Former Facebook exec says social media is ripping apart society

‘No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.’

Chamath Palihapitiya speaks at a Vanity Fair event in October 2016.

Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.

Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

He went on to describe an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” said Palihapitiya. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.” He says he tries to use Facebook as little as possible, and that his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.” He later adds, though, that he believes the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.”

Palihapitiya’s remarks follow similar statements of contrition from others who helped build Facebook into the powerful corporation it is today. In November, early investor Sean Parker said he has become a “conscientious objector” to social media, and that Facebook and others had succeeded by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” A former product manager at the company, Antonio Garcia-Martinez, has said Facebook lies about its ability to influence individuals based on the data it collects on them, and wrote a book, Chaos Monkeys, about his work at the firm.

These former employees have all spoken out at a time when worry about Facebook’s power is reaching fever pitch. In the past year, concerns about the company’s role in the US election and its capacity to amplify fake news have grown, while other reports have focused on how the social media site has been implicated in atrocities like the “ethnic cleansing” of Myanmar’s Rohingya ethnic group.

In his talk, Palihapitiya criticized not only Facebook, but Silicon Valley’s entire system of venture capital funding. He said that investors pump money into “shitty, useless, idiotic companies,” rather than addressing real problems like climate change and disease. Palihapitiya currently runs his own VC firm, Social Capital, which focuses on funding companies in sectors like healthcare and education.

Palihapitiya also notes that although tech investors seem almighty, they’ve achieved their power more through luck than skill. “Everybody’s bullshitting,” he said. “If you’re in a seat, and you have good deal flow, and you have precious capital, and there’s a massive tailwind of technological change … Over time you get one of the 20

and you look like a genius. And nobody wants to admit that but that’s the fucking truth.”


Emotional resilience: 10 crucial habits

There are few character traits more valuable and underrated than resilience.

Strength, bravery, intelligence, will—while all these qualities may be great to have, there is one common element they all share, and that’s resilience.

Emotional resilience is your ability to pick yourself up after you fall down.

Resilience keeps your nose in the book and your will alive, even when everyone around you has given up.

Emotional resilience is the difference between wanting a dream and turning that dream into reality.

And while some people naturally have a vat of resilience to pull from, the rest of us have to build it.

Here are 10 ways you can start building your emotional resilience and becoming a stronger version of you:

1) Find Your Purpose

So many of us go through life on a kind of prolonged autopilot. We go from one stage of life to another—school, work, marriage, family—without truly asking ourselves: what do we want to do in life?

Your career and your partner can act as substitutes for your purpose while you search for one, but if you never find the thing that fills you with single-minded commitment, then you will never truly want to push yourself as far as you can go.

2) Look on the Bright Side

We get it—life is tough, and staying positive and optimistic can be one of the greatest struggles you might ever go through.

Life can beat you down and make you feel like the smallest thing in the world, and there are times when you need to retreat and heal.

But that can’t be your only response. You have to stand back up after every hardship, and the best way to do that is by looking on the bright side.

Even if all the odds are against you, find the positivity, the possibility of a happy ending, and use that mental image to pull yourself forward.

3) Find Others

Humans are social creatures, and it’s no surprise that those with strong bonds and communities are those that have traditionally thrived.

Sticking to yourself might seem like the best option, especially if you have a history of being let down and even betrayed.

But you won’t be able to achieve the resilience you need if you have no one to lean on except yourself.

Accept your own weaknesses and limitations, and find others you can draw strength from in your times of need.

4) Never Stop Evolving

Your contribution to the world is the legacy you will leave behind. So what will your contribution be?

Just your presence, your effort, your kindness? Or will you leave behind something more unique, something that truly marks your place in the history you want to set?

It isn’t enough to just “be” if you want to stay relevant and resilient. You have to “be” the best version of yourself you can be, and that means evolving and developing your skills. Focus on your skills, build your strengths, and become a force that only you can be.

5) Set Goals

There is nothing more chaotic than a crisis, and for most people, a crisis is enough to rock their entire world.

Even the most resilient people will find themselves overwhelmed at times by the worst crises in their lives, but the difference between a resilient individual and someone who isn’t is their response to the crisis.

And that response? Set goals. Find your next step, and get to it as fast as you can. Start clearing the chaos before the chaos clears you.

6) Take Care of You

We all know stress. Some of us run away from it, some of us slam ourselves against it until it goes away.

But one way or another, stress has the tendency to make us forget about ourselves. Eating healthy, getting enough exercise, sleeping enough every night: all of these habits can go out the window when you are stressed, and that makes the situation even worse.

Always take care of you before anything else.

7) Adapt to Change

One rule of life is that nothing ever stays the same. It can be heartbreaking and tough when a great situation is forced to change, but refusing to adapt to that change can make or break who you are as a person.

Accept the inevitability of change, and get ahead of the curve before it leaves you behind.

8) Believe In Yourself

Believing in yourself is a key force you have in overcoming the stress of life’s greatest obstacles.

Even if the odds are stacked against you, saying to yourself that you are capable of what you need to do is enough mental motivation to get you through to the next stage.

9) Be Active, Not Reactive

Some of us wait for problems to occur. If you have a great situation going, you might be tempted to relax and let yourself enjoy the moment.

But don’t enjoy the moment too long: as stated earlier, everything in life will change. Problems that you never expected will come up out of nowhere, and your capacity to overcome them will rely on how much you prepared for it.

Don’t wait for problems to come up; start solving them before they happen.

10) Learn How to Solve All Problems

And finally, the most resilient individuals know that problems can pop up around every corner.

The better you equip yourself with problem-solving skills, the easier it will be to get through even the most alien situations.

And don’t stick to the same solution every time: be creative, be innovative, and find new ways to tackle old issues.

