We live in a post-truth world. Or, at least, so says the Oxford English Dictionary. The hallowed caretaker of the King’s English dubbed the phrase “post-truth” as its Word of the Year. It’s not the first time that Oxford’s made a rather unusual pick for its annual word: Last year it ignored words entirely and picked an emoji (the one that laughs so hard that it’s crying). But this more somber choice reflects the fact that, as a society, we’re getting more news from social media sources and have less trust in more established news search.
But some want to make post-truth a phrase that, in a couple years, will feel oh-so-2016. After enduring scads of criticism for their roles in disseminating fake news stories, both Google and Facebook struck back, declaring that they’d no longer display ads that showcase false or misleading information. And Google says that it’s trying to improve its search algorithms to weed out fake news, too.
In an article in Slate, Kathleen Stansberry suggests that we internet users need to take more responsibility in shaping the thing. She unfurls some pretty astounding stats in her piece—the fact, for instance, that we post more than 95 million photos and videos on Instagram every day—and she believes that all that usage inevitably shapes what the internet as a whole looks like. “On the internet, attention is currency,” she writes. “The time we spend when we log on—the websites we view, posts we share, reviews we write, and platforms we use—shape the web of the future.”
If we can’t trust the news these days, what can we trust? (I mean, besides Plugged In?) Our own eyes, of course. About 8.2 million pairs of eyes watched the American Music Awards this weekend—an all-time low, actually. The awards were pretty much an afterthought to the performances and the speeches, many of which took a predictably political turn. But when Selena Gomez took home the trophy for best female rock/pop artist, she gave perhaps the best, most talked-about speech of the night. She talked about her own struggles with lupus (and its side effects of anxiety and depression) and encouraged her young fans to fight their own issues. “I don’t want to see your bodies on Instagram,” she said. I want to see what’s in here [pointing to her heart]. … If you are broken, you do not have to stay broken.”
Apparently, there’s a lot of brokenness out there to deal with. More teens are dealing with depression these days than a decade ago. In fact, about 11.5% of youth between the ages of 12 and 20 suffered a significant depressive episode in the last year—a 37% increase from 2005, in fact. And girls are more apt to suffer from it than boys.
‘Course, for some, the words “girl” and “boy” feel a little restrictive. The latest update to the dating app Tinder allows users to choose from more than 40 gender choices.
And here’s some more disturbing news from the adolescent front. Researchers now believe that, if you drink a lot in your teens, it’s possible that that alcohol consumption could impact your future babies.
You know what else is dangerous? Smartphones. At least they’re dangerous if you’re using them while driving (or, presumably, crossing the street). After decades of steady declines in highway fatalities, traffic deaths jumped more than 10% between 2015 and 2016, and experts blame cellphones. “This is a crisis that needs to be addressed now,” says Mark R. Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Taking selfies isn’t nearly as dangerous as texting while driving. Still, be advised: According to a study disturbingly titled “Me, Myself and My Killfie,” 127 people have died in a 29-month span while taking selfies of themselves in strange and, obviously, dangerous locations.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of smartphones, did you know that scientists can learn an awful lot about you from them? And that’s before they even know your passcode. By examining the residue you leave behind on your phones, researcher Amina Bouslimani says, “we could tell if a person is likely female, uses high-end cosmetics, dyes her hair, drinks coffee, prefers beer over wine, likes spicy food, is being treated for depression, wears sunscreen and bug spray … all kinds of things.” They could even tell if you were using, say, a hair loss treatment or an anti-fungal medication. Thankfully, that Pandora playlist of yours loaded with a-ha songs is still under wraps … for now.
Culture Clips are compiled by Paul Asay, Adam Holz and Bob Hoose