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max patrick schlienger, the ennui emgine, social media addiction
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A young girl deeply engaged in a doom scroll.

The advent of social media and smartphones has nearly eradicated the idea of the empty moment. We no longer have to sit with our thoughts when waiting in line at the supermarket. There’s no need to strike up a conversation with someone at the bus stop to pass the time.

One doesn’t even need to remember to grab a book before getting on a flight.

Social media makes the promise that it’s possible for us to be entertained and engaged during every waking moment. Writer Max Patrick Schlienger (@RamsesThePigeon on Twitter) challenges that idea by making a convincing argument that our habitual scrolling actually leaves us bored and listless.

Schlienger made his case in a Medium article entitled, “The Cargo Cult of the Ennui Engine.”


Schlienger says this trouble started once online content creators realized that the bar was set pretty low on the internet and they could get a lot of attention with minimal effort by creating low-quality content.

“Content creators took note of this trend, and while many of them resisted it, many more adjusted accordingly. After all, why should they expend a lot of effort on something when lazy offerings were seeing more success?” he wrote.

“Before long, accuracy, quality, and correctness became optional requirements, and online audiences learned to expect mostly low-effort content instead of refined assemblages,” he added.

While watching videos of a guy eating it on a skateboard on Instagram or someone explaining psychological disorders in 17 seconds on TikTok aren’t bad in and of themselves, low-effort content is quick and simple and demands little of us so we consume it passively. It’s a lot different than reading a book where we co-create meaning with the author or watching a film that asks us to make sense of complicated characters and plot developments.

Further, our constant diet of low-effort content also leads to more of it being produced.

“When we amplify these things—using our likes, upvotes, retweets and shares—we encourage the creation of more low-effort content, and in so doing, we send the message that higher quality offerings are unwelcome and unwanted,” Schlienger wrote.

“After all, if we enjoy the low-effort content, why shouldn’t we ask for more of it? Why shouldn’t we encourage it?” he wrote. “Therein lies the real problem, however: We don’t enjoy the low-effort content … at least not as much as we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking that we do.”

So how are we fooling ourselves?

“Every second that we spend scrolling represents a tiny investment of emotional energy, the well of which is slowly drained as moments pass. To return to a previous metaphor, we start off hoping for a jackpot, then grow increasingly desperate to just break even,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, since we’ve already demanded that we be served only low-effort content—and since that same jackpot is being buried—we’re doomed to lose every time. We point to tiny blips above a baseline of boredom as evidence that we’re still enjoying ourselves, and we deny that our banks are being depleted,” he adds.

Upworthy spoke with Schlienger and he compared habitual scrolling to an addiction.

“I think it's a great thing that we've been entering into an era where mental health is much more at the forefront of our attention. Folks are much more open about their internal struggles. And yet in spite of that, we're going around chain smoking and encouraging others to do the same,” he told Upworthy. “When you start scrolling, when you start looking at this low effort content, it's hard to stop. And, just like a smoker, you tend to snarl at anybody that says, hey, that’s bad for you.”

Schlienger believes that this addiction to low-effort content is rarely challenged because everyone has a phone. “I can sit and scroll through TikTok, and maybe that's bad for me, sure. But you know what? Nobody can criticize me for that because I'm using a phone just like they are,” he said.

In addition to consuming a lot of our time, Schlienger says it also throttles our motivation. In “The Cargo Cult of the Ennui Engine” he makes the case that every time we pick up the phone and go hunting for something engaging, we are burning emotional energy on an activity that will rarely replenish what it has diminished.

“It's like consuming junk food where you're not actually getting any nourishment, but it's still filling you up. It's getting rid of your hunger, although in this case, the hunger is sort of inverted and it's motivation. It's draining your motivation,” he said.

Schlienger’s theories are backed up by recent studies on social media and boredom. Researchers from the Netherlands' Radboud University recently found that “phone usage wasn't an effective method to alleviate boredom and fatigue and even made these feelings worse in many cases.”

Schlienger’s idea that passively consumed low-effort content distracts more than it alleviates boredom is echoed by psychologist Nancy Irwin. “Boredom is generally a quest for fulfillment from external sources. However, real fulfillment is an internal job,” she said.

The first step in overcoming the addiction to low-effort content and habitual scrolling is to understand its limits and to be conscious of our daily behaviors. Schlienger doesn’t believe we should immediately delete our social media apps, but to be more mindful of our use and careful about what we encourage.

“Instead, we should remain self-aware and discerning as we traverse the web, encouraging, applauding and insisting on effort and earnestness from anyone who intends to contribute (no matter how small or substantial their contributions might be),” he wrote in “The Cargo Cult of the Ennui Engine.”

“Amplify emotional investments,” he wrote, “not blips above the baseline.”

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

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Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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