Predators on the Yahoo Home Screen

Hi Folks! This is a great piece in the Atlantic, about how the filters on our computers create a sort of feedback loop that can really distort our perceptions. In this case, the author, Sarah Kendzior, clicked on a single story of a child murder, and from then on she found that her home screen — in this case, Yahoo’s — kept bringing her more of the same. More child murder and really disturbing stuff. The algorithm assumed she just loved this kind of story.

The piece goes on to explain that we FORGET that content is being personalized for us. When we see it, it just looks like an assortment of interesting stories that happen to be “trending.” This gives us a skewed view that we don’t even realize is skewed. And when it skews to the scarier stories, we get….scared!

So it’s a great piece, and with a shout out to Free-Range Kids, what’s not to like?

I commented as much and when I did, I felt compelled to give a shout out of my own to another site,  Mean World Syndrome.  As that site explains:

Mean World Syndrome is a phenomenon where the violence-related content of mass media convinces viewers that the world is more dangerous than it actually is, and prompts a desire for more protection than is warranted by any actual threat.

How I love the guy who came up with that syndrome, the late sociologist George Gerber. When Yahoo and other filters bring us a world of meanness, we really have to come up with some way of reminding ourselves (and everyone else) that what’s happening in real life is different from what we see on the screen, even on our homey home screen. — L.

Gee, there sure are a lot of predators out there!

“Every Parent’s Nightmare!” Really?

Hi Readers! Just got  this article from a self-described “heathen daddy from Attleboro, Mass.” who summarized the story thusly:

A kindergarten girl gets on wrong bus on her second day of after-school care. Instead of going to the program she gets on the bus for home, gets home, realizes she made a mistake because no one is home, knocks on the neighbor’s door in tears, neighbor takes her in, gives her a snack, calls her mom, grammy comes for the afternoon.

When I grew up that was called “S*** happens, that’s why we live in a neighborhood where we watch each others backs.”  Now it’s called “Parent’s Worst Nightmare” and cause for a one-on-one meeting with the superintendent of schools and a front page article in the paper.

Lenore here again: Yup. Perfect summation of the article and our era.  I agree that it would be miserable if my kid went through this, but a nightmare? A news story? No.  The  article even felt compelled to add that the girl, though upset, was “unharmed.” As if every time anything goes awry in a child’s life and her official caregivers aren’t right by her side we are supposed to assume the very worst, and it’s just remarkable that SOMEHOW, through amazing luck, this one escaped grave danger.  — L

Alone and ALIVE? How can that be?