May 7, 2017

"On social media, the top descriptors to complete the phrase 'My husband is...' are 'the best,' 'my best friend,' 'amazing,' 'the greatest' and 'so cute.'"

"On Google, one of the top five ways to complete that phrase is also 'amazing.' So that checks out. The other four: 'a jerk,' 'annoying,' 'gay' and 'mean.'... Any time you are feeling down about your life after lurking on Facebook, go to Google and start typing stuff into the search box. Google’s autocomplete will tell you the searches other people are making. Type in 'I always...' and you may see the suggestion, based on other people’s searches, 'I always feel tired' or 'I always have diarrhea.' This can offer a stark contrast to social media, where everybody 'always' seems to be on a Caribbean vacation."

From a NYT op-ed "Don’t Let Facebook Make You Miserable" by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who is an economist with a book titled “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.”

The #1 reason I'm linking to this is the illustration by Tim Lahan. It's very men in shorts. By the way, walking home along University Avenue yesterday, I saw 3 men riding mopeds together. All were wearing shorts. They didn't look like this:



Ah, forget whether reading Facebook makes you feel good about yourself. The question is whether reading this blog — since that's what you're doing now — is making you feel good about yourself. You've got to ask yourself why you hang out here, when you insist on wearing shorts and you know I've been needling you about the shorts for years.

ADDED: I googled "My husband is..." and got, in this order: gay, depressed, mean, the best, selfish. I'm picturing a wonderfully mean, selfish, depressed gay guy. He could still be the best husband, in your subjective opinion, especially if you are also a gay man.

AND: I googled "My wife is... " and got, in this order: having an affair, crazy, the best, awesome, a mermaid. A mermaid! I think that's happening because of a comic book title.

22 comments:

Bay Area Guy said...

From the article:"Once you’ve looked at enough aggregate search data, it’s hard to take the curated selves we see on social media too seriously. Or, as I like to sum up what Google data has taught me: We’re all a mess."

I don't buy this conclusion. We're not all a mess. But it is true that you can become gradually distraught, if you live an unbalanced life, i.e., spending too much on the internet, and not enough time experiencing the joys of the real world (hiking, gardening, laughing, playing golf with pals, drinking beer with pals, strumming guitar, strolling on the beach, etc,etc)

It's a matter of balance.

Rosa Marie Yoder said...

So you want to know why folks hang out here? For me, it started a few months ago - a recommendation from a friend who hangs out here and comments occasionally. I've been banned from commenting on the Detroit Free Press on line, where my crime is being a Conservative. Then I started hanging out with folks at The Detroit News where comments came from the usual suspects from both the Left and the Right. When my aches and pains made me particularly immobile - and cranky - it was easy to give into the temptation to be a troll, Inga-style but from the Right. Conversations were predictable and not exactly cerebral.

Coming here was an alternative I enjoyed at first, though intimidating for a Conservative Mennonite girl with a midwest education. Oh, there's plenty of "cerebral" here. But in the end it's pretty much like being on detnews.com.

So I read a lot more and continue to search for my cabin in the woods for retirement. I'm not sure that the internet will even be part of that New Era.

May your day bring some sunshine and some laughter, and a Spring flower filled with a wonderful fragrance. Even Inga, Charles and ARM. :)

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't buy this conclusion. We're not all a mess."

I agree with you.

I think people do look up symptoms on Google. It's just a practical way to check whether you need to go to a doctor and get something checked out or can solve your own problem, possibly easily. Facebook, you use to show your face to other people, let them see that you're still around and okay. I don't know who is so incompetent at understanding life that they don't instinctively assume that what they see on Facebook is part of a larger context. People smile for photographs, but you're not tricked into thinking people smile all the time.

A bigger problem with Facebook is that you are essentially always saying: This is what I chose to show you. Readers of Facebook, if they're competent, sketch out the rest of the story. You don't control that part. Usually, the person seems to be saying: This is something in my life that I think you will regard as nice. The op-ed writer seems to think Facebook readers are all feeling bad that their whole life isn't as good as that other person's selected morsel of life. But the readers could be thinking: That's what you think is good?!

Reading Facebook, I don't feel bad at seeing someone else has something good, but I do sometimes feel bad seeing the things people seem to be saying are good. Sometimes it's just funny, like those plates of food you'd have trouble enjoying if somebody you didn't want to offend served it to you.

tim maguire said...

Your trick reminds me a bit of the 90's gimmick of crowd sourcing chess matches, supposedly pitting some grand master against the collective wisdom of thousands of chess players who vote on the next move. What always happened (predictably, it seems to me) is that the next move was always whatever was most obvious. Anything inventive or daring was filtered out.

Google auto-complete works the same way--you'll never get truly interesting suggestions. All it's good for is telling you the mood of most searchers--are they happy hen they type that? Or are they pissed off?

AReasonableMan said...

Much to my surprise I use and like Facebook. For me it is a way to keep in touch with people who I have worked with after they move on to other places. I am updated every now and then on their progress, their marriages and their kids. I have also used it to get back in contact with people who I knew when I was younger, before I started moving. It is a low pressure way way to stay in contact and have an expanded social network without any of the hassle of having to deal with actual people. So, overall a net positive. Yes, some people try to present a perfect image of their lives online, but that is a very American style. I don't know any French people on Facebook but they probably compete over the amount of existential angst that they are experiencing. The Russians that I know do something along these lines.

tim maguire said...

