
Ryan Holiday, The New Digital Divide: Privilege, Misinformation and Outright B.S. in Modern Media, Betabeat.
Holiday writes of the extreme privilege often inherent in digital literacy and the fact that it’s expensive to be a core user of online media.
If I work as a security guard or at the counter of a Wendy’s, our media environment is significantly more difficult to track. Not everyone has their Internet time subsidized by an employer who asks them to sit in front of a computer all day. In fact, many people have jobs that forbid them from doing just that, with bosses who will write them up if caught checking their phone. These people–we often refer to them (derisively) as “average Americans”–are removed from the iterative, lightning-fast online media cycle for hours at a time and often for the entire day.
Before you joke about how lucky they are, think about how that would change someone’s relationship with culture. It means they end up getting their news from Facebook or from the “most emailed” stories of the day (of dubious validity). With only so much time left at the end of the day, they go to the one or two places that can give them the gist. Their reality is shaped by the things that tend to trickle about and from the Internet.
He raises the food/nutrition analogy to point out how dangerous the consequences of such a divide can be. American’s obesity epidemic, caused in large part by a culture of eating what’s cheap and convenient because of a lack of access and affordability, can and will replicate itself in unhealthy media consumption patterns. (Related: The Information Diet by Clay Johnson)
Culturally, a portion of the population will be stuffed with hormone-injected garbage (Huffington Post slideshows, Facebook linkbait and other Cheetos-like information) while the other portion lives in its own reality of tailor-made, high quality information that makes them increasingly wealthy and utterly detached. One side will be able to influence, direct and exploit the other side because one controls the media while the other is at its mercy.
The government shutdown came and went this week as some Republicans finally convinced other Republicans that threatening a global economic cataclysm isn’t the best thing to pursue.
Good on them, we suppose, but what we saw during this latest generated crisis was the filter bubble in full effect.
While the concept specifically refers to how algorithms increasingly inform what information we receive and are exposed to, it can be broadened to include the active choices we make with our media diets, who we choose to friend or follow on our social networks and how willing we are to accept intellectual dissonance when reading, watching or listening to views that run contrary to our own.
The danger of the bubble, of course, is that once inside we only hear information we want to hear. Sympathetic to the shutdown and unworried about the consequences of defaulting on the debt? Fox and friends reframed it for you. This wasn’t a shutdown, it was more of a pleasant “slimdown.”
Observations about the echo chamber the shutdown’s leaders were operating within came from both left and right. Let’s start left with Salon’s Alex Pareene:
What’s funny about all of this, though, is how much it just reinforces the insane bubble that all of these people — conservative members of Congress, conservative media people and professional conservative activists — live their entire lives in. They are all talking to each other, and only to each other. The fact that the conservative position is deeply unpopular, the fact that conservative strategy is incoherent and self-defeating, none of that is reaching them. John Boehner and Ross Douthat know what’s going on. Rep. Tim Huelskamp only knows what he reads at RedState and what he hears from people who only read RedState.
Over on the right was National Review’s Robert Costa:
[S]o many of these [conservative] members now live in the conservative world of talk radio and tea party conventions and Fox News invitations. And so the conservative strategy of the moment, no matter how unrealistic it might be, catches fire. The members begin to believe they can achieve things in divided government that most objective observers would believe is impossible. Leaders are dealing with these expectations that wouldn’t exist in a normal environment.
In a study of the increasingly obvious, Pacific Standard reported on the increasingly obvious. Namely, how polarizing media — our intellectual cocoons — give us respite from an outside, cruel world. This is why we gravitate toward our left/right media, silly and outrageous as they may be.
"The data suggests to us that outrage-based programming offers fans a satisfying political experience," write Tufts University Researchers. "These venues offer flattering, reassuring environments that make audience members feel good. Fans experience them as safe havens from the tense exchanges that they associate with cross-cutting political talk they may encounter with neighbors, colleagues, and community members."
Put another way: Our day to day is hard. When we come home we want to kick back, relax and hear people stroke, if not necessarily our ontological egos, our day to day political ones. Twenty-first century life is a hassle. When a day comes and goes we want somewhere, someplace, that simply lets us rest peacefully in our beliefs.
Take it away, Pacific Standard:
In other words, being a part of, say, the community of Rush Limbaugh listeners—an identification talk-show hosts regularly attempt to instill in their fans—is a comforting social experience. It’s a way of feeling like part of a community that shares your values…
…Discussing politics with your colleagues or neighbors comes with the fear of saying something unacceptable, and subsequently being excluded from the next barbecue or water-cooler conversation. In contrast, “the comfort zones provided by the shows we studied present no such risk,” [the researchers] write. “In fact, they offer imagined and, in some cases, tangible social connections.”
The New York Times’ David Carr started to think about this last week. Much has been written about how our gerrymandered congressional districts has lead to extremism. Carr writes that our collective media habits are gerrymandered too:
The polarized political map is now accompanied by a media ecosystem that is equally gerrymandered into districts of self-reinforcing discourse…
…As I flipped through cable channels over the last week, the government shutdown was viewed through remarkably different prisms. What was a “needless and destructive shutdown” on MSNBC became a low-impact and therapeutic “slim-down” over at Fox News.
But cable blowhardism would not be such a good business if there hadn’t been a kind of personal redistricting of news coverage by the citizenry. Data from Pew Research Center for the People and the Press on trends in news consumption released last year suggests people are assembling along separate media streams where they find mostly what they want to hear, and little else.
But more media, and more diverse media, won’t solve any of this, argues Reuters’ Jack Shafer. Instead, he writes, Americans are purposefully, willfully and perpetually, perhaps, political imbeciles. That’s the way we roll.
Despite greater access to information than ever before. Despite all the news apps at our fingertips, Shafer cites a 2012 Pew study showing that “total minutes of daily news consumption between 1994 and 2012 is down for all age groups.”
Channeling Ilya Somin and his book Democracy and Political Ignorance, Shafer goes economic and concludes that collective ignorance isn’t due to a lack of information supply. Rather, it’s demand. Politics is too confusing. Our sense of belonging to and being able to affect the system is too obtuse. We’d rather watch football.
And so here we are. A debt crisis averted by punting it down the road. The current budget deal between Democrats and Republicans lasts until mid-January. Then we’ll be back with partisans hunkered in their bubbles while the rest of us try to grab some sanity in the next shiny thing.
Too negative a take? Facebook researchers report that our networks aren’t echo chambers at all but instead expose us to more varied opinions than what I write might lead you to think. — Michael