The more creatively you learn how to solve problems, the more resilient you will be when the worst days come by.

Can Introverts Be Happy in a World That Can’t Stop Talking?

Acceptance is key to the well-being and authenticity of introverts.
Can Introverts Be Happy in a World That Can't Stop Talking?

The subtitle of Susan Cain’s bestseller “Quiet” is “The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” The idea that introverts can still flourish despite the cultural message of the “extravert ideal” clearly resonated with a lot of people.

However, until recently, the science of well-being really didn’t support this idea. Study after study looking at the link between personality and well-being kept pointing to the conclusion that extraverted people tend to experience higher levels of happiness than do those who are introverted. But in recent years, a number of more nuanced studies have challenged this strong conclusion, and suggests that there is much more to this story than meets the eye. As we’ll see, it is very possible to thrive and flourish as an introvert, even in a world that can’t stop talking.

We’ll take a closer look at these new studies, but first things first: what is introversion?

What is Introversion?

There are a number of different conceptualizations of introversion floating around the internet, so let me clarify how introversion is treated in the scientific literature. In modern day personality research, extraversion is considered one of the main factors of personality. Extraversion comprises a constellation of characteristics– such as being outgoing, sociable, expressive, and assertive– that are all linked by a high sensitivity to rewards in the environment. Therefore, introversion lies simply on the other end of this pole, and is characterized by being more reserved and quiet, and a lower threshold of sensitivity to rewards in the environment.

That’s it. There are a lot of common misconceptions about introversion, however, such as the idea that introverts are necessarily shy (that’s only the case if introverts also score high in the personality trait neuroticism) or are more likely to be creative and imaginative (that’s only the case if introverts also score high in the personality trait openness to experience). Personality neuroscientist Colin DeYoung explains it as follows:

“People who score low in Extraversion are not necessarily turned inward; rather, they are less engaged, motivated, and energized by the possibilities for reward that surround them. Hence, they talk less, are less driven, and experience less enthusiasm. They may also find levels of stimulation that are rewarding and energizing for someone high in Extraversion merely annoying or tiring (or even overwhelming, depending on their level of Neuroticism). Their reserved demeanor is not likely to indicate an intense engagement with the world of imagination and ideas, however, unless they are also high in [openness to experience].”

The New Science of Introversion

With that out of the way, we can now dive deep into the “new” science of introversion. I refer to it as the new science to distinguish it from the earlier conclusions that were much more black-and-white (extraversion = happiness). As early as 2001, the literature started to observe a substantial subset of “happy introverts” in their samples.

One recent line of research suggests that there are multiple personality pathways to well-being. In this series of studies, I teamed up with Jessie Sun and Luke Smillie to take a more finely grained look at the multiple aspects of personality and the multiple dimensions of well-being (not only happiness but also important sources of well-being such as meaning, self-acceptance, autonomy, and personal growth). We found the following five aspects of personality were most predictive of a wide range of indicators of well-being: enthusiasm, low withdrawal, industriousness/grit, compassion, and intellectual curiosity. Therefore, regardless of one’s overall levels of introversion, if one of these other paths to well-being is cultivated, it is still possible to be a very happy introvert.

Another line of research led by Rowan Jacques-Hamilton investigated the costs of sustained extraverted behavior in everyday life. I highlighted the word “sustained” because it turns out this is a really important caveat. Prior research had shown that no matter one’s placement on the extraversion-introversion continuum, those who more naturally acted extraverted were more likely to feel authentic in the moment. Consistent with that finding, Jacques-Hamilton and his colleagues found that asking participants to “act extraverted” for one week in everyday life had “wholly positive” benefits for positive emotions and reports of authenticity for the sample overall.

However, the important nuance is that more introverted people displayed weaker increases in positive emotions, experienced increased negative emotions and tiredness, and experienced decreased feelings of authenticity over the course of the experiment. This research highlights the costs of repeatedly acting out of character, and also the costs of being forced to act of character (the experimenters explicitly instructed the participants to act in a certain way).

This has deep implications for the well-being of introverts who live in cultures where extraversion is highly valued and emphasized as the ideal way of being. C. Ashley Fulmer and her colleagues investigated the relationship between extraversion and happiness and self-esteem across 7,000 people from 28 societies and found that the positive relationship between extraversion and happiness and self-esteem was much greater when a person’s level of extraversion matched the average level of extraversion of their society. This research suggests that person-environment fit matters quite a bit when looking at the relationship between introversion and well-being. The researchers proposed a “person-culture match hypothesis” that argues that culture can function as an important amplifier of the positive effect of personality on self-esteem and happiness.*

Importantly, not all of these studies are quantitative. The qualitative approach offers a way to more deeply understand the lived experience of introverts. In an important qualitative analysis of introverts in the context of medical school in the United States (a context in which extraverted behaviors are frequently rewarded), Ralph Gillies and colleagues found that self-identified introverts mentioned feeling at times like misfits, questioning a need to change their identity to succeed in medical school, and being judged as underperformers. Here are a few reports from the self-identified introverts in the study:

  • “One of the issues that people may have with introverts in general is that they just don’t know what’s going on with them. I know more than a few people who have said that I was intimidating or seemed standoffish, just because I didn’t talk much. Just because we aren’t constantly talking and letting everyone know everything that’s going on inside our heads we come across as the weird ones.”
  • “After reading Dale Carnegie’s book on how to influence people, I felt the writer was telling me that I would have to change my personality/identity in order to make positive changes in other people’s lives.”

The researchers offered some recommendations for how medical school can be more welcoming and appreciative of introverts, such as pausing between a question being asked and the initial response and differentiating between anxious and introverted behaviors. Critically, some of the introverts in the study expressed immense relief and validation after viewing Susan Cain’s TED talk on the potential strengths of introverts.

