Back in the MLA

As the humanities decline in the United States, the country is losing the craft of understanding, losing its capacity for citizenship. Even educated people are increasingly unable and unwilling to distinguish between fake and real information, becoming a community that cannot understand itself as anything more than a circulation of figures. Self-righteousness takes the place of substantive discussion. Narcissism and outrage become the dominant techniques of self-definition. And the cure…

Why Grown-Ups Keep Talking Like Little Kids

Felt writey. Because reasons. The other day I walked through a room full of toddlers who were energetically growling at each other. They were obviously playing together, but there was a passion and an aggressiveness in their voices that made me feel that somehow, they weren’t just growling at each other, they were joining forces to confront the unfairness of a stressful universe. When I noticed my 17yo daughter had…

Elmo? Yes, I do mind. I learned far more from Bert.

Like plenty of people my age, I grew up watching Sesame Street. As a parent of kids born in 1998 and 2002, the dominance of Elmo was notable. We purchased a handful of videos and games, and regularly cycled through the videos and games at our library. I remember being disappointed that the other characters were getting sidelined to make room for more and more Elmo, whose stories skewed young. When…

“Look for the helpers” is good for distracting preschoolers from horrors they can’t change; we adults must do better.

“Look for the helpers” is only one part of how Fred Rogers recommended that parents help children deal with tragedy. Let your child know if you’re making a donation, going to a town meeting, writing a letter or e-mail of support, or taking some other action. It can help children to know that adults take many different active roles and that we don’t give in to helplessness in times of…

Jean M. Twenge: "Nearly all phone activities are linked to less happiness, and nearly all non-phone activities are linked to more happiness."

What Do Happy Teens Do? Hint: It doesn’t involve their phones.

I was surprised to see how closely happiness maps to non-phone activities, and unhappiness maps to phone-related activities. The author notes that this is a study of correlation, not causation. When I went through moody phases as a teen, I wrote, or worked, or did theater, or church youth group activities.  When I was busy, I had less time to write. When I didn’t feel like going out, and chose…

Alice E. Marwick (headsnot)

Why Do People Share Fake News? A Sociotechnical Model of Media Effects

Verrit, like Snopes, Politifact, and a host of other fact-checking sites, reflect fundamental misunderstandings about how information circulates online, what function political information plays in social contexts, and how and why people change their political opinions. Fact-checking is in many ways a response to the rapidly changing norms and practices of journalism, news gathering, and public debate. In other words, fact-checking best resembles a movement for reform within journalism, particularly in a moment…