We’re More Honest With Our Phones Than With Our Doctors

Illustration by Sally Thurer

Excerpt from this article:

When my friends and I talk about our bodies, we compare feedback from physicians, all of which seems to be slightly different; we warn one another about conditions like uterine fibroids and share horror stories about different methods of contraception. There still seems to be a combination of prudishness and ignorance around the unique, and sometimes idiosyncratic, functions of the female body — which is shocking, considering half the world is born with one.

But in recent years, mobile technology has granted me and countless others the ability to collect an unprecedented amount of information about our habits and well-being. Our phones don’t just keep us in touch with the world; they’re also diaries, confessional booths, repositories for our deepest secrets. Which is why researchers are leaping at the chance to work with the oceans of data we are generating, hoping that within them might be the answers to questions medicine has overlooked or ignored.

…Most of us are willing to be much more honest with our phones than with professionals, or even with our spouses and partners. We look up weird symptoms and humiliating questions on Google with the same ease that we search for the name of a vaguely familiar character actor. For many of us, our smartphones have become extensions of our brains — we outsource essential cognitive functions, like memory, to them, which means they soak up much more information than we realize. When we hand over this information willingly, the effect is even greater.

Escape From the Internet!

Excerpt from this article:

John and Sherry Petersik built a cult following with their website, Young House Love. Then they tried to walk away.

…As the social-sharing economy expanded, so did the Petersiks’ business, which is when that happy setup started to break down. Grace Bonney, the creator of Design Sponge, points to shifts like the rise of Pinterest and Instagram, which, she says, “have all but killed blogs. We all have homes, we all talk about the pretty things we want to buy; that’s not unique anymore. The only thing that sets us apart is who we are and what our lives are.” Bonney explains, “You will not find a single blog with that kind of cult following that doesn’t have a personal connection. But what creates that kind of devoted following can also be problematic. At some point you have to ask: Do you want your life to become your business?”

By 2011, YHL was getting over 5 million monthly page views (with a million unique visitors), and the Petersiks were regularly working a second shift after Clara’s bedtime and throughout weekends and vacations. Family outings had to include something “bloggable,” like a stop at an antique store. Each holiday required fresh seasonal content. The Petersiks were also picking up all those side projects that felt like huge wins, but required a tremendous amount of additional work. They admit the blog made money “a nonissue” in its final years. “For a long time, we thought we were doing okay if we could duplicate our salaries from our old advertising jobs; then it got to the point where we could bring in much more,” says Sherry. “But I kept saying, ‘I don’t want more money, I want more time.’” She’d spend school field trips sneaking onto her phone to respond to comments from the zoo or the aquarium. “I felt like any day where I was being a great blogger, I was being a bad mom and vice versa,” Sherry says. She and John both worried that their marriage was being reduced to “essentially co-workers.” …

Meanwhile, their audience’s demands to be let in on their lives only grew. Back in 2010, it took them four days to mention the birth of their daughter on their blog, but when Teddy was born in 2014, John says, “It was like, okay, we have a few hours to get something for Instagram.” Sherry pauses when he says that, but she doesn’t disagree. “Where we ended up was kind of a reality show in itself,” she says. And like all successful reality stars, the Petersiks had built an audience that simultaneously knew everything about them and didn’t really know them at all.

You Already Knew Parents Post on Facebook More Than Others. Now Find Out How Much

Getty Images

Excerpt from this article:

Some of the more interesting findings came from its U.S.-based study. For instance, new American moms post 2.5 times more status updates, 3.5 times more photos and 4.2 times more videos than nonparents, per Facebook’s internal stats. And hey, the updates work: New parents’ posts (those from moms or dads) about their babies get 37 percent more interactions from family members and 47 percent more interactions from friends than their general posts.

“Parenting has become a digitally shared experience… Technology enables parents to share the joys, challenges and questions inherent in raising a child with their family and friends both near and far on a regular basis. Instead of mailing holiday cards or school pictures, they’re sharing their child’s milestones through photos and video online.”

 

The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb

Excerpt from this article:

In psychology, the idea that everyone is like us is called the “false-consensus bias.” This bias often manifests itself when we see TV ratings (“Who the hell are all these people that watch NCIS?”) or in politics (“Everyone I know is for stricter gun control! Who are these backwards rubes that disagree?!”) or polls (“Who are these people voting for Ben Carson?”).

 

Online it means we can be blindsided by the opinions of our friends or, more broadly, America. Over time, this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy “Other Side” that must be laughed at — an Other Side that just doesn’t “get it,” and is clearly not as intelligent as “us.” But this holier-than-thou social media behavior is counterproductive, it’s self-aggrandizement at the cost of actual nuanced discourse and if we want to consider online discourse productive, we need to move past this.