All of this research suggests that perhaps the biggest key to being a happy introvert is simply self-acceptance; not forcing oneself to repeatedly act out of character, or to think of oneself as merely deviations from an “ideal” personality. This conclusion is strongly supported by a just published study in the Journal of Happiness Studies by Rodney Lawn and colleagues.

The Australian researchers had people indicate their placement on the extraversion-introversion continuum, and then asked them to indicate their ideal placement on the same continuum. It was clear that there was a distinct cultural preference for extraversion. They found that a whopping 96% of people believed that extraverted characteristics were more valued than introverted characteristics in their society, and 82.2% of the participants also believed it was necessary to display extraverted characteristics in going about their daily life. What’s more, the majority of participants (53.6%) wanted to be more extraverted, and those who were more introverted were particularly likely to want to be more extraverted. These findings are consistent with prior work showing that in the West, 87% of people explicitly express a goal of becoming more extraverted.

But the story doesn’t stop there. Lawn and colleagues found that the introverts in their sample who were comfortable with their introversion showed higher levels of authenticity than did those who wanted to be more extraverted, and were able to achieve a level of well-being that came close to the level experienced by extraverts. These findings suggest that simply making a change in one’s judgment about one’s placement on the extraversion-introversion continuum can have a profound effect on well-being and authenticity. As the researchers note,

“Introverts who can learn to be more comfortable with their place on the introversion-extraversion continuum, for example, better thrive in our schools, universities, and workplaces despite the fact that in the West these institutions are often geared toward extraverted behavior. We speculate that introverts might learn to become more comfortable with their own introversion in these environments by focusing on eudaomonic concepts such as maintaining a positive attitude toward oneself, and cultivating good character and practicing more self-acceptance, and developing their ‘signature strengths‘.”

My advice: if you can’t change your environment, you can always change how you view yourself. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than simply because you are different. Embrace the unique strengths you can bring to the table, and you are more likely to be happier, healthier, and feel more authentic in your everyday life. You, too, can be a very happy introvert.

Psychologists’ face off reveals humans can recognise 5,000 people

The scientists asked volunteers to spend an hour recalling as many faces as they could from their private lives, covering old school friends, work colleagues, past partners and colleagues.
The scientists asked volunteers to spend an hour recalling as many faces as they could from their private lives, covering old school friends, work colleagues, past partners and colleagues.

The next time an old friend meets your greeting with a quizzical who-are-you stare, you’re right to take offence: new research suggests the average person can recognise 5,000 different faces.

Psychologists at the University of York embarked on the study after realising that for all the work scientists have done on faces, they had never nailed down, even roughly, the number of faces the average human knows. They say it is the first evidence-based estimate of this figure.

Through a series of recall and recognition tests on volunteers, the researchers discovered that the human ability to recognise faces varies enormously. The study found that people know between 1,000 and 10,000 faces of friends, family members, colleagues and celebrities, with most racking up about 5,000.

“We were quite surprised by how high the top end was,” said Mike Burton, a professor of psychology who led the research at the University of York. About 2% of the population are thought to experience “face blindness” or prosopagnosia.

“We’ve studied faces for years and years and the main thing we always find is that there’s a huge difference between our ability to recognise familiar versus unfamiliar faces. People are surprisingly bad at checking a real face against a photo ID, and yet we recognise friends and colleagues over a huge range of conditions,” said Burton.

“The brain is doing something different with familiar and unfamiliar faces and that has been at the heart of our science for a long time. But we realised we were missing something if we didn’t know how many familiar faces people do recognise.”

The scientists asked volunteers to spend an hour recalling as many faces as they could from their private lives, covering old school friends, work colleagues, past partners and colleagues. They then moved on to famous faces: actors, musicians, sports stars, politicians and so on. By recording how the volunteers’ recall rates slowed down, the psychologists estimated when they would run out of faces.

In the next part of the study, the volunteers were shown thousands of photographs of famous people and tested on how many they recognised, even if they could not name the person. The scientists only counted an individual as recognised if the volunteer knew them from two different pictures.

The researchers arrived at the 5,000 figure by combining the results from both parts of the study. While the number may seem high, given that humans evolved in small groups, it may simply reflect the social importance of recognising friends and foes and vast number of faces we are now exposed to. Details of the work are published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Given the social lives of our ancestors, the ability to recognise thousands of individuals might seem like overkill,” said Rob Jenkins, a psychologist at University of York and co-author on the study. “But there are plenty of examples of overkill in nature. The venom of some spiders can kill a horse, even though the spider presumably has no ambitions to eat the horse.” Equipped with such impressive facial recognition skills, it may be that we have little choice but to remember so many.

Burton said the research could ultimately improve automatic face recognition technology. Today’s best systems are good at spotting “strangers” but cannot outperform a human when it comes to recognising people the person is familiar with. “If we want to make the next step, we’ll need to start copying that,” said Burton.

Loneliness: The Truth Behind Your Fear of Being Alone

What Your Fear of Loneliness Is Really All About

“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”
― Elizabeth GilbertEat, Pray, Love

There’s a campaign happening now in the UK meant to tackle loneliness and its effects on the general population. Everyone knows that London can feel quite lonely, even when surrounded by people. My attempt here is to solve the cause of the lonely feeling, not the effect of it. Of course, calling someone can work, also going to a pub and having a drink might get you closer to someone.

There are so many apps these days that can be used to combat this awful feeling of being lonely. But in my opinion, the feeling of loneliness itself is not awful, but the meaning we give it. I think that loneliness stems out of the fear of being alone, of being with yourself, your true self. It’s easy to identify with the person everyone sees in you, but when you are alone, who are you?

