Lab Rats, One And All: That Unsettling Facebook Experiment

Lab Rats, One And All: That Unsettling Facebook Experiment

“I’ve always been the shrugging type when it comes to lots of things that Facebook does that make people crazy. They change the layout, they mess with the feed — even making you noodle with your privacy settings has always seemed to me like the craven doing of business, and something where I could say yes or I could say no, the same as any business that offered good service sometimes and lousy service other times.

But I found I did not shrug at the news late last week that Facebook had allowed researchers both inside and outside the company to manipulate users’ news feeds to hide good news or bad news to see whether it affected the emotions of those users themselves. In other words, if they hid the parts of Facebook where people share joy with you, where they tell you about happy things, where the griping and grousing is balanced with baby pictures and bright sides, could they make you feel worse? If they led you to believe that something had altered the balance of things so that even if you couldn’t put your finger on it, it seemed like things were going worse in the world, would it affect you? Could they make you artificially positive about things by hiding bad news from you?”

This makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I recognize that Facebook is manipulating my newsfeed in a lot of ways, but I didn’t expect being an unwitting participant in a psychology experiment was one of them.

I’m not going to delete my facebook page for now, but I’m not going to forget about this, either.


The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

“…Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”

This is your must-read article for the week. I don’t care if you don’t read anything else today; read this. Read this, and let it sink in.

Because the pitchforks are coming.

(Seriously. READ IT.)

Twilight of the Assholes: Goodbye to Dov Charney, Terry Richardson, and Hipster Misogyny

[Note: For more on why Terry Richardson is a giant jizzbucket/douchecanoe, check out my previous post here.]


“We take no joy in this,” said American Apparel co-chairman Allan Mayer yesterday of the company’s decision to fire its founder, CEO, and card-carrying asshole Dov Charney. Mayer’s pretty much the only one, though — anyone else who’s followed Charney’s career will be taking unbridled joy in the fact that he’s finally been shown the door. And with Charney’s soul bro Terry Richardson also in the news again over his general ghastliness, it’s been a bad week for the patron saints of ’00s semi-ironic misogyny. The only real question: why has it taken this long?

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Ikea To Raise Minimum Wage For U.S. Workers With Tie To Living Wage Calculator

Ikea To Raise Minimum Wage For U.S. Workers With Tie To Living Wage Calculator

The Swedish furniture giant Ikea is raising the minimum wage in all of its U.S. stores, and it’s doing so in a way that may raise the bar for American retailers. The famous seller of ready-to-assemble home goods will base the wage floor for each of its stores on the MIT Living Wage Calculator, which estimates what salary a worker would need in order to get by in a particular geographic area.

According to Ikea, the move will boost the average store minimum wage to $10.76, a 17 percent increase, and bring raises to approximately half of the company’s 13,650 U.S. employees. The new rates will go into effect on Jan. 1, according to Rob Olson, chief financial officer and acting president of Ikea U.S.

Brilliant move by IKEA, especially since they’ve been criticized in the past for treating their American workers differently than their European workers. Considering the company isn’t planning on passing the cost along to its consumers, this whole decision really flies in the face of the American corporate status quo. It’s going to be harder for businesses to keep saying they can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage or even their health insurance.


Why Mississippi’s Black Democrats Saved an Elderly White Republican

Why Mississippi’s Black Democrats Saved an Elderly White Republican

On Tuesday, black Democrats saved an elderly white Republican from political oblivion in the nation’s most racially polarized state. That’s not an exaggeration. On June 3, six-term Sen. Thad Cochran lost Mississippi’s Republican Senate primary to Chris McDaniel, a talk radio host and Tea Party–backed state senator with a long history of divisive and extreme rhetoric. But because of their vote totals—neither candidate broke 50 percent—the race went into a runoff. And the assumption from then until Tuesday was that Cochran would lose. After all, if there’s a rule in American elections, it’s that turnout goes down in a small, obscure contest like a Senate runoff. With his intense grass-roots support and wide backing from national Tea Party groups, McDaniel was the favorite.

Cochran had a choice: He could play the game the way its always been played and lose his seat, or he could bend the rules to his favor. He went with the latter. “His campaign,” wrote the New York Times last week, “is taking the unlikely step of trying to entice black voters to help decide the most high-profile Republican contest in the country.”

Some days – more days lately – I hate politics as much as the next American. But then stories like this appear, and I remember why I love politics so much. This is a genuinely fascinating tale, and I can’t help but wonder what’s next for Senator Thad Cochran. Will he make any changes to his policies or his priorities? What will other politicians learn from this? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!


“For blacks, it is imperative that we look at the process and try to maximize our efforts by utilizing our voting power as best we can,” he said.

As a practical matter, that could mean pushing Mississippi officials for expanded black voting rights or more access to affordable health care, black leaders here said. After all, in defending his outreach, Mr. Cochran himself said: “I think it’s important for everybody to participate. Voting rights has been an issue of great importance in Mississippi.”

Others said blacks would have new leverage with Mr. Cochran. “He owes them an ear,” Mr. Simmons said. “He owes them an opportunity to sit and engage with him just like any other group. Senator Cochran could have a very different opinion about some of these things and vote a different way after this experience.” [New York Times]

Cool at 13, Adrift at 23

Cool at 13, Adrift at 23

At 13, they were viewed by classmates with envy, admiration and not a little awe. The girls wore makeup, had boyfriends and went to parties held by older students. The boys boasted about sneaking beers on a Saturday night and swiping condoms from the local convenience store. They were cool. They were good-looking. They were so not you. Whatever happened to them?

“The fast-track kids didn’t turn out O.K.,” said Joseph P. Allen, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia. He is the lead author of a new study, published this month in the journal Child Development, that followed these risk-taking, socially precocious cool kids for a decade. In high school, their social status often plummeted, the study showed, and they began struggling in many ways.

Clearly my complete lack of social status in middle school is why I am so well-adjusted now! At least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself in order to comfort my inner middle-schooler. As previously discussed, I was a giant weirdo who really, really wanted to fit in but never quite managed to. I got over it, mostly, but I still have a sense that I missed out on something. Maybe I did, but it looks like I might have dodged a bullet.

[via The Hairpin]

Nina Mitchell: The Great Escape

Nina Mitchell: The Great Escape

I started reading Nina’s essays on The Hairpin a few years ago, and I was immediately fascinated by the story of a 26 year old woman who wakes up one morning, realises she’s had a stroke, and knows her life will never be the same. She also wrote a longer piece for The AtlanticWhen I Was 26, I Had a Stroke: The Escape, but the link I’m sending you to here today is actually an audio file, taken from The Moth. It’s Nina telling the story of her stroke, in her own words, and listening to her talk about that time in her life (over 10 years ago now) is both moving and also very, very funny.

Finally, I encourage you to check out her blog, Mindpop, where she still posts regularly.