Facebook is designed to make you anxious, depressed and dissatisfied, three states of mind that make you more vulnerable to advertising and other forms of behavioral manipulation. Small wonder, then, that people who quit using Facebook report higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of depression and anxiety [pdf]. Bloomberg's article about the study is a few months old but one that should be revisited regularly between now and November.
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People who deactivated Facebook as part of the experiment were happier afterward, reporting higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of depression and anxiety. The change was modest but significant — equal to about 25 to 40 percent of the beneficial effect typically reported for psychotherapy.
Why are people willing to pay so much money for something that reduces their happiness? One possibility is that social media acts like an addictive drug — in fact, the people Allcott et al. paid to deactivate Facebook ended up using it less after the experiment was over. But another possibility is that people use services like Facebook because they’re compelled by motivations other than the pursuit of happiness.
Who needs the darkweb when you can just go on social media, enter your drug of choice in the search bar, and buy whatever turns your crank? In this video, Vice's Tir Dhondy finds out just how easy it is to buy drugs on these platforms. Read the rest
Today, Twitter released a statement that says the platform has suspended “a large network of fake accounts,” as well as many others “located in a wide range of countries,” for abusing an API feature that allowed them to match phone numbers to usernames. Read the rest
Trump seemed awfully uptight today, didn't he. Can it be the impeachment trial?
By 4:25 PM today in Washington, DonaldTrump broke his own previous record of 123 tweets in a single day, a milestone he set just over one month ago, according to Factba.se, 'a service that compiles and analyzes data on Trump’s presidency.' Read the rest
Former Vice President and current 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden says U.S. Section 230 should be immediately revoked for Facebook and other social media platforms, and that Mark Zuckerberg should be submitted to civil liability. Read the rest
Paul Zimmer was hot on Instagram until his young fans accused him of ripping them off: he sold shout-outs but failed to deliver, according to reports, then vanished from social media when a #banpaulzimmer hashtag aerosolized the allegations. Now his account is back in action, writes New Statesman's Sarah Manavis, trying to pass the torch to "Troy", first introduced as a lookalike, then as Paul's own younger brother.
The third post, on 18 December, was a bombshell: “Hey it’s Paul Zimmer,” he wrote, “this is prolly gonna be my last social post ever… I have come to a place in my life where being in the spotlight and being an entertainer is no longer my passion... although it deeply saddens me to leave so bluntly, especially that so many of you have watched me for so many years.... I didn’t wanna leave my social media pages just sitting to die... soo I have decided to give my social media accounts to @troybeckerig because he is one of the dopest people I know and he is literally my younger twin my much younger twin I believe Troy is 15 or 16 years old hahaha…”
The weirdest thing about social media is how it rewards those least aware of how clearly they are seen through.
Any doubts may be dispelled by Manavis's sleuthing:
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Zimmer continues to maintain that he and Becker aren’t the same person. However, Becker’s IMDb page indicates the actor may have had doubts of his own. While in its current state it includes very little information, a cached version from 7 October 2019 shows that Troy Becker's "nickname" was "Paul Zimmer".
Not to be confused with that painfully mediocre Dave Eggers novel, Netflix's new reality show The Circle is basically the IRL version that Black Mirror episode where Bryce Dallas Howard obsessively ranks everything on social media to the point of extreme isolation. Read the rest
Buckingham Palace is seeking a Head of Digital Engagement to manage the social media accounts of Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family. It's a full-time job and the annual pay is £45,000 - £50,000, depending on experience of course. Perks include free lunch at the Palace! From The Royal Household job listing:
It's about never standing still and finding new ways to maintain The Queen's presence in the public eye and on the world stage. This is what makes working for the Royal Household exceptional.
The role of Royal Communications is to engage a worldwide audience with the public role and work of The Royal Family. Joining this fast paced and dynamic team, your challenge will be to lead on and develop our digital communications strategy, and ensure that we make effective use of a range of digital platforms to support these aims...
Whether you're covering a State Visit, award ceremony or Royal engagement, you'll make sure our digital channels consistently spark interest and reach a range of audiences.