What Your Fear of Loneliness Is Really All About

That’s a question most of us, including me, are dodging because we’re afraid of the answer. We’re afraid that we might find out that we’re not good enough, strong enough, pretty enough or capable enough.

That fear is so terrifying that we’d do almost anything to not feel it, including hanging out with people who may not do us any good. Some might think that it’s better to spend their time doing something that does not necessarily bring them joy but it’s anyway better than being alone. Also, this loneliness may keep us in toxic romantic relationships, where the predominant feeling is attachment and worry, where people are not happy but they just go with the flow or settle because “probably there’s nothing better out there anyway”.

In fact, we’re scared that someone else might see the real us and they won’t accept us, because why would they? We know what we really feel inside and we know how broken we are. Most of us settle for a comfortable relationship, one that usually becomes a partnership of buying a house and raising children, while one or both feel the need to go outside the relationship to fulfill all their needs.

The fact that the rate of divorce is getting higher and higher is because it became accepted nowadays, but that doesn’t mean that relationships until 30 years ago were happier. I used to get asked the question: do you think it’s better to stay in a toxic relationship or divorce? I’d say option number 3, having a loving, meaningful, honest relationship where love only grows for the rest of your life. The only reason why we’re settling for the first 2 options and we don’t keep looking for number 3 is that we just don’t know any better.

How many times did you hear someone say: “true love does not exist”, or “Love is never enough”. Of course, it’s not, especially because that’s not love.

What is Loneliness?

When a relationship only keeps going because of habit, attachment, and fear of loss, why do we expect them to feel good? Because we don’t know any better. I’ve never studied this in school, probably neither did you. But when you forget to love yourself, you cannot love anyone else. It’s something that comes from inside of you, so how could you ever give something to someone else if you don’t have that for yourself? I know that some people wish that this weren’t true because they don’t feel that much about themselves.

They see the failures that they are therefore they cannot love themselves. Who can ever love a failure? I think that the answer is obvious: God. I’m not talking about the God presented to you by religion, but that Force that lives inside of you and that you’re probably not forgotten everything about. When you connect with that Force, you cannot feel lonely ever, because you’re never alone. My suggestion is just to take a step back and stop running away from the fear because it’s, in fact, the fear of fear itself that is causing all your problems. Take a look at yourself and think: Is it really that bad? Am I really that bad?

Whatever you think you did, forgive yourself.

There’s nothing worse than being separated from what is in fact, your true nature. Once forgiveness starts, the healing will start as well. Don’t run away from it and don’t be afraid of it, you are not alone and you have never been. You just didn’t know any better, at the time it sounded like a good idea, so you went with it. I promise you, once you reconnect with your Self, you will not need anyone in your life.

Also, that’s when they will come because you won’t make everything about your pain anymore, you will be their bedrock and they will love you for it. But first and foremost, love yourself, because without that all you’re giving is emptiness and sadness. 

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Why we won’t get to Mars without teamwork

American Psychological Association
If humanity hopes to make it to Mars anytime soon, we need to understand not just technology, but the psychological dynamic of a small group of astronauts trapped in a confined space for months with no escape.

If humanity hopes to make it to Mars anytime soon, we need to understand not just technology, but the psychological dynamic of a small group of astronauts trapped in a confined space for months with no escape, according to a paper published in American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association.

“Teamwork and collaboration are critical components of all space flights and will be even more important for astronauts during long-duration missions, such as to Mars. The astronauts will be months away from home, confined to a vehicle no larger than a mid-sized RV for two to three years and there will be an up to 45-minute lag on communications to and from Earth,” said Lauren Blackwell Landon, PhD, lead author of “Teamwork and Collaboration in Long-Duration Space Missions: Going to Extremes.”

Currently, psychological research on spaceflight is limited, especially regarding teams. Applying best practices in psychology, the authors offered insights into how NASA can assemble the best teams possible to ensure successful long-duration missions.

Astronauts who are highly emotionally stable, agreeable, open to new experiences, conscientious, resilient, adaptable and not too introverted or extroverted are more likely to work well with others. A sense of humor will also help to defuse tense situations, according to the authors.

The long delay in communication to and from Earth will mean that crews will have to be highly autonomous as they will not be able to rely on immediate help from Mission Control. The authors said this will be an ongoing challenge and having defined goals, building trust, developing communication norms and debriefing will help alleviate potential conflict.

The researchers also advised the use of technology to monitor the physiological health of astronauts to predict points of friction among team members, due to lack of sleep, for example.

“Successfully negotiating conflict, planning together as a team, making decisions as a team and practicing shared leadership should receive extensive attention long before a team launches on a space mission,” said Landon.

The paper is part of a special issue of American Psychologist, focusing on the psychology of teams and teamwork. The issue was guest edited by Susan McDaniel, PhD, University of Rochester Medical Center, and Eduardo Salas, PhD, Rice University.

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Psychological Association.

Journal Reference:

  1. Lauren Blackwell Landon, Kelley J. Slack, Jamie D. Barrett. Teamwork and collaboration in long-duration space missions: Going to extremes.. American Psychologist, 2018; 73 (4): 563 DOI: 10.1037/amp0000260

What your emojis say about you

Whether you like it or not, cartoon faces, stomping flamenco dancers and applauding hands have now entered your social life, albeit digitally.


While they once may have been novel or cute, the sea of emojis now available to you across digital platforms are the perfect punctuation to express your joy, laughter and sadness when messaging others.
“Hey, how are you?” is no longer a plain sentence. It’s now regularly accompanied by a round circle smiling back at you.
In a new paper published Tuesday in the journal Trends on Cognitive Sciences, a team of psychologists argue that as our daily interactions become more digital, scientists will benefit from studying them further. In particular, due to the growing use of emojis helping us get the same satisfaction from digital interactions as if we were communicating in person.
The researchers from Edge Hill University in the UK believe emojis enable non-verbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions, in today’s digital world.

