Inside the Hybrid Digital-Analog Lives of Children

Kids today are voracious technology consumers for sure, but they are also active participants—creators, collaborators, and even influencers. So parents have much more to wrestle with than some broad-brush notion of “screen time.” Whatever you think of Fortnite, when children play it they are working together as a team (that’s good!), in a tech-mediated environment (is that bad?); and they’re not just playing a videogame, they’re socializing—factor that into your screen-time calculus. The youngs are also creating their own content, from unboxing toy reviews and “watch me play Minecraft” videos to DIY slime posts on Instagram, some of them attracting massive audiences and making serious money. They have agency and aspirations online, which makes them vulnerable to the same forces …

What the College Scandal Shallowfakes Reveal About the Rich

Photoshop played an outsize role in the odious college admissions scandal that broke earlier this year. Rick Singer, the concierge to the stars who pleaded guilty in March to money laundering and racketeering in a scheme to get rich children into luxury-brand colleges, used the software to graft the heads of teens onto the muscled bodies of elite athletes. With the Photoshopped water polo image in particular, the one that helped an undistinguished high schooler get recruited by USC, Singer seems to have created a mythological creature—a Ceto for the digital age. Call them the Collegiae: They’ve got the heads of princesses and the bodies of serpents. To mark the moment, a Twitter friend, Peter Mohan, ginned up an image …

So Long to Grumpy Cat, Amazons Special Warehouses, and More News

We're pouring one out for Grumpy Cat, Amazon is doing damage control after some bear-spray incidents, and ocean plastics are choking us out. Here's the news you need to know, in two minutes or less. Today's Headlines Grumpy Cat is headed to cat heaven The viral sensation Grumpy Cat passed away at 7 years old today, and with her a time where the internet was a joyful and united place. Let us all honor her memory by remembering the time when our memes were all as pure and fluffy as she was. Plastics aren't just strangling animals, but us too Scientists have revealed that the toxins from plastics in the ocean can leach into seawater and inhibit the growth and …

How Twitter Became My Sacred Space

I woke up one day, at age 38, and realized I was the worst kind of bored housewife. My kids were old enough to no longer need me, my amusing(ish) satirical novels were largely being unread, and my life had become a dull hum of paint colors and upholstery. I live on New York’s Upper East Side, where everyone shares the same small, incredibly specific concerns—private schools, vacations, and getting our husbands to notice us. I was drowning in provincialism. And so, like any well-adjusted person, I took to the internet. I went to Twitter originally to express my displeasure at the way the president of the United States was running things. I was devastated by the election and looking …

Breaking My Phone AddictionVia My Phone

Most of the meetings of Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous take place online, which is more sensible than it sounds. Colloquy via web-based conference call might help tech burnouts clear the first hurdle in recovery: asking for help. If your idea of social life is a four-day Twitch bender played under a codename, at least you don't have to leave behind all the comforts of home—screens, anonymity—when you're demoralized enough by digital compulsions to bust open a FreeConferenceCall.com tab. Four English-language ITAA conference calls take place each week, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and weekend days at noon. Live meetings, where addicts in folding chairs share wisdom and complaints with other addicts, don't seem to last long; in-person groups meet for …

While You Were Offline: Is Homeland Security Being Purged?

Last week was the kind of week where we saw a black hole for the first time; former Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti was hit with 36 charges of tax dodging, perjury, and theft; the National Enquirer maybe went up for sale; and Benjamin Netanyahu won a fifth term as Israel's prime minister. If you're wondering what else people have been talking about over the past seven days, these tidbits are a good place to start. Is Homeland Security Being Purged? What happened: Something is going on at the Department of Homeland Security, with multiple figures being pushed out by the White House and the word "purge" being thrown around like it's nothing. What really happened: Perhaps the US political …

A Wild Plan to Crowdsource the Fight Against Misinformation

Claire Wardle fights zombies. Not the dead human kind, but rather the fake “facts” that have been debunked and disproven but refuse to die online. You know the kind. No need to reanimate them here. Wardle has taken to calling them “zombie rumors,” and it’s her life work to eradicate them in their many forms—misinformation posted by individuals in their personal Facebook feeds; massive disinformation campaigns coordinated by nation-state-backed propagandists; fake information perpetuated by persistent algorithms. Maybe you've never heard of Wardle, but she’s one of the leading misinformation experts in the world, formerly of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center and a founder of First Draft News, a nonprofit that fights misinformation around the globe. She’s currently the director of a new …

The Defiant, Restorative Joy of Lurking Online

The internet is a vast and wondrous place, friends—or, rather, it was. Scale and greed and countless other culprits have spun the geologic clock backward. A realm that once comprised countless nations has become a supercontinent, a monolith of homogenized use and mood. In its present state, it comprises two primary uses, each of which manages to be more existentially unsatisfying than the other. The first is simply a giant data set, a contextless compendium of information consulted via websearch or Alexa query to fill whatever momentary gnaw has interrupted your day. How often you need to replace the filters in your water tank. The nature and purpose of something called "voodoo floss." How tall Halsey is. The result, invariably, …