Hello again and happy New Year!
My blog updates are now quite sparse since I have new responsibilities, but I’d like to at least continue one tradition: starting a new year with some stories that stuck with me from the old year.
5) The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show
A maddening investigation showing the harmful impacts of social media design and Facebook’s refusal to address them — all based on internal research.
For the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.
“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.
“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, one presentation showed.
4) The New York Times: Peter Warner, 90, Seafarer Who Discovered Shipwrecked Boys, Dies
I started reading more obituaries in 2021 and this fellow sounds like quite a character. I also wasn’t familiar with the (incredibly positive!) true story that inspired Lord of the Flies.
Peter Raymond Warner was born on Feb. 22, 1931, in Melbourne, Australia, to Arthur George Warner and Ethel (Wakefield) Warner. Arthur Warner was one of the country’s wealthiest men, having built a manufacturing and media empire, and he expected his son to follow him in the family business.
But Peter was uninterested; he preferred boxing and sailing, and at 17 he ran away from home to join a ship’s crew. When he returned a year later, his father made him go to law school at the University of Melbourne.
He lasted six weeks. He ran away again, this time to sail for three years on Swedish and Norwegian ships. Quick with languages, he learned enough Swedish to pass the master mariner’s exam, allowing him to captain even the largest seagoing vessels.
3) The New Yorker: Could the Teen Magazine Rise Again?
An interesting and hopeful read about the future of structured content for teens with a focus on community and the challenge of fighting algorithms that teach kids what’s trending is true.
[…] instead of hearing misinformation from a friend, teens are listening to strangers in California with millions of followers (and perceived credibility) on TikTok. At such a formative age, young people “need some really solid guidance, and the last place they want to get it is their parents,” she said. “Who are they turning to? For my child, it scares the shit out of me who she’s turning to.” During Rubenstein’s Seventeen years, she and the staff “wanted to make sure everything in the magazine was right, that it made sense,” she said. “It went through a really serious vetting process. That is gone. These children do not have access to any vetting, you know? No one’s vetting their TikTok videos.” (See: the nutmeg challenge.)
2) The New York Times: Man Gets 4 Years in $126 Million Printer Toner Fraud
I’m not surprised fraud festered in the printer toner market, which is already known for ludicrous pricing, but this story stuck with me due to the scale of the situation and the puns.
In announcing the arrest of Mr. Michaels and 20 other people accused of being connected to the scheme in 2016, the Huntington Beach Police Department in California called it “Operation Tone It Down.” The authorities said at the time that Mr. Michaels had previously received court warnings about deceptive telemarketing practices.
TonerNews.com, a website devoted to writing about printing supplies, called Mr. Michaels “the California toner pirate godfather” in a post on Sunday. Mr. Michaels’s lawyer scoffed at the moniker.
1) The New York Times: Paris Teenager’s New Gig: Would-Be Queen of Italy. A Nation Shrugs.
This story has everything. Regal altercations, a fencing romance, murder from a yacht, an LA food truck and a thoroughly disinterested Italian public.
While Vittoria’s father in Monte Carlo and mother in Paris were as delighted as her grandparents in Gstaad about her ascension to the top of Italy’s would-be royal family, a rival branch of Savoias were not pleased. Not at all.
“Totally illegitimate,” said Prince Aimone di Savoia Aosta, a cousin and rival claimant, who works as an executive for the Pirelli tire company in Moscow.
And so began the latest chapter in an ongoing dynastic dispute between the pretenders to Italy’s pretend throne. There are bitter feelings, thrown punches, warring noble committees, dukedom politics and as of last month, Vittoria’s ascending social media status.
What there is not is an actual crown to fight over.