Defining meaning

Just look at the tears of joy emoji, the well-known yellow face with squinted eyes and tear drops flying out. On seeing that teary yet happy face, you know that the person sending it to you thinks something is funny enough to cry with laughter.
Words alone may not have gotten their sentiment across.
“Different regions of the brain light up when you’re looking at emojis compared to not looking at emojis,” said Linda Kaye, senior lecturer in psychology, who led the analysis.
“We see something neurologically different, implying they function as non-verbal,” she said.
Source of emojis: Emojione
In the real world, the use of hand gestures and expressions play a vital role in the way we communicate with someone. It helps them understand our meaning while subtly providing a window into our persona, such as how empathetic or approachable we are, according to Kaye.
When you can’t see the person you’re communicating with, an emoji is an effective option. “It’s how you emotionally express,” said Kaye. And your choice of emoji can dramatically alter the meaning of the sentence it’s included in and how you should respond.

Imagine receiving this message from your best friend: “I tripped and hit my head on the cupboard” followed by that iconic laughing face. Their words let you know that person is not hurt, and is fact now mocking their clumsiness.
The same sentence followed by closed eyes slanting down with a downturned lip, the classic sad face, will illicit quite a different reaction — or at least it should.
No emoji at all would convey the literal meaning of the statement and likely illicit the same response as the sad face, due to the nature of someone telling you that they are injured. But the fact that the person is upset about this may not be as clear — the use of an emoji clarifies how the person is feeling.
“It changes the meaning of how someone should interpret the text,” said Vyvyan Evans, professor of linguistics at Bangor University in the UK, and author of upcoming book “The Emoji Code.” He was not involved in the new analysis. “Emoji facilitates more effective communication.”
Whether you like emojis or not, it’s likely you will have used them at some point. Kaye believes that as emojis are more widely used, they can reveal someone’s true opinion on something, for example during scientific surveys, to ensure their messages “aren’t ambiguous,” she said. “We could be using them more in psychological experimentation,” added Kaye.
Many museums, companies and even transport networks are already resorting to a mild version of this, like the use of a scale of smiley faces ranging from happy to sad, instead of numbers, when asking for feedback on their services. The response to them can have more psychological insight than regular words or numbers, Kaye believes.

The psychology of emojis

In a 2016 study, Kaye identified some personality traits linked to people’s use of emojis.
Differences in emoji use by language

According to the Swiftkey 2015 Emoji Report:

  • French speakers use four times as many heart emoji than other languages
  • French is the only language where a ‘smiley’ does not top the list for its use
  • Arabic speakers used four times the average rate of Flowers and plants emoji
  • Russian speakers use three times the average rate of romantic emoji
  • Australia’s emoji use includes double the average amount of alcohol-themed emoji, 65% more drug emoji than the average
  • Americans lead for the use of a random assortment of emoji & categories, including skulls, birthday cake, fire, tech, LGBT, meat etc
One key finding was that the people using them tend to be more agreeable in nature. This has a similar truth among people who more often use facial expressions or varying intonation when face to face.
“It makes sense as these are probably people in the real world who are more smiley to people,” said Kaye.
Another factor her team identified was that people who commonly used emoji were more socially receptive and empathetic, making them more approachable. “It says something about how we’re understanding each other and how we’re likely to interact with people,” said Kaye.
When probing deeper into the specifics during the study, people who were more aware of how they come across to others were less likely to use sad emojis.
“We found that self-presentation was negatively related to using sad emojis,” said Kaye. “The more people are self-aware, the less they use these emojis.”
But when taking this all into account, age, of course, has a role to play. Younger members of the population have had digital communication permeate their daily lives from an early age. The findings also apply more greatly to social networking sites and communication apps, but not email.
“[Emails] are considered more professional,” said Kaye.
The previous research found that almost 80% of people included in the study used emojis when texting, while 76% used them on Facebook and just 15% used them in email contexts.
But as more apps and sites invade our lives, this psychological insight could evolve, as including emojis in messages may no longer be a choice.
Evans believes that embracing emojis is the only option if people want to interact productively in the future. “Someone who is not using them is not an effective communicator and therefore not effective an inducing an emotional response,” he said.
Kaye highlighted the example of dating sites, such as, where survey results show greater success at finding a match among people who use emojis more regularly in their online messaging. The same survey also found emoji users were more likely to want to get married — and there are limits to the acceptable level of emoji use.
“This is something that now exists and people need to use them,” he said. “That’s just the way it is now.”

Why Children Aren’t Behaving, And What You Can Do About It

Boy completes his chore of raking leaves

Childhood — and parenting — have radically changed in the past few decades, to the point where far more children today struggle to manage their behavior.

That’s the argument Katherine Reynolds Lewis makes in her new parenting book, The Good News About Bad Behavior.

We face a crisis of self-regulation,” Lewis writes. And by “we,” she means parents and teachers who struggle daily with difficult behavior from the children in their lives.

Lewis, a journalist, certified parent educator and mother of three, asks why so many kids today are having trouble managing their behavior and emotions.

Three factors, she says, have contributed mightily to this crisis.

First: Where, how and how much kids are allowed to play has changed. Second, their access to technology and social media has exploded.

Finally, Lewis suggests, children today are too “unemployed.” She doesn’t simply mean the occasional summer job for a high school teen. The term is a big tent, and she uses it to include household jobs that can help even toddlers build confidence and a sense of community.

“They’re not asked to do anything to contribute to a neighborhood or family or community,” Lewis tells NPR in a recent interview. “And that really erodes their sense of self-worth — just as it would with an adult being unemployed.”

Below is more of that interview, edited for length and clarity.

What sorts of tasks are children and parents prioritizing instead of household responsibilities?