Prof. Emer., and your comment here puts me in mind of Mountain Dew commercials. Your life is boring, but you'll be more like the exciting people if you drink Mountain Dew. And you'll get the hot chick if you drink Budweiser.

Advertising. It's all about making you feel bad about yourself so you'll buy their product.

Craig Howard said...

I never look up symptoms on the Internet.

There are only so many symptoms our bodies can display and, therefore, many diseases and ailments must share. On the Internet, all symptoms inevitably lead to cancer.

And, yes, I'm wearing shorts. And I feel good about it!

Bob R said...

To me, the key to Facebook is that it's a rather distant, casual interaction - not (usually) an interaction with close friends. Yes, it's mostly good news about kids, jobs, pets, vacations, new guitars/cars/boats. That's the kind of things I want to trade with casual friends I haven't seen in decades. Big, public sadness like death and divorce get posted, but not intimate, personal pain. I just finished reading about the successful bypass surgery of a friend from grade school. That's fine. Joint pain, allergies, and jock itch you can keep to yourself.

AReasonableMan said...

Bob R said...
jock itch you can keep to yourself.


So you can talk about it at liberty on Althouse.

tcrosse said...

Facebook can be like one of those Christmas Letters spread out all year long.
It's a good idea not to judge one's insides against others' outsides.

Freeman Hunt said...

Mermaidism: the untold epidemic.

Freeman Hunt said...

"I don't know who is so incompetent at understanding life that they don't instinctively assume that what they see on Facebook is part of a larger context. People smile for photographs, but you're not tricked into thinking people smile all the time."

This. I've seen so many articles over the years about people feeling bad because they are comparing themselves to people's Facebook profiles. Was this a problem with photo albums?

"Well, Doctor, I'm just depressed. You know, I look through my friends' photo albums, and all them look so happy all the time, and I'm not like that. Plus, they're always on vacation. It gets me down."

Freeman Hunt said...

Google is fantastic for figuring out medical things.

Bob Boyd said...

"It's a good idea not to judge one's insides against others' outsides."

Yup. There's a person pictured happy and cool on Facebook who's secretly shaving random cats in West Virginia.

whswhs said...

Well, technically, that's a manga title. Manga, like comic books, are sequential art that tells a story, but the physical format is quite different, the level of art is often much higher, the audience in Japan is more diverse, and the genres are much more varied than the American superhero-dominated milieu. So saying "a comic book" raises reader expectations that may not be met.

Ann Althouse said...

"Well, technically, that's a manga title. Manga, like comic books, are sequential art that tells a story, but the physical format is quite different, the level of art is often much higher, the audience in Japan is more diverse, and the genres are much more varied than the American superhero-dominated milieu. So saying "a comic book" raises reader expectations that may not be met."

Raises? You mean lowers?

I have lots of comic books that are neither Japanese nor super hero. Comics is a big category to me and I'm doing my part to maintain the big definition, the "Understanding Comics" definition, which I know you know.

Crazy Jane said...

Conceptually, Facebook is great. Like ARM, I have enjoyed learning about old friends and classmates.

After a few years, it becomes a real nuisance with reposts of everything your "friends" "like," from political posts to recipes to sixth-degree-of-separation other friends to bad jokes. I now limit my Facebook time to five minutes at a go, a couple times a week. If I had thought in the beginning to get old friends' emails, I would cancel my account.

My husband is a good man.

Carol said...

Facebook has become kind of a drag for me, but mainly because close friends were going batshit crazy over Trump, and I didn't want to get into it with them. So I unfollowed to avoid the baiting. My social life has gone the same way..even my piano teacher had to get in a shot at Trump.

What am I supposed to say?

Leslie Graves said...

This is a fun game.

The autocompletes for "my son is..." are

* gay
* a WWE superstar
* my world
* also named Bort
* now my daughter

For "my daughter is...", they are:

* my best friend
* amazing
* gay
* pregnant
* the best

Patrick said...

"I don't buy this conclusion. We're not all a mess."

It's the prescription that I find funny. Facebook is making you miserable so supplement your Facebook with some Google time.

How about getting off Facebook entirely or substantially reducing one's Facebooking to the bare minimum? Facebook allows one to either deactivate or delete the account. Try it. Maybe Facebook isn't as vitally important as people think it is.

Christy said...

I don't have a Facebook acct, but I will sometimes look at Mom's to keep up on family news. I have 36 first cousins and at any time someone is always on a fabulous vacation. Then again, I also see a lot of calls for prayer warriors, which is not happy time.

I'm glad Facebook wasn't around when I was younger. I was unbelievably competitive and much of my life was driven by the need to have the best stories come Monday morning at the office. When I think of the lengths to which I'd have gone if I'd been posting a couple of times a day....

Will Facebook mature into a more real space in time?

Earnest Prole said...

I googled "My husband is..." and got, in this order: gay . . .

You realize google customizes its search results based on a deep knowledge of your most intimate secrets -- not that there's anything wrong with that.