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Heard of the Greater Internet $^@%#!* Theory? Here's a perfect example.

Not many people will admit to being racist ... if their name is attached to it.

Heard of the Greater Internet $^@%#!* Theory? Here's a perfect example.

How would you feel if you read "Bash that bitch's head in," and knew that the head they were talking about bashing was yours? Melissa Melendez says it was "disheartening." That's an understatement.

In meatspace, aka IRL, aka the physical world, it's pretty uncommon for people to just stand up and publicly state, "I want to bash that bitch's head in." You walk around in life, feeling like you don't really know that many blatantly racist people ... but in an anonymous forum, you might see something like:



There's a name for this. Sociologists call it the Online Disinhibition Effect. Penny Arcade more colorfully (and accurately) coined the phrase "The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory." It's an observable phenomenon.

Basic principle: When we know no one can see us, our worst selves come out.

The whole story is ... I mean, you've got to hear it to believe it. But here's the gist:

Melissa Melendez went to Colgate on scholarship. She'd never been in such a homogeneous place before. She grew up in the Bronx, where she hung out with Dominicans, Puerto Ricans (like her family), West Indians, all kinds of people. She was a bit of a novelty to her classmates, too.

They asked her all kinds of questions:

"Do you know JLo?" "How many baby daddies does your mom have?" And my favorite:

She wasn't the only one.

Other minority students experienced constant reminders that they didn't belong. They staged a sit-in to draw attention to the racism on their campus. They spent a whole day telling their personal stories.

And at first, they thought they'd won.

The administration agreed to make some changes, including a focus on diversity in hiring and recruitment.

Online, though, things looked different.

Students at Colgate, as at many colleges, use Yik Yak to post anonymously about what's going on. They started posting a response to the protest that was, well, crazy.

They had no idea who posted the hateful comments and threats.

The students who organized the sit-in started going places only in groups because they were concerned for their safety.

Melissa's friend Charity, who was also involved with the sit-in, said that she wondered all day long about every person she met. "I think, 'Who posted that terrible thing on Yik Yak? Are they in my classes? Are they my friends? Do I hang out with them at parties? Is that the person who said, “Black girls are hot, just not at Colgate"?'"

Imagine how that would affect your everyday interactions.

What if you thought maybe your lab partner was the person who responded to the sit-in by posting:

Geoff Holm, a biology professor, asked the faculty to join him in a “Yik Yak Take Back."

He asked them to post whatever they felt like on the site — congratulations for a student who got into a great med school, taunting about upcoming tough exams, dad jokes. The one rule: They had to sign their names.

In the words of "Reply All" host Alex Goldman:

The crazy thing is, it kind of worked.

It disrupted this pile of negativity. It made the student protesters feel safer and less alone. Just having someone speak up made a huge difference.

Check out the full episode here:


Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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