If I read another sensational headline – another overhyped story created for the sole purpose of getting hordes of mindless digital drones to click, tweet, share, and comment – I’m going to lose it. Seriously. The social Web has become a tedious game of who can turn trite minutiae into millions of hits and ad dollars.
If you saw last week’s Twitter firestorm over headlines like this one on Gizmodo, “T-Mobile CEO John Legere Goes on Curse-Filled Hate Rant Against Electronic Frontier Foundation,” you’d think the highly visible executive went off the rails, Mel Gibson or Alec Baldwin style. But that’s not what happened. Not even a little.
If you were expecting an epic meltdown when you clicked on the link and watched the surprisingly benign 24-second video clip in question, I’m sure you were greatly disappointed.
While Legere is no stranger to profanity and he did drop one lonely f-bomb six-seconds from the end of the clip, he didn’t sound angry or unhinged or anything. It certainly wasn’t what I would call “curse-filled” or a “hate rant,” not by any stretch. I guess it’s easy to turn almost anything into sensational clickbait these days.
All the hoopla, by the way, is over whether T-Mobile is throttling users of its BingeOn service, a practice that’s prohibited by the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Actually, there’s more than meets the eye here. There’s politics involved in this little mini-drama. Legere leans right, watchdog group EFF leans left, and, well, you get the picture.
Meanwhile, when popular tech site re/code featured an article entitled “Sixty Percent of Women in Tech Say They’ve Been Sexually Harassed” on its homepage on Monday, and highlighted a laundry list of damning statistics in the piece, it failed to mention the stats were all based on a survey of just 200 women.
The survey was actually spearheaded by Trae Vassallo, a former junior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers who testified on behalf of Ellen Pao in her highly publicized workplace discrimination case against the storied Silicon Valley venture capital firm. ICYMI, Pao lost on all counts.
The survey’s website, “elephantinthevalley.com,” makes no mention of how the women were selected or the survey conducted, except that all participants were relatively senior level. It does say that the inspiration for the study was the Pao v. KPCB trial. I wouldn’t exactly call it a legitimate, unbiased, statistically significant survey, but you’d never know that from the sensational headline or the article’s content.
Then there’s the notion of the unemployed, degreed Millennial. Some call this “the era of the overeducated barista” where recent graduates are known as “baristas with BAs” and headline after headline decries the woes of the job market for young people, including Newsweek’s “Millennial College Graduates: Young, Educated, and Jobless.”
While it’s true that Millennials are the most unemployed and underemployed new generation to hit the workforce in decades, “the popular image of the college-educated barista is really more myth than reality,” according to researchers from the New York Federal Reserve.
They say the vast majority of college grads who had trouble finding meaningful work following the Great Recession have since transitioned to higher-paying jobs and are far-outpacing their less educated counterparts. Apparently, underemployment declines with time spent in the labor market, “a pattern that has held for decades,” say the researchers.
Indeed, when I first graduated college back in the dark ages, I worked for minimum wage as a part-time bank vault attendant. I ended up having to go back to school and get a masters degree to eventually get a job in my field. It took years … even though I was an engineer. That’s what happens when you graduate during a recession. Go figure.
Funny thing is, the author of the above referenced Newsweek story was the same journalist who wrote what was more or less billed as the scoop of the millennium, “The Face Behind Bitcoin,” which adorned the cover of the magazine’s much-heralded return to print in 2014.
Unfortunately, her conclusion that the mysterious founder of the crypto currency, Satoshi Nakamoto, wasn’t a pseudonym at all but a Japanese American of the same name was widely debunked. That story was a blockbuster all right. A blockbuster fail.
While I’ve previously concluded that journalistic integrity is dead, I now see that what’s dead is our attention spans. We’ll click on anything. We’re losing the ability to tell fact from fiction, science from pseudoscience, reality from utopia, and clear logic from ludicrous nonsense. Or maybe we’re all just too distracted to care one way or another.
Wait, what was I talking about? Never mind.