To be straight-A students and athletic superstars, gifted musicians and artists — which are all wonderful goals, but they are long-term and pretty narcissistic. They don’t have that sense of contribution and belonging in a family the way that a simple household chore does, like helping a parent prepare a meal. Anyone who loves to cook knows it’s so satisfying to feed someone you love and to see that gratitude and enjoyment on their faces. And kids today are robbed of that.

It’s part of the work of the family. We all do it, and when it’s more of a social compact than an adult in charge of doling out a reward, that’s much more powerful. They can see that everyone around them is doing jobs. So it seems only fair that they should also.

Kids are so driven by what’s fair and what’s unfair. And that’s why the more power you give kids, the more control you give them, the more they will step up.

You also argue that play has changed dramatically. How so?

Two or three decades ago, children were roaming neighborhoods in mixed-age groups, playing pretty unsupervised or lightly supervised. They were able to resolve disputes, which they had a strong motivation to because they wanted to keep playing. They also planned their time and managed their games. They had a lot of autonomy, which also feeds self-esteem and mental health.

Nowadays, kids, including my own, are in child care pretty much from morning until they fall into bed — or they’re under the supervision of their parents. So they aren’t taking small risks. They aren’t managing their time. They aren’t making decisions and resolving disputes with their playmates the way that kids were 20 or 30 years ago. And those are really important social and emotional skills for kids to learn, and play is how all young mammals learn them.

While we’re on the subject of play and the importance of letting kids take risks, even physical risks, you mention a remarkable study out of New Zealand — about phobias. Can you tell us about it?

This study dates back to when psychologists believed that if you had a phobia as an adult, you must have had some traumatic experience as a child. So they started looking at people who had phobias and what their childhood experiences were like. In fact, they found the opposite relationship.

People who had a fall from heights were less likely to have an adult phobia of heights. People who had an early experience with near-drowning had zero correlation with a phobia of water, and children who were separated from their parents briefly at an early age actually had less separation anxiety later in life.

We need to help kids to develop tolerance against anxiety, and the best way to do that, this research suggests, is to take small risks — to have falls and scrapes and tumbles and discover that they’re capable and that they can survive being hurt. Let them play with sticks or fall off a tree. And yeah, maybe they break their arm, but that’s how they learn how high they can climb.

You say in the book that “we face a crisis of self-regulation.” What does that look like at home and in the classroom?

It’s the behavior in our homes that keeps us from getting out the door in the morning and keeps us from getting our kids to sleep at night.

In schools, it’s kids jumping out of seats because they can’t control their behavior or their impulses, getting into shoving matches on the playground, being frozen during tests because they have such high rates of anxiety.

Really, I lump under this umbrella of self-regulation the increase in anxiety, depression, ADHD, substance addiction and all of these really big challenges that are ways kids are trying to manage their thoughts, behavior and emotions because they don’t have the other skills to do it in healthy ways.

You write a lot about the importance of giving kids a sense of control. My 6-year-old resists our morning schedule, from waking up to putting on his shoes. Where is the middle ground between giving him control over his choices and making sure he’s ready when it’s time to go?

It’s a really tough balance. We start off, when our kids are babies, being in charge of everything. And our goal by the time they’re 18 is to be in charge of nothing — to work ourselves out of the job of being that controlling parent. So we have to constantly be widening the circle of things that they’re in charge of, and shrinking our own responsibility.

It’s a bit of a dance for a 6-year-old, really. They love power. So give him as much power as you can stand and really try to save your direction for the things that you don’t think he can do.

He knows how to put on his shoes. So if you walk out the door, he will put on his shoes and follow you. It may not feel like it, but eventually he will. And if you spend five or 10 minutes outside that door waiting for him — not threatening or nagging — he’ll be more likely to do it quickly. It’s one of these things that takes a leap of faith, but it really works.

Kids also love to be part of that discussion of, what does the morning look like. Does he want to draw a visual calendar of the things that he wants to get done in the morning? Does he want to set times, or, if he’s done by a certain time, does he get to do something fun before you leave the house? All those things that are his ideas will pull him into the routine and make him more willing to cooperate.

Whether you’re trying to get your child to dress, do homework or practice piano, it’s tempting to use rewards that we know our kids love, especially sweets and screen time. You argue in the book: Be careful. Why?

Yes. The research on rewards is pretty powerful, and it suggests that the more we reward behavior, the less desirable that behavior becomes to children and adults alike. If the child is coming up with, “Oh, I’d really like to do this,” and it stems from his intrinsic interests and he’s more in charge of it, then it becomes less of a bribe and more of a way that he’s structuring his own morning.

The adult doling out rewards is really counterproductive in the long term — even though they may seem to work in the short term. The way parents or teachers discover this is that they stop working. At some point, the kid says, “I don’t really care about your reward. I’m going to do what I want.” And then we have no tools. Instead, we use strategies that are built on mutual respect and a mutual desire to get through the day smoothly.

You offer pretty simple guidance for parents when they’re confronted with misbehavior and feel they need to dole out consequences. You call them the four R’s. Can you walk me through them?

The four R’s will keep a consequence from becoming a punishment. So it’s important to avoid power struggles and to win the kid’s cooperation. They are: Any consequence should be revealed in advance, respectful, related to the decision the child made, and reasonable in scope.

Generally, by the time they’re 6 or 7 years old, kids know the rules of society and politeness, and we don’t need to give them a lecture in that moment of misbehavior to drill it into their heads. In fact, acting in that moment can sometimes be counterproductive if they are amped up, their amygdala’s activated, they’re in a tantrum or excited state, and they can’t really learn very well because they can’t access the problem-solving part of their brain, the prefrontal cortex, where they’re really making decisions and thinking rationally. So every misbehavior doesn’t need an immediate consequence.

