Nonlaser things that I think GFers will find interesting

Well that’s my point. Human nature and social media may well be fundamentally incompatible. The recent studies about mental health effects on our most vulnerable groups (young girls especially) are enough to make me want to take a wrecking ball to Facebook.

This should concern everyone, whether you’re a parent or not:

And then this should make you furious: they did it on purpose.


yeah, if there’s anything i wish i could teach other people, it’s how to ignore stupid people and/or block them from their feeds. i can be brutal with that. life’s just too short to put up with that crap. i’ve kicked family off of my feeds before, too.


For what it’s worth, it appears to me that there are many things happening. The #%@#%s have been doing their thing as an active effort since before computers were a thing much less Facebook.

Before, it was mailing lists that were the organizing principle, and what was worse about it was that if you or someone you knew were not on those lists you would get no clue as to what they were up to so that alternative universe was invisible to most folks and so allowed to fester. When they went online anyone could read it and only then did outsiders start to see the results of what had been growing for years, and it has taken a long time to begin to see the perpetraitors.


On an individual level changes (like technological shifts) can be devastating. On a macro level, our species is amazingly adaptable. For example it wasn’t all that long ago that modern human adults couldn’t process milk, and there are still parts of the world where the majority cannot. In other places it yielded an evolutionary advantage and became the norm, and adults can now produce the needed enzymes.


I suspect that stomach biota might something to do with that also, as the ability can come and go as it has gone and come for me.

Physiological adaptability and psychological adaptability are nowhere near the same thing. While I am relatively optimistic, I don’t think that the milk example is particularly parallel here.

Generational trauma is a real concept, and it doesn’t just go away. If you have an entire cohort that is suffering from mental illness in their teens, the effects will be felt for decades. We are conducting a wide scale psychological experiment, and none of us know where it’s going to end up. if I had to place my bet, I’d say it’s going nowhere good.


They are both driven by evolutionary pressures, which is why chimps aren’t concerned with the same things we are.

But you’re right, they’re different categories and I am not an evolutionary biologist.

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So there is a wonderful book by a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University named Robert Sapolsky called “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”:

It talks about stress responses and how they affect animals, including us. In times of great stress, say the the lion is fixing to eat you, systems shut down to prioritize adrenaline response. Things like reproductive systems, digestion, cell growth / repair and other functions are switched off in favor of “DEAR SWEET MOTHER OF CUPCAKES! RUN! RUN! RUN!”

While we don’t have the same flight or fight triggers (for the most part) as other animals, we still have the same responses hard wired in us. Additionally we have created things like the IRS, jobs, politics and the odd pandemic. It’s a lower level of stress than the lion, but studies show that the effect on our systems can still be much the same. Stuff in our bodies slows or shuts down in favor of dealing with the current problem. If the stress stays elevated, things start to break.

It’s a fascinating read and delivered with a fair amount of humor. Highly recommended.


Yes, I think the evolutionary pressures imposed on us by technological ‘advancements’ are a subtle expression of natural selection. Stress management is a living skill.


I have walked through some of Sapolsky’s Youtube classes and been quite impressed. I have not been able to buy the book but have read reviews and synopsis to get the gist of it. Given his expertise in biology and neurology the result is not surprising. Unlike my own biochemistry professor’s conceit that “all behavior will be eventually explained by biochemistry” (the whole world has advanced in everything in the past 50 years) Dr. Sapolsky is far more nuanced, however, behavior is perhaps the most complex study available, and even sticking with absolute realism there are many windows that can give insight beyond that expertise.

I have not done a proper and extensive study but have noticed an interesting paradox in social violence/morality, that in some cases extreme authoritarian societies may have active undermining of the government when available but extreme comradeship among individuals. In other cases folk can have more concern about their neighbors, than the government. Likewise in basically democratic governments you see the same dichotomy. Just limiting the observation to blue collar theft puts a level of comparing apples to apples that is not connected to historical influences or quirks of a particular society to an extent possible. Also each window is a moment in time and thus may be very different ten years before or after.

Under authoritarians the stress is extreme as saying the wrong word in the wrong place can change your life. And yet the difference between Poland and Bulgaria nominally Soviet occupied was considerable at least by the information I can find.
The U.S. is a special case with guns but in the 50s and 60s I can recall only two mass killings (more than 5 killed or injured at a time), and only one of those was with guns. Now it is sometimes two a day.

Stress is certainly a major factor, but I think it is more than having times of little stress but the ability to focus that stress awareness to know where the danger is coming from and feeling like a nudist in a mosquito swamp, and the opportunity and impunity of those who would strike back at the world they feel has abused them especially.


Have you seen his TED Talk?

I found out about him years ago when I heard him on the radio, been a fan ever since.


I was interested by one of the comments…

There was a group that lived near a dumpsite where they took food from, and as usual the dominant males ate first. However, some of the food was poisonous, and those dominant males died, leaving the more submissive males and females. The females did not feel the danger of violent reprisal anymore, and started mating the surviving males, who had a much more peaceful and mild disposition. Because of their genes and the way they raised their new young the group stayed peaceful and altruistic.

So even a little shuffling of the genepool, and a nicer environment, completely changed the predisposition of these baboons.

I don’t think it is genetic but cultural, but a fascinating insight.


I didn’t know that you can download Tableau and use it for free (although you wouldn’t want to do that with any private data, I think you have to publish it publically with the free version).

This is cool - there are sample datasets you can use. (I’ve built dashboards in many tools and it comes easily to me, but didn’t have tons of experience with Tableau because I couldn’t get the time needed from our BI team to set up the back end for what I needed it for.)


Another piece on the same concept:

This one blames the rise of smart phones and constant-on access for the rise in unhappiness, especially among teenagers.

Can’t say I disagree.


I think we compare ourselves to other people generally. The advent of the cell phone + social media means that we now compare ourselves to, not just the people we meet, but everyone, everywhere, all at once. Plus we are comparing ourselves to the idealized versions that other folks choose to share.


I agree, that’s a dark rabbit hole for impressionable youth with a still-developing brain.

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I quit using social media several years ago, and stopped trying to compare long before that.

The only reason I still have a FB account is that the US Army only provides information thru it - my daughter is guard and her mom and I depend on it for updates.


Judging by the amount of completely unhinged stuff I see older generations posting on social media I would say it’s not limited to kids. I expect studies on the senior generations to come next, with similarly dismaying results.


The imaging in this article is pretty amazing:


The adoption of social media by some friends and family is what drove me away from it. They take great pleasure in posting 5#!t that was making the rounds via email in the late 90’s…

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