Culture Clips: The Facebook Trauma Edition

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Culture clips facebook

Perhaps it’s not exactly news anymore when Facebook announces a data breach. The ubiquitous social network has been as leaky as a perforated garden hose lately, so what’s another 50 million users? Still, it made the virtual front pages of a lot of virtual newspapers, and what might’ve gotten lost in the week’s Facebook headlines was this little ditty: A content moderator at Facebook has filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, claiming she experienced psychological trauma from the “constant and unmitigated exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images” she was required to judge and filter.

Plugged In has long said that what we watch can impact us deeply (a point reinforced by a recent study), but what moderator Selena Scola had to watch sounds like it goes well beyond most R-rated movies. “Every day, Facebook users post millions of videos, images and livestreamed broadcasts of child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide and murder,” the complaint reads. And while Facebook ostensibly offers counseling and mental health support to its 7,500 moderators, the lawsuit suggests that the company ignores those very standards.

Of course, Facebook isn’t necessarily evil incarnate. I sure hope not, anyway. I have a Facebook page. Plugged In has a Facebook page, and apparently God does, too, if CBS’ new sitcom can be taken at face(book?) value. Facebook is also the hand behind Oculus, which means the innovative VR company is getting a whole lot more social.

But being social, at least online, has its drawbacks, even if you’re not a moderator. And it’s not just Kanye West saying so. A new study by Pew research finds that a majority of teens are cyberbullied, and a lot of that activity takes place on social media. Another study tells us that youth are the loneliest demographic group around, despite the fact that they’re using social apps more than ever. We also know that too much screen time (along with too little sleep and exercise) has been linked with hindering brain development in children.

Yeah, yeah, you say. I’ve heard it all before. But did you know that dogs just might get depressed if their owners spend too much time on their smartphones? Let that sink in for a minute: Checking Facebook every five minutes on your iPhone might be making Fido feel a bit … ruff.

So perhaps it’s not so surprising that so many of us are looking to the past for cultural solace, and that extends well past the Murphy Brown and Will & Grace relaunches. Revivals of everything from Bad Boys to Men in Black to Charlie’s Angels (again) are in the works. Nickelodeon has turned into a nostalgia factory, according to Salon’s Matthew Rozsa, churning out faves from the 1990s to appeal to kids (and their parents) today. PlayStation is hoping to make money off its own 1990s legacy, releasing a version of its classic console. Mister Rogers—a man who died in 2003 and whose landmark program for children ended in 2000, has become a posthumous rockstar, thanks in part to the moving documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. (Oh, and Tom Hanks is going to star as Rogers in a film next year, too.)

And then, of course, there’s The Simpsons, a program that’s been on so long that it’s older than many of the original shows being rebooted now. It began its record-lengthening 30th season this weekend—a premiere that serves as a milestone to the oldsters in Generation X.

Maybe Millennials are feeling a little nostalgic, too—at least when it comes to marriage. The divorce rate, for the first time in a long time, is actually going down. (Part of that is because they’re choosing to wait longer and cohabitate more, according to some experts, but we’re choosing to focus on the positives here.)

Still, as much as we might long to live in the past, there’s no stopping the future from barreling down the road (even if one of the future’s self-proclaimed architects has been pulled over and handed a $20 million speeding ticket). Forget cars that can drive themselves: The latest technological innovation is a computer that can write its own travel novel. PlayStation has bowed to pressure and thrown open its platform to rabid Fortnite players (some of whom make a ludicrous amount of money and make certain Culture Clips writers question their career choices).

Why, even memes can be swept up in the moment. Remember that picture that you saw everywhere last year—the picture of the guy eyeing another woman while his girlfriend looks at him in abject horror? Well, Sweden’s advertising court (yes, Sweden apparently has a court for advertisements) called the original picture sexist and banned any and all ads featuring the picture from its borders.

Sometimes all this news makes you want to just get away, doesn’t it? Well, have no fear. HBO wants to turn its Game of Thrones locales, located in Northern Island, into tourist attractions. Yes, that’s right! HBO wants to send you to a land where white walkers walk and dragons fly and girls wear the faces of other people and brothers have kids with their sisters and many people—sooooo many people—die terrible, unspeakable deaths!

Yes, I’m sure it’ll be popular.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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Scott Jamison 6 months ago
Yeah, I've often worried about the folks at the motion picture rating board and what they're seeing.  (Remember, they often get the uncut versions.)