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Your Tools Have Elevated Gossip, Hearsay and Conjecture


Betteridge's Law of Headlines states "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

I mention this because of a piece making the rounds from The Atlantic titled "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?"

Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.

Betteridge’s Law says this is a bad take. Then again, maybe the smartphone/social media double whammy is destroying our kids. Or maybe not. I tend not to freak out over these things, but the article makes a pretty goddamn compelling case. So… I dunno.

Coincidentally, I'm working on a piece for the upcoming tech issue of This Magazine that picks at the not-actually-Marshall-McLuhan quote "We shape our tools and then our tool shape us," so this stuff has been on my mind a lot lately. I don't have any concrete answers other than (spoiler) this stuff is insanely complex and takes a very long time to manifest in a way that we can really appreciate. We're still sorting out the mess TV and cars and spreadsheets and punk rock and a billion other things have made (I like to revisit Postman's dinner with Paglia at times like this, not that it’s helpful, but for some reason it’s comforting to know we’ve always been uncomfortable), so it seems unlikely we've got a handle on the full impact of the iPhone. And if it does “destroy” a generation, that doesn’t automatically mean subsequent generations are also destroyed. Or that the destroyed generation itself won’t undestroyed itself in a few years. Or that we won’t all be too ground down to give a shit one way or the other.

That said, it certainly feels like this might be a real problem.

(I promise I'll have it worked out by the weekend. Because, you know, I have a deadline.)

Related: Your Instagram feed may be a good indicator of your mental health.


Everything is terrible. In last week's intro, I said that YouTube is a treasure. I mean that but only insofar as YouTube is such a wonderful video archive. As a modern social platform, it's as awful as the rest. But not so awful that Fuckface Levant won’t beg for money to launch his own “conservative YouTube alternative.” Freedom! (I want to die.)

Watson frequently suggests that ideologies like his represent a sort of new counterculture and boasts about the right wing’s dominance on the YouTube platform. “Twitter is a tiny echo chamber,” he tweeted earlier this year. “I’m not sure the left understand the monumental ass-whupping being dished out to them on YouTube.” And in terms of sheer numbers and visibility on the platform, the YouTube right is substantial.

Also: YouTube is adding chat. For some reason.


The question needed to be asked. “Who is this person who watches so much branded content that it’s changing the way we consume media in strange and unpleasant ways?”

You’d think it’d be impossible for one person to watch enough branded cinema to change the course of the internet forever (I thought it, too), but you’d also be wrong. Because you haven’t met my husband, a man who will relax with a two-hour stream of recommended recordings each night after dinner. And now that we’ve cut off cable and he can no longer watch movies with the commercials (“otherwise, what’s the point?”) he’ll pull double duty on Saturdays and Sundays, often choosing videos that haven’t yet hit the million-view mark, because “they’re going to need some help.”


Writing is for suckers. Handwriting has a wonderful history and very limited future. But here’s a high-res scan of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook.


And then, too, I write books, and sometimes am even asked to sign copies of those books, personalizing them with my autograph. My manual formation of the letters of my name bears little relation to the activities that produced these books in the first place—they have uniformly been the products of word processing. But I will readily take pen in hand to comply with that fetishistic arrangement that makes the material trace of a scribal self a proof of authorship.


You are not your workspace. On the rise of minimal workspace inspiration.


Workspace inspo is aspirational, and often accompanied by brief notes on how a stylish, organized workspace will boost well-being, motivation, and creativity. As any brand marketer will tell you, an aspirational image depicts something simultaneously out-of-reach and just attainable enough. It’s future-oriented, making use of the viewer’s imagination to create ideas about who they would like to be, not who they are right now. The ubiquitous minimalism and unified visual aesthetic of these spaces suggests creativity without ever actually being creative, self-control without ever depicting the self. The aspirational image makes us think, “I want that!” .

John Peel's Festive 50. Closing credits song for every episode of Silicon Valley. Dischord Records entire catalogue is free on BandCamp. The Great 78 Project at the Internet Archive. All 165 Pink Floyd songs ranked and annotated.

Pivot! Foursquare, god bless em, are still out there fighting the good fight. It’s always seemed to me that they don’t fully understand their app’s own utility.

While it doesn’t radically change the app’s look, the updated Swarm will now focus more heavily on the number and variety of places you’ve been. There’s now an interactive map placed front and center on your profile page, instead of buried away in a separate menu. Swarm will now surface more information about where you’ve been and stats about those locations when you come back to them, so users can “better recall every experience from the mundane to the extraordinary, and surface it quickly in any scenario.”

I keep confusing Ayn Rand and Jesus.

Tweet the change. Twitter changed its font and (let’s be honest, a very specific subset of) people were u-n-h-a-p-p-y about it. My response is: Why does anyone still use the Twitter website?!

The redesign, which has been silently rolling out since yesterday evening, appears to be targeted at desktop versions of Twitter. It sees the relatively familiar Helvetica Neue getting bumped in favour of Segoe, a font used on the Xbox 360 dashboard, as well as the logos for Microsoft, Windows and Office.


(Fiction) The Itch // The New Yorker
But nobody showed up, so he sat awhile looking at the wall. It was one of those Saturdays that feel like Sunday. He didn’t know how to explain this. It happened intermittently, more often in the warmer months, and it was probably normal, although he’d never discussed it with anyone.

Hiroshima // The New Yorker
John Hersey’s 1946 piece exploring how six survivors experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, and its aftermath.

Eat, Memory // Harper’s
The last time I ate real food, actually chewed and swallowed, was six years ago. During those final meals, I ordered a pastrami sandwich, a pork-belly bun, and vegetable soup. The sandwich needed more fat, the bun more seasoning, and the soup I barely touched, because by that point it had become too painful to swallow.

Ready Player One Finds The Bleak Limits Of Nostalgia // Deadspin
It’s not hard to fracture the internet with a movie adaptation of a popular bad book. They’re made into movies all the time. They read like screenplays because they skip complex language that defies being replaced with pictures, and producers can’t resist a baked-in audience, which creates a baked-in counter-audience of critics. These people then meet online and ruin each others’ days.

A Very Special Friends From 1997 Debated the Meaning of “On a Break” // AV Club
The enduring popularity of Friends is due to how adroitly the writers combine serialization with distinctly episodic adventures.

The Complicated Life and Death of Hideki Irabu // Sports Illustrated
Twenty years ago, Hideki Irabu arrived in the United States hoping to find glory in pinstripes. He found heartache instead.


“I know I’m successful if I sell chandeliers. If people order them, then I make them, and they pay me money for them. If they have something to say afterward, they can call me or write me. I mean, all this stuff you’re involved in, it’s all gossip. It’s people talking about each other behind their backs. That’s the vast majority of this social media, all these reviews, all these comments. Your tools have elevated gossip, hearsay and conjecture to the level of valid, mainstream communication. And besides that, it’s fucking dorky.”
Dave Eggers

Pop Loser is a weekly newsletter of innumerable confusions collected and written by Tyler Hellard.

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