(note: this is a continuation of a rant from a couple weeks ago)
I know it's absurd for me to be talking about "social media" as though it's some homogenous monolith. I'm sure aficionados could tell me the subtle differences between platforms the way a sommelier could tell me the difference between a Malbec and a Cabernet. But at the end of the day, those are just two varieties of red wines, and like them, Instagram and Twitter are more similar than they are different. And one of their similarities is they tend to bring out the worst in us.
Before my departure from social media, I saw people on Facebook joining or "liking" pages devoted to searing hatred of immigrants. These same people in some cases had testified at deportation hearings for undocumented family friends. What was it about the choice architecture of that "like" button that made the sort-of-evil decision the easy one?
This isn't that different from the other happiness-draining things our consumerist society throws at us with the promise that we'll be happier if we use them. Tobacco, junk food, and social media all want the same thing from you: they want to take away your control over your life, health, and happiness. But while we've made strides to combat tobacco and junk food, like smoke-free laws and taxes on bug juice, we seem stuck in a self-sustaining vortex that tells us that more connection, more technology, will solve our problems instead of creating new ones. If a drug hit the market and prompted some of the behaviors that we see with social media, would we applaud it?
And the children. The children. We're training our kids to avoid boredom at all costs. How many kids have you seen dialed into a phone at a restaurant? How many staring into a screen at a playground? How many being beseeched to turn down their phones while at a restaurant or basketball game?
These are not behaviors that any of us are proud of. Were you to point them out to the very people exhibiting them, they would be ashamed, right after they got done telling you off and posting on Facebook about what a jerk they just ran into at the restaurant. But pride aside, there is probably real harm being done here. I'm frankly suspicious of any claim that the fake news on social media swayed the last US Presidential election, but it certainly didn't lead to a more erudite, informed electorate, either. But a kid who sits at a restaurant with earbuds in, staring at a screen, is being trained that boredom is unacceptable. What will happen to this person the first time he's confronted with a situation that requires delayed gratification or an attention span?
So even though I'm a bit of an anti-incrementalist, I'm hoping to see just a series of small ticks in mobile/social media use. Comedian Chris Rock is having fans lock up their phones at his shows. Jack White has been doing it for a while now. I don't think these guys are doing it out of general fuddy-duddyness; they're trying to bring out the best in their audiences and to make sure everyone has a shared experience. Schools, historically afraid of parent backlash to less-than-100-percent-available kids, are even in on the act, establishing "phone free zones" with the same technology Chris Rock is using.
What are Americans dying of? Spoiler alert: obesity. Second spoiler alert: complications of diabetes.
Artificial sweeteners may be associated with stroke and dementia risk. I've mostly given up artificial sweeteners, but not because of this paper. I'm making a bit of a Pascal's wager on artificial sweeteners: they're surely not good for us, even though they may not be as bad as sugar itself. So I take steps to avoid them, just like I take steps to avoid sugar itself. The fact that this paper didn't show any risk associated with sugar-sweetened beverages makes me a little suspicious of its results. Maybe the editorialists' note that people sometimes switch to diet soft drinks after they are flagged as "high risk" by their doctors is right. They're on their way to a stroke one way or the other, and they just happen to have switched to a diet drink beforehand.
Garden City, Kansas voted to raise the legal age for the purchase of tobacco or e-cigarettes to 21 years. The decision "grew from a request made by a group of Garden City High School students earlier this year." Garden City is the fifteenth (!) city in Kansas to make such a decision.
Exercise may help cognition (that's the thinking part) in the elderly. Seemingly if you work moderately hard for at least 45 minutes. What is moderate? According the ACSM guideline they used, it is hard enough to use "40%-60% heart rate reserve." That means halfway between your normal resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate, which is usually calculated by subtracting your age from 220. So if your normal heart rate is 70 and you're 50 years old, you have a maximum heart rate of ~170, so using 50% of your heart rate reserve would mean getting your heart rate to ~120. Confused? Well, "moderate" intensity is also about a 5 or 6 out of 10 in perceived exertion. There.
The FDA is warning (again) about bogus internet cancer treatments. A couple observations here: 1) I can't believe it's only 65 products. That must barely scratch the surface. 2) I don't know if the fact that so many of the products are co-marketed for cats and dogs is a good sign or a bad sign. 3) Even a casual observer must be astonished that we know so much about how to prevent cancer, and it's not complicated, and it's generally cheap or even money-positive (don't smoke, get a little exercise, eat fruits and vegetables, wear sunscreen)
But yet we as a society are so much more interested in giving our money to snake-oil salesmen for untested bunk.
