Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday round