A food writer shared a neat cooking tip, but got a flood of hate and mockery in return.

On Twitter, New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner shared a secret for making roast chicken — a hair dryer.

Stuck inside on a snow day, Rosner shared a photo of the process she uses to remove moisture from a chicken before roasting it: a bit of time under her hair dryer. It might seem unconventional, but it's actually a well-established method for getting the skin perfectly crispy.

Sadly, the internet didn't seem to know this — or care.


Some of the responses got a bit rude, which led Rosner to write an article titled, "Yes, I use a hair dryer to make roast chicken — here's the recipe" to clarify a few things.

She explained to me what bothered her a bit about the responses, something many writers can relate to, saying, "I took a picture of the process and posted it to Twitter, where people were, in roughly even groups, thrilled or repulsed by the sight of a beauty appliance in the kitchen. There was, in particular, no shortage of men (why is it always men?) sneering at my incompetence."

She continues, "'This is what your oven is for,' a few said, apparently thinking that I was using the dryer not to dry the chicken but to cook it. They lingered on my choice of hair dryer—the Dyson Supersonic, a futuristic-looking device that is, at four hundred dollars, absurdly expensive. (It’s also inarguably better than any other blow-dryer I’ve tried, though whether its uptick in quality is worth the several-hundred-dollar premium is a private matter between a person and her credit card.) And they commented on my sparkly pink manicure—maybe, if I’d wanted the tweet to read as an Alton Brown-calibre kitchen hack, instead of ditzy prop comedy, I should’ve gone for unvarnished nails and a hairier knuckle."

Rosner's story (which came with a recipe that looks absolutely delicious) was meant to quiet the trolls and clear up some misconceptions, but seemed to only result in more hate being thrown her way. Michael Harriot at The Root called the dish "the whitest thing on the internet" in an unrelentingly cruel blog post. Alexandra Deabler's Fox News article emphasized the cost of Rosner's dryer, as did Danielle Fowler's write-up at Yahoo.

Rosner spoke with me about the bizarre backlash to the totally innocuous food tip, sharing a bit of her thoughts on what it's like to be a woman writing on the internet.

The internet, for all the good it does, can enable what's known as "context collapse." Details get left out, facts get blurred, and words get twisted in ways they otherwise shouldn't.

In Rosner's case, some of the backlash seemed to be from people who thought she was recommending everyone go out and drop $400 on a blow-dryer, or else they mistakenly thought she was suggesting that you should actually use the blow-dryer to cook the chicken (please do not try to cook an entire chicken with a blow-dryer; it will not work and you could get sick).

None of that was true, but it's the new normal in an age where everything posted to the internet has the potential to become content.

Helen Rosner. Photo courtesy of Helen Rosner.

"Ideas get divorced from the people expressing them, and often knowing who's saying something can help you know how to judge the idea," she says. "When headlines in the NY Post or on Yahoo Lifestyle say things like 'Woman Uses a Hair Dryer to Cook Chicken,' even looking past the fact that I don't use the dryer to cook the damn chicken, by stripping out the context of who the hell this woman is, you open a door for the reader to immediately jump to skepticism and judgment. They could've gone with 'food writer uses a hair dryer to cook chicken' (or hell, 'award-winning food writer' also works) and then the reader response is tempered by position expertise."

To that last point, Rosner clarifies that she shouldn't have to be a highly credentialed food writer in order to share a cool tip without a flood of mockery being sent her way. The desire to pick other people apart over the tiniest things, such as how they make their roast chicken, has become a core part of internet culture, and it's not good for us.

At first Rosner was reluctant to respond to some of the harsher criticism, but then she noticed something.

She was irritated, understandably, by some of the inaccuracies pushed by her critics. At first she chalked it up to ignorance, but then she realized that some of her harshest critics knew exactly what they were doing.

"I saw a lot of people responding to that post by calling it sexist, and something clicked for me," she told me. "I'd been scrambling around trying to get strangers on the internet to understand that they were misreading or misrepresenting what the technique actually involved, and that actually I'm not full of shit, but the truth is — they just didn't care. They didn't want to be accurate; they just wanted to feign outrage. And so, so, so much of that outrage was really starkly gendered — the way that we, as a culture, assume that men know what they're talking about, but if the person speaking isn't a man, there's no such thing as the benefit of the doubt."

She wonders how different the response might have been had the person posting the original tweet were a guy. The fact that celebrity chefs like Alton Brown have been promoting this technique for years without outrage probably gives us an answer to that question.

"There's some kind of perfect synthesis in there of my own femininity, the femininity of a hair dryer as an appliance, and the perceived frivolousness of a feminine-coded appliance costing a few hundred dollars," she says. "So much of the response to this basically boiled down to 'Look at this ditzy lady doing a stupid thing,' which is just plain incorrect. What I did was really smart and has a lot of science behind it — it works, and it works well. You're gonna respond to a tested, vetted, effective technique — one that uses tools you probably already have in your home — with knee-jerk sexist mockery? At the end of the day, I don't think I'm the one who looks stupid here."