Men today have weaker grips than their fathers. From my own study of this topic (n=1), I've known this since I was a wee little boy.
You'll soon be able to use your smartphone to 1) access the masturbation superhighway*, and 2) do a semen analysis on the results. *the internet, of course. But not this little corner of it.
From Bike Snob NYC:
This video "...articulates the relationship Americans have with cars better than perhaps anything else I've ever seen... Really, this video has everything, included but not limited to:
--"American" car ostensibly with all-terrain capability [ed: note that you could get almost anywhere with a car worth less than $10,000 that burned 1/3 the gas and didn't fetishize obsolete 1940s-era technology. Or at least you could get stuck in the snow for a lot less money];
--Driver completely unable to utilize this all-terrain capability [ed: see above] due to his complete ignorance with regard to the nature of traction and gravity;
--Road rage [ed: completely avoidable had he just taken off walking down the street. In the seven minutes of his tantrum, he easily could have covered a half-mile or more, which gets close to the most common length of a car trip in the US];
--Grown man throwing an obscenity-laden temper tantrum in front of a private residence in clear view and earshot of children [ed: errrrr...glass houses for me].
Yes, it's quite satisfying to see someone's faith in their lavish purchase get completely shattered, though it's horrifying to consider this represents the state of mind of many of the drivers with whom you "share" the road."
Giving school kids fruits and vegetables and restricting their access to bug juice may make them live longer, healthier lives. Go figure. But previous reservations about unpublished conference presentations apply.
Letting a kid stare blankly at a piece of glass with moving colors and pictures on it for three hours a day is associated with increased fat mass and increased insulin resistance. Good to know. But the fact that 2-3 hours of screen time was in most markers better than 1-2 hours makes me suspicious of any neat, tidy linear relationship between screen time and bad metabolic markers.
A man lived alone for 27 years in the Maine backwoods. "...he did not follow any formal religion; he was not protesting modern society; he produced no artwork or philosophical treatise. He never took a photograph or wrote a sentence; not a single person knew where he was. His back was fully turned to the world. There was no clear reason for what he chose to do." This is not a recommended life strategy. Side note: this story was written by Michael Finkel, known to me as the Jonah Hill character in True Story.
- Extreme heat is adversely affecting people with chronic conditions, outdoor workers, student athletes, and people lacking air conditioning
- Air pollution from increased smog, wildfires, and pollen is detrimental to people with asthma and chronic lung conditions
- Increased geographic range of disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes threatens anyone who spends time outdoors
- Contaminated food and water puts children, seniors, the poor, and people with weakened immune systems at risk
Fewer and fewer Americans report trying to lose weight. We may be settling into our role as the one of the fattest countries on earth (we're coming for you, Tonga...). I can't help but think this is because of the many, many, many shitty options that people have had pushed on them that didn't work. Now they've given up. *sigh*
"Let us pause here to acknowledge the sugar-frosted codependent embrace of Big Food and the American consumer. You could rightly fault consumers for their insistence on an oxymoronic product. But who has been indulging their fantasies for decades now, promising sweet, satisfying taste and no calories? Big Food, of course. Now customers are upping the stakes—and it’s not at all clear that companies can pass the test."
In what seems like a just reversal of a law that had the unintended consequence of highlighting the law of unintended consequences, after 60 years, street hockey will once again be legal in Hamilton, Ontario, under the following conditions:
- The roadway has a speed limit of 40 km/h or less and is a local road.
- Play happens in a place that is "safe and suitable."
- People play no earlier than 9 a.m. and no later than 8 p.m.
- No one plays during periods of limited visibility from fog, snow or rain.
- Play is stopped for any vehicles. ("Car!")
Having robot minions control the lights for them may be turning kids into a bunch of lazy, entitled monsters.
No one can get you to take your medicines but you. Three reminder devices to take your medications were no better than no notification or device in a randomized controlled trial.
"We found that night owls had postponed timing of food intake, and less favorable eating patterns with higher intakes of sucrose, fat and saturated fat in the evening hours than early birds," said Maukonen, a doctoral candidate in the department of public health solutions.
Wichita roads are friendlier to cyclists. I've experienced this myself, and I've meant to write a letter to the Eagle thanking the city and its drivers for not killing me, but now it's taken care of. *washes hands*
Obese people who "self stigmatize" may be at higher metabolic risk. This is an interesting hypothesis. Intuitively, I believe it; there's so much undeserved self-hatred out there among people who weigh more than they want to. But the sample size of this paper makes me suspicious. It has the smell of p-value hunting.