 

What is emerging is the worst kind of echo chamber, one where those inside are increasingly convinced that everyone shares their world view, that their ranks are growing when they aren’t. It’s like clockwork: an event happens and then your social media circle is shocked when a non-social media peer group public reacts to news in an unexpected way. They then mock the Other Side for being “out of touch” or “dumb.”

What happens instead of genuine intellectual curiosity is the sharing of Slate or Onion or Fox News or Red State links. Sites that exist almost solely to produce content to be shared so friends can pat each other on the back and mock the Other Side. Look at the Other Side! So dumb and unable to see this the way I do!

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

Borecore

Illustration by Erik Carter. Screenshots from Vine users Alona Forsythe, Brandon Bowen, Dems, imanilindsay, MRose and Sionemaraschino.

Excerpt from this article:

The Vine videos that rise to the top of the heap typically feature dance routines, quick-cut pranks and the occasional clever stop-motion short. But if you tap into the video-sharing app’s raw “fire hose,” a different picture emerges… reveal[ing] that buried beneath those popular Vines lies a less visible but more intriguing trend: six-second displays of normalcy. Rather than killing time at the mall, in a Spencer’s Gifts or the food court, young people are filming themselves doing the incredibly mundane: goofing around in a backyard pool, lounging on basement couches, whatever; in other words, recording the minutiae of their lives and uploading it for not very many to see.

…A cynic might dismiss all this obsessive self-documentation as evidence of generational narcissism, but you could just as easily choose to view it as a developing global pastime. Call it borecore: the never-to-be-viral output that comes from mixing powerful devices and a lifetime of social-­media training with regular, old teenage boredom. Seen this way, its predecessors are more prosaic than pathological: doodling in a composition notebook, making scrapbooks, driving around aimlessly. But that simplicity, that sameness, can feel magical when you binge on it: a series of furtive glimpses into the lives of people across the country and around the world doing a whole lot of nothing.

Teenagers Leading Happy, Connected Lives Online

Illustration by Abigail Gray Swartz

Excerpt from this article, which looks at this latest report from Pew Research:

Where is the doom and gloom?

A new report on “Teens, Technology and Friendships” from the Pew Foundation puts an unusually positive spotlight on the online lives of teenagers as they build friendships and connections in a digital world. Teenagers aged 13 to17 are finding ways to strengthen their relationships with real-world friends as well as making new friends through social media, video gaming, messaging apps and other virtual connectors.

“This does challenge some of the traditional zeitgeist we have around youth and media,” said Amanda Lenhart, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center and the lead author of the report. “Adults have tended to see time online for teenagers as this frivolous, time-wasting thing that’s just entertainment. But what we found is that it’s crucial for teenagers in forming and maintaining these really important relationships in their lives.”

Crucial, in part, because “hanging out” in the digital realm may be more accessible for many teenagers than hanging out in the real world.

Long Live Secrets on the Internet

Excerpt from this article:

The spilling of personal secrets online, a practice borne of the print tradition of asking for advice, is similarly greater than any individual secret. Before apps like Secret and Whisper, there was Group Hug and PostSecret—the inspiration for which came from early-aughts projects like Found magazine, which publishes scraps of found paper like grocery lists and notes left on windshields, and confessions in public spaces like bathroom graffiti. PostSecret began by asking people to mail their secrets on postcards that would then be scanned and published online. Subject matter runs the gamut from heartbreaking to silly to uplifting to shocking.

… “When other people hear people sharing secrets it allows them not to feel alone,” said Frank Warren, the founder of PostSecret. “It allows them to feel almost instant empathy and it gives them courage to face and share.” PostSecret still has a website, but it shut down its app three years ago after only a few months because Warren was concerned about bullying and hackers who made community members feel unsafe, he said.The appeal of telling an anonymous secret is as much the anonymity as it is the catharsis of revealing something. And anonymity has as venerable a history online as advice-seeking had in print. “I see Whisper, Secret and others as part of the same movement as Snapchat and Glimpse,” said Ethan Zuckerman, the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, in an interview last fall. “When everything is on the record and attributable, we’re all feeling a need to breathe. That might mean being able to have a one-on-one conversation that’s hard to archive, or to have a space where you can truly speak freely.

…”The web is a very powerful place where we can express parts of who we are in ways we just can’t in our everyday social lives, which I think is powerful, liberating, a little bit scary and can be very uncomfortable to people in the short term,” Warren told me. “But in the long term, I think it allows us to work out some of the parts that are hidden within us individually and as a culture. It’s a difficult process. But it’s always healthy to illuminate those parts of us that are otherwise in darkness.”