Last month, some assholes posted strobing images to Twitter with mentions of the Epilepsy Foundation's username and epilepsy-related hashtags, potentially triggering seizures in followers of the account who have photosensitive epilepsy. What a wonderful way to celebrate National Epilepsy Awareness Month. From CNN:
The Foundation identified at least 30 different accounts participating in the calculated action, Allison Nichol, the Epilepsy Foundation's director of legal advocacy told CNN. The Foundation was not able to say how many people were affected by the attacks.
The Foundation said it has filed criminal complaints with law enforcement and will cooperate with them to ensure the attackers "are held fully accountable."
People with photosensitive epilepsy are sensitive to flashing lights or particular visual patterns that may trigger seizures, the Epilepsy Foundation says.
"While the population of those with photosensitive epilepsy is small, the impact can be quite serious. Many are not even aware they have photosensitivity until they have a seizure," Jacqueline French, chief medical and innovation officer of the Epilepsy Foundation said in a statement.
Here is a tweet from Donald Trump, the man serving America as the 45th president. Read the rest
Some people are so upset about the awful Peloton commercial that they seem to think the actors were not in a role but were a real family. This reminds me of my Russian grandmother who told me that certain actors in soap operas were bad people because they played villainous roles on TV.
The man who played the husband in the Peloton commercial is an actor and elementary school teacher in Vancouver, Canada. He wrote about what people who saw the commercial were saying about him and how he felt about it for Psychology Today:
Unfortunately, the problem is that viewers can mistake an actor as that person after they’ve seen them on television instead of a person given a script with no opinion on what they are being told to portray. As I continue to reflect on the commercial, I consider these thoughts: Why are people creating so many additional narratives to the story? Am I allowed to view the commercial positively after receiving such negative feedback? If recognized on the street, what will people’s first opinions be of me? The aftermath of the commercial has left me with more questions than answers, and this is only half the story. I reflect on what my co-actor must be dealing with, as she’s the other 25 seconds of the story.
Actor Anna Gunn, who played Skyler White in Breaking Bad, wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times about people who hated the character so much that they wanted to kill Gunn:
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At some point on the message boards, the character of Skyler seemed to drop out of the conversation, and people transferred their negative feelings directly to me.
Dormant Twitter accounts not confirmed before an 11 December deadline will be closed, reports the BBC. Twitter's updating its user agreement, and if you can't agree to it, you're gone.
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A spokeswoman also said it would improve credibility by removing dormant accounts from people's follower counts, something which may give a user an undue sense of importance. The first batch of deleted accounts will involve those registered outside of the US.
The firm bases inactivity on whether or not a person has logged in at least once in the past six months. Twitter said the effort is not, as had been suggested by some users on the network, an attempt to free up usernames.
Marin for the win!
Lost and Found: We found this methamphetamine in a parking lot that appears to have been lost by the owner. If you lost your drugs and are looking for them, please get in contact with us! #LostAndFound #dontdodrugs #DARE pic.twitter.com/wiVRNyu6Gl
— Marin County Sheriff (@MarinSheriff) November 15, 2019
Eli Pariser is the author of The Filter Bubble, a book which lent its name to a recent Congressional bill about social media transparency. He’s also one of the co-founders of Upworthy (and, full disclosure, my former boss).
In other words, Pariser has spent most of his professional life obsessing over how to harness the power of the internet for good, particularly when it comes to positive community building. In a new TED Talk (below), he takes an almost anthropological approach to solving the many, many issues faced by major social media companies right now. It’s a useful and insightful perspective, particularly for a time when Facebook is cowering under the pressure of conservative conspiracy theorists, while Twitter took the approach and ended up empowering oil companies by throttling climate activists.
I think there’s something to be said about building online communities in the same way we build urban ones. As much as people might long for the peace and quiet of a nice home in the suburbs, it also changes your relationship to the people around you. Look at cars, for example—they’re a necessity in most places, and undeniably convenient, but they also isolate us in our commuter bubbles. By contrast, public transportation forces you to interact with other kinds of people who you might otherwise not cross paths with. That can help create empathic bonds (even if that bond is built upon complaints about public transportation). This is not to say that one is necessarily better than the other; in his speech, Pariser also cites the community meetings he attended growing up in a small town in Maine as one model for building mutual respect, even when people are being obnoxious. Read the rest