Sage Stossel lays out the Instagram issue, which saves me a lot of exposition and linking (click here for larger version), the main point being not that Instagram is potentially harmful to young women but that Facebook did a study in which they found out that Instagram is potentially harmful to young women and did nothing about it.
Michael De Adder was not the only one to draw a parallel between Facebook’s insatiable search to build audience despite knowing the dangers for young people, and the tobacco industry’s eagerness to build their customer base, even as they knew smoking was carcinogenic.
Just like old times, eh?
Facebook’s response is that they know Instagram is potentially harmful for kids, but they also realize that kids lie about their age to set up phony accounts and so they want to create a special Instagram for kids under 13 so they don’t have to lie about their age and their parents can monitor their use.
Or maybe a little less. Depends on how you score it.
IMHO, it’s about as transparent a steaming pile as I’ve ever read, and Steve Breen (Creators) translates Facebook’s position in terms we ought to understand but probably won’t, since we’re excellent parents and it’s those other people whose kids are at risk.
Back in 1994, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were banned from Canadian television as too violent for children, and the parallel to kids lying about their age as a workaround is similar, since the vast majority of Canadian homes are within range of US television.
As I noted then, our First Amendment has exceptions, but protecting children isn’t one of them:
I also wrote another column, which I can’t find at the moment, in which I speculated on the hijinx that would ensue if a TV exec headed for a Congressional Inquiry on television and kids accidentally swapped briefcases with a TV exec headed for a sales call on a major advertiser.
One of them would pull out his speech and begin explaining to Congress what a powerfully persuasive medium television is, while the other would find himself telling the potential advertiser that TV doesn’t really get anybody to do anything.
Which is satire, but this is not: Our TV stations along the NY/Quebec border got plenty of money from Canadian advertisers barred from targeting kids in their own country.
The advertisers knew that, if they found a way to stick it out there somewhere, the kids would find it.
Like Juul. Like alcopop. Like Instagram.
But 1994 was back in the days when being on-line meant being on a desktop computer.
The rule for caring parents then was to keep the family computer in a central location so you could stroll by and take a glance at what your kids were doing. When computers became less expensive and popped up in kids’ bedrooms, the rule was that they had to share passwords and were forbidden to erase their histories.
And then it all went to phones and it all went to hell, the comfort being that so few families had ever bothered with those rules that it didn’t matter anyway.
Stossel imagines a world in which an army of good people would rise up and police Instagram, swatting down the bullies and trolls, but, if that were going to happen, it would have already taken place. Ed Hall narrows it down to the basics: Young women face a lot of unfair pressure to conform to certain body types, and on-line bullying only makes it worse.
Juxtaposition of the Day
Of course, the answer is to get off Facebook, Instagram and the rest of the predatory social media sites, though I think the guy in the Joy of Tech cartoon is a great deal more modest and restrained than his real life counterparts, who would be so puffed up in self-righteousness that they wouldn’t make that reasonable, practical Facebook-less Friday suggestion.
But the woman in Pett’s cartoon reveals a snag in the idea of simply walking away. We’ve had several decades of shifting how we relate to others, and, while I know a few people who are off social media but not off the Internet itself, I have often joked that the only people I know in three dimensions are other dog owners.
It’s not that much of a joke, and even my family — which is scattered from New England to Southern California — no longer emails but uses Facebook to message each other. I keep in touch with old friends on-line as well, and have friendships going back a quarter of a century with people who are not imaginary, though many of us have never met face-to-face.
Not to mention how many people have found this blog because I post reminders on Facebook and Twitter.
All of which I bring up not to justify the greedy, horrific excesses of Facebook and its cohorts, but simply to point out that walking away would have been a lot easier in, say, 1997 or 98, before our entire communication structure — not to mention working lives — had been altered.
It’s like suggesting we give up our automobiles, which only makes sense if you live some place with solid public transportation and where grocery stores and doctors are all within a few miles.
And you stay out of this, Alex Masterley. Your wife’s got your privileged ass pegged right.
Unless I win the lottery, my 33-mpg Honda is going to have to last the rest of my driving days, and don’t start in about the trains in Europe, because if all Americans were crammed into Indiana, we could rely on trains, too.
If we hadn’t already torn up what tracks we had and turned them into rail trails.
Anyway, here’s one benefit of the Internet:
Not only can you read my wit each morning, but, if Comics Kingdom loses a week’s worth of Vintage Judge Parker strips, I can muddle around on-line and find them for you:
More good news! Now that this has been covered by a real high-class singer-lady, the revolution is surely just around the corner: