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Digital Life

Weighing a new GLAAD report against the queer experience

I’m worried — but not for reasons you might think.

Last month saw the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) release its first-ever Social Media Safety Index. As CEO Sarah Kate Ellis notes in the report’s press release, the original intention of the research was to grade five of the most popular social media platforms on safety and inclusion for queer people. When researchers realized their criteria would lead to every platform receiving a failing grade, they reworked the results into more of an industry report with recommendations for improvement.

The report is a call-to-arms to big tech, a…

Letter from the Editor

Screens are no longer a novelty — they are life itself

Damon Beres, the author, working on his computer at his home desk.
Damon Beres, the author, working on his computer at his home desk.

Here’s my routine these days: I wake up at about 7:30 a.m., immediately pick up my phone, open Slack, respond to anything that needs my attention, do the same on Gmail, maybe snooze for another half-hour or so with my phone resting on my chest in case I get “pinged,” wake up again, look at Slack and Gmail again, scroll through Twitter, drag myself out of bed, make coffee, maybe brush my teeth, sit down in front of my three monitors, jump in and out of Zoom calls and Google Meets for eight hours, quickly respond to messages or edit…

Screenagers in the time of coronavirus

Teenager on her phone.
Teenager on her phone.

If you’re a parent trying to corral your children into attending “school” online, you’ve probably had the joy of witnessing a complete meltdown. Tantrums are no longer the domain of two-year-olds; 15-year-olds are also kicking and screaming. Needless to say, so are the fortysomethings. Children are begging to go outside. Teenagers desperately want to share physical space with their friends. And parents are begging their kids to go online so that they themselves can get some downtime. These are just some of the ways in which today’s reality seems upside down.

I cannot remember a period in my research when…

All screens are not equal. Stanford’s Human Screenome Project promises to map people’s digital behaviors in far more complex ways.

Scientists have spent years, and millions of dollars, correlating screen time with all manner of negative effects on young people: depression, anxiety, obesity, academic achievement, ADHD, and even childhood developmental delays. Several have found significant links, but others have turned up inconsistent or even contradictory results, and literature reviews often struggle to extract clear takeaways from them.

The problem, according to the authors of an op-ed published in the journal Nature last week, is that “screen time” is a deeply flawed metric. To improve upon it, they’ve launched what they’re calling the Human Screenome Project. It’s a research program built…

The rise of a community dedicated to combatting the endless scroll

In December 2017, Bryce Gordon was a 20-year-old college student in Bellingham, Washington, when he realized he needed to radically change how he lived his life. He was spending way too much time online.

Most days, he’d return from classes to his apartment, crack open his laptop, and spend the rest of his evening on the internet, browsing Twitter, 4chan, Facebook, and Wikipedia. Sometimes he woke up in the morning still wearing his clothes from the day before, his laptop screen the only source of light in his bedroom. He stopped folding laundry or cooking himself meals. …

Their habits simply mirror ours

Doors slam quickly when I return home after picking up my 11- and 14-year-old sons from school. They’re not angry or depressed, but they seem to crave some time alone on weekday afternoons. I guess they need opportunities to be liberated from the social stress of the everyday school routine. And their preferred way to do that is online. I sympathize, but I also can’t help but be annoyed.

Within minutes, I can hear the muffled sound of YouTube videos blasting from my sons’ smartphones. After a while, they transition out of the spectator role, and I cringe hearing them…

For special needs families, Apple’s own Screen Time feature just doesn’t cut it

Last week, the New York Times reported that Apple has taken action against many of the top parental control and screen time management apps: 11 of the 17 most popular apps for managing screen time have either been removed from the App Store outright, or been forced to trim their features at Apple’s request. For parents who rely on those apps to manage their kids’ access to games and other distractions, the report was a shot across the bow. “@Apple you’ve made it much harder for me to control my daughter’s screen time, just so you can extend your profits…

Experts respond with skepticism to a recent New York Times story

In Microprocessing, columnist Angela Lashbrook aims to improve your relationship with technology every week. Microprocessing goes deep on the little things that define your online life today, to give you a better tomorrow.

Last week, the New York Times published a provocative Well piece about smartphones and death that laid out some fascinating points, but it probably belonged in the Opinion section. …


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