There are some important lessons in all of this about the internet, unconscious bias, assumptions, and empathy.

It's easy to jump to assumptions, whether it's assuming a woman on the internet with a blow-dryer doesn't know what she's doing when it comes to chicken or making snap judgments about other people's personal experiences. Those assumptions lead us to build up fictionalized versions of the people we see and we can come off cruel in the process. Ordinary context clues that you might be able to pick up from in-person conversations are lost behind keyboards.

We could all benefit from taking a few deep breaths and asking ourselves whether there's a possibility that we don't have all the information needed to offer an opinion on a topic and whether we really need to give someone doing something — like, say, offering a tip for cooking chicken — such a hard time about it?

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With the COVID-19 Pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, and the countdown to the 2020 Presidential election, there has been a flurry of online activity.

We're tweeting about these events, we're sharing news articles about them on Facebook, and we're uploading live videos as events happen during protests. These platforms are being used to communicate, to express outrage, to share what we're witnessing on the streets, to debate ideas, and to campaign for candidates.

This isn't new, of course. Social media has long been a way to get information out quickly.

"When the plane landed on the Hudson, that was one of the first events that was social media first," says Kate Starbird, associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. "The news went out via social media first because it was faster. People could actually see what was going on long before people could write a story about it or put it on the news."

Social media has also been lauded as a way for people to get information from a variety of perspectives — everybody can share what they see.

But, she adds, "the problem is that there is some inherent risk and vulnerabilities in getting things at that speed because speed can drive misinformation and mistakes." It's also incredibly difficult to know if all of these voices on social media are real. Some of those accounts might be deliberately trying to spread disinformation.

Disinformation spreads quickly during and after natural disasters, mass shootings, and other dangerous events.

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In fact, for more than a decade, Starbird has been researching how misinformation and disinformation spread online during these kinds of crises.

During a crisis, there's a lot of uncertainty and fear, so we start theorizing — or rumoring — on what to do and that rumoring can create misinformation. Then, political actors can either create additional misinformation or amplify existing rumors to spread false information for political reasons. "When there's fear and anxiety, we're acutely vulnerable to politicization, misinformation, and disinformation," she says.

For example, climate science denialists can use natural disasters — such as hurricanes or winter storms — to amplify false information that supports their cause.

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Lauren-Ashley Howard/Twitter, Wikimedia Commons

The lengths people will go to discredit a political figure—especially a Black female politician—is pretty astounding. Since Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden's running mate, we've seen "birther" claims that she wasn't really born in the U.S. (she was), alternating claims that she's too moderate or too radical (which can't both be true), and a claim apparently designed to be a "gotcha"—that her ancestor in Jamaica was a slave owner.

According to Politifact, the claim that Harris descends from a slave owners is likely true. In their rather lengthy fact check on her lineage, which has not revealed any definitive answers, they conclude, "It seems possible that Kamala Harris is as likely a descendant of a slave-owner as she is an enslaved person." But that doesn't mean what the folks who are using that potential descencency as a weapon seem to think it means.

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When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

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UPDATE/EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was successfully removed from Facebook thanks in part to this article from Annie Reneau and also thanks to readers like you who took action and demanded accountability from Facebook. We're sharing it again as an example of how we can all be part of positive and constructive change on social media. Don't let the trolls win!

Original story begins below:

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As we say in the viral stories world, there's viral and then there's viral. A post with 100K shares in a month would be considered super viral. A post with a millions shares—even over a long period of time—is nearly unheard of.

So the fact that a post about Irish slaves has been shared nearly a million times in just nine days is incredibly disheartening. Why? Because it's fake, fake, fake. And not in an "I don't like what this says so I'm going to call it fake" kind of way, but in a non-factual, already-debunked-by-real-historians kind of way.

As someone with a crapton of Irish ancestry, I find the perpetuation of the Irish slaves myth utterly embarrassing—especially since it's most often shared in an attempt to downplay the history of Black slavery in the U.S. If it were true, that kind of deflection would still be annoying. But pushing false history narratives to deny the reality of the impact of institutionalized, race-based chattel slavery is just gross.

And to be sure, this is false history. To begin with, the photo isn't even of Irish people at all. It's a photo of Belgian miners crammed into a mining elevator around the year 1900.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Sometimes a boycott succeeds when it fails.

Although the general aim of a boycott is to hurt profits, there are times when the symbolism of a boycott gives birth to a constant, overt and irreversible new optic for a company to nurse.

When the boycott of Facebook began in June and reached its peak in July, it gathered thousands of brands who vocalized their dissatisfaction with the platform.

The boycott, under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit, was launched by civil rights groups. By July brands were fully behind removing their ad spending - resulting in a small financial dent for the social media juggernaut, but a forceful bludgeoning in the press.


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