How to Deal With 2016 Despair

Don’t let a TV screen make you live a life of fear. Be thoughtful participants, not passive consumers, in your culture. Create something. Improve something. Maybe yourself. Maybe the Wikipedia page for your hometown. Share your creation. Encourage and appreciate and critique and applaud what those in your community have created. Increase the sum total of good things in the universe by participating in the life around you. Heavy TV…

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Almost all the traffic to fake news sites is from Facebook, new data show

I think and post about fake news a lot. Just the other day, I came across a Tweet that seemed to show evidence that a very public figure had flip-flopped on a divisive cultural issue. First I had an emotional reaction, then I checked who shared the post I was reacting to. I didn’t recognize the name, but then I noticed it had been shared to the Snopes Facebook page…

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How To Escape The Procrastination Doom Loop

Instead of being lazy or disorganized, people usually put things off because they aren’t in the right mood to complete the task. Doing so places you firmly inside the procrastination doom loop. Since you’ve decided that you aren’t in the right mood to work, you distract yourself with other tasks—checking email, checking the news, cleaning your desk, talking to a coworker, etc.—and by the time you come up for air,…

Blue Feed, Red Feed

Facebook is designed to keep your attention, not inform you with an unbiased view of the truth. If you follow people who think like you, that will affect your social media feed. If you block people who infuriate you, that will also affect your social media feed.  I hope FB develops a way that lets responsible users flag trolls, stalkers, doxxers, etc., in order to limit the damage their posts do.…

This is How Literary Fiction Teaches Us to Be Human

Practicing empathy through drama and poetry and art and games and face-to-face conversations and human acts of all kinds matters. This article covers the specific social benefits that come from reading literary fiction. Film critic Roger Ebert called movies the most powerful empathy machines, but someone with the right knowledge base can say pretty much the same thing about other genres. What we can say about the virtues of movies…

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Commentary: The unbearable smugness of the press

More on how their desire to control the narrative led journalists to ignore alternative voices: That’s the fantasy, the idea that if we mock them enough, call them racist enough, they’ll eventually shut up and get in line. It’s similar to how media Twitter works, a system where people who dissent from the proper framing of a story are attacked by mobs of smugly incredulous pundits. Journalists exist primarily in…

This Is How My Composition & Culture Class Preps an Oral Presentation

Instead of delivering a formal speech for my approval, my students are off in groups, listening to each other. I should note that I don’t let all my students go off like all semester long. They’ve worked hard to get to the point where they know what they need to do, and they are ready to be critical and supportive peer audiences. A healthy democracy is full of people who…