You even tell parents, in the heat of the moment, it’s OK to just mumble and walk away. What do you mean?

That’s when you are looking at your child, they are not doing what you want, and you cannot think of what to do. Instead of jumping in with a bribe or a punishment or yelling, you give yourself some space. Pretend you had something on the stove you need to grab or that you hear something ringing in the other room and walk away. That gives you just a little space to gather your thoughts and maybe calm down a little bit so you can respond to their behavior from the best place in you — from your best intentions as a parent.

I can imagine skeptics out there, who say, “But kids need to figure out how to live in a world that really doesn’t care what they want. You’re pampering them!” In fact, you admit your own mother sometimes feels this way. What do you say to that?

I would never tell someone who’s using a discipline strategy that they feel really works that they’re wrong. What I say to my mom is, “The tools and strategies that you used and our grandparents used weren’t wrong, they just don’t work with modern kids.” Ultimately, we want to instill self-discipline in our children, which will never happen if we’re always controlling them.

If we respond to our kids’ misbehavior instead of reacting, we’ll get the results we want. I want to take a little of the pressure off of parenting; each instance is not life or death. We can let our kids struggle a little bit. We can let them fail. In fact, that is the process of childhood when children misbehave. It’s not a sign of our failure as parents. It’s normal.

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That Obscure Subject of Desire

Let’s talk about pleasure. I keep hearing a particular gripe about this cultural shift, and maybe you have too. Some people have been calling this movement Puritanical or a return to Victorian values, where men can’t behave or speak sexually around dainty, delicate, fragile women. To these people I want to say:

The current system is Puritanical. Maybe men can say and do whatever they want, but women cannot. The current system inhibits women from expressing our desires, wants and needs, from seeking our pleasure. Let me tell you about my own experience:

I turned 12 on the set of my first film, The Professional, in which I played a young girl who befriends a hitman and hopes to avenge the murder of her family by a corrupt DEA officer. The character is simultaneously discovering and developing her womanhood, her desire, and her voice. At that moment in my life, I, too, was discovering my own womanhood, my own desire, and my own voice.

I was so excited, at 13, when the film was released and my work and my art would have a human response. I excitedly opened my first fan mail, to read a rape fantasy a man had written to me. A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday, euphemistically the date I would be legal to sleep with. Movie reviewers talked about my “budding breasts” in reviews. I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually, I would feel unsafe, and that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body, to my great discomfort.

I quickly adjusted my behavior. I rejected any role that even had a kissing scene, and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews. I emphasized my bookishness and seriousness and cultivated a way of public dressing that was stereotypically “elegant and refined.” I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy and serious — in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and my voice would be listened to.

At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me. I felt the need to cover my body, and to inhibit my expression and my work, in order to send my own message to the world that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect. The response to my expression- from small comments about my body to more threatening, deliberate statements, served to control my behavior, through an environment of sexual terrorism — where even a woman who is not directly subject to assault, feels threatened by the environment of violence to inhibit her behavior.

A world in which I could wear whatever I want, say whatever I want, and express my desire however I want, without fearing for my physical safety or reputation — that would be the world in which female desire and sexuality could have its greatest expression and fulfillment. That world we want to build, is the opposite of puritanical.

One of my girlfriends from school used to joke: “sometimes it’s easier to just kiss the guy than explain to him why you don’t want to.” We would all laugh, but the message was clear — we were more worried about offending the guy, or being uncomfortable with him, or hurting his feelings, than about doing what we wanted to do.

As girls, we were socialized to spend our time making ourselves look attractive to guys- our hair, our makeup, our bodies. We learned our best angles for them, the things boys liked us to say — and the things they didn’t like us to. We were able to see ourselves through their eyes, and dictate our behavior by what they wanted us to be like. And it made us sometimes forget to ask what we, ourselves, wanted. And often made us unable to even know what we, ourselves wanted, because we were so caught up in thinking about what they wanted.

Well let’s not make our new world about we and they, about us and them. Considering what someone else desires isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it’s a form of empathy. The consideration just needs to be reciprocal, and not at the expense of one’s own desire.

So I’d like to propose one way to continue moving this revolution forward: Let’s declare loud and clear: This is what I want. This is what I need. This is what I desire. This is how you can help me achieve pleasure.

To people of all genders here with us today, let us find a space where we mutually, consensually look out for each other’s pleasure, and allow the vast, limitless range of desire to be expressed.

Let’s make a revolution of desire.

Marriage Has Become a Trophy

A wedding is no longer the first step into adulthood that it once was, but, often, the last.

The decline of marriage is upon us. Or, at least, that’s what the zeitgeist would have us believe. In 2010, when Time magazine and the Pew Research Center famously asked Americans whether they thought marriage was becoming obsolete, 39 percent said yes. That was up from 28 percent when Time asked the question in 1978. Also, since 2010, the Census Bureau has reported that married couples have made up less than half of all households; in 1950 they made up 78 percent. Data such as these have led to much collective handwringing about the fate of the embattled institution.

An illustration of husband and wife figurines on a cake, with a stroller, graduation caps, and a mailbox full of money

But there is one statistical tidbit that flies in the face of this conventional wisdom: A clear majority of same-sex couples who are living together are now married. Same-sex marriage was illegal in every state until Massachusetts legalized it in 2004, and it did not become legal nationwide until the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. Two years after that decision, 61 percent of same-sex couples who were sharing a household were married, according to a set of surveys by Gallup. That’s a high take-up rate: Just because same-sex couples are able to marry doesn’t mean that they have to; and yet large numbers have seized the opportunity. (That’s compared with 89 percent of different-sex couples.)

The move toward marriage has not been driven by young gay and lesbian couples rushing to the altar. In both the year before and the year after Obergefell, only one out of seven people whom the Census Bureau classified as in a same-sex marriage was age 30 or younger, according to calculations I’ve done based on the bureau’s American Community Survey. In fact, half of them were age 50 or older. The only way that could have happened, given that same-sex marriage has been legal for less than 15 years, is if large numbers of older same-sex couples who had been together for many years took advantage of the new laws. In other words, changes in state and federal laws seem to have spurred a backlog of committed, medium- to long-term couples to marry.

Why would they choose to do so after living, presumably happily, as cohabiting unmarried partners? In part, they may have married to take advantage of the legal rights and benefits of married couples, such as the ability to submit a joint federal tax return. But the legal issues, important as they are, appear secondary. In a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 84 percent of LGBT individuals said that “love” was a very important reason to marry, and 71 percent said “companionship” was very important, compared to 46 percent who said that “legal rights and benefits” are very important.

Yet the emphasis on love and companionship is not enough to explain the same-sex marriage boom. Without doubt, most of the middle-aged same-sex couples who have married of late already had love and companionship—otherwise they would not have still been together. So why marry now? Marriage became for them a public marker of their successful union, providing them the opportunity to display their love and companionship to family and friends. One reason, of course, was the desire to claim a right so long denied, but that only further underlines the way in which marriage today signals to the wider community the success of a long-standing relationship.

In this sense, these gay couples were falling right in line with the broader American pattern right now: For many people, regardless of sexual orientation, a wedding is no longer the first step into adulthood that it once was, but, often, the last. It is a celebration of all that two people have already done, unlike a traditional wedding, which was a celebration of what a couple would do in the future.

Consistent with this shift in meaning, different-sex couples, like the many of the same-sex couples who have married recently, are starting their marriages later in their lives. According to the Census Bureau, the median age at first marriage—the age at which half of all marriages occur—was 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men in 2017. That’s higher than at any time since the Census began keeping records in 1890. It is six years higher than when I got married in 1972 (at the typical age of 24). In my era, a young couple usually got married first, then moved in together, then started their adult roles as workers or homemakers, and then had children. (I scandalized my parents by living with my future wife before I married her.) Now marriage tends to come after most of these markers are attained.

The main distinction in marriage patterns today is between Americans who have attained at least a bachelor’s degree and those with less education. The college-educated are more likely to eventually marry, even though they may take longer to get around to it. In addition, nearly nine out of 10 wait until after they marry to have children, whereas a majority of those without college educations have a first child before they marry. Rates of divorce have been dropping across the board since about 1980, but the drop has been steeper for the college-educated. In the mid-20th century, people’s educational level had less impact on when, whether, and for how long they married. Today, marriage is a much more central part of family life among the college educated.

Nevertheless, the last-step view of marriage is common across all educational groups in United States. And it is being carried to the nth degree in Scandinavia. In Norway and Sweden, a majority of the population marries, but weddings often take place long after a couple starts to have children, or even after all of their children are born. The median age at first marriage in Norway is an astounding 39 for men and 38 for women, according to a recent estimate—six to eight years higher than the median age at first childbirth. In Sweden, one study found that 17 percent of all marriages had occurred after the couple had had two children. Why do they even bother to marry at such a late stage of their unions? Norwegians told researchers that they view marriage as a way to demonstrate love and commitment and to celebrate with relatives and friends the family they have constructed. This is capstone marriage: The wedding is the last brick put in place to finally complete the building of the family.

Americans have tended to rank marriage as more important than Europeans do for as long as there have been Americans. The transatlantic difference extends back to the Calvinist settlers who believed in the exalted place of marriage found in Martin Luther’s theology. And the difference has persisted: Between 2005 and 2009, the World Values Survey asked samples of people in various Western countries whether they agreed with the statement, “Marriage is an outdated institution.” Just 12.6 percent of Americans agreed, which is smaller than the proportion who agreed in any of the Western European nations surveyed, including heavily Catholic Italy (where 18.1 percent agreed) and Spain (31.6 percent).

Justice Anthony Kennedy reflected this high American regard for marriage when he wrote for the majority of the Court in Obergefell, “Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.” Although many on the cultural and political left applauded the Court’s decision, Kennedy’s language was quite traditionalist. In fact, plenty of Americans view marriage as, at best, one of many lifestyle choices and, at worst, a deeply flawed heterosexual institution that should be transcended. Some go as far as to argue that families headed by married couples should be replaced by networks of friends and past and present romantic partners.

The alternative visions are far from replacing marriage. It is an open question, however, how much longer marriage will continue to dominate American family life. According to the General Social Survey, a national survey of Americans conducted every other year, the percentage of Americans who agreed with the statement, “It is alright for a couple to live together without intending to get married,” increased from 41 percent in 1994 to 57 percent in 2012, the last time the question was asked. Moreover, the material foundations of marriage have weakened. America is well past the heyday of the farm family in which a husband and wife united in labor and raised children to help work the land. Marriage seems to operate best today for parents who pool two incomes and invest heavily in their children’s development. Yet these investments could be made by parents in long-term cohabiting relationships. The dominance of marriage may simply be due to what the sociologist William Ogburn called “cultural lag”: the tendency of attitudes and values to change more slowly than the material conditions that underlie them.

There may soon be a slowdown in the proportion of same-sex couples who choose to marry. Sometime soon, the backlog of same-sex couples wishing to marry will be depleted. At that point, marriage rates among same-sex couples will depend largely on what younger people in recently formed relationships do. Many of them may do the same things that younger different-sex couples are doing: live together in cohabiting relationships, postpone marriage, and ultimately choose marriage less frequently than their parents’ generation did. If that happens, the rate of same-sex marriage will slow. But it will surely persist—more, to be sure, as a common last step into adulthood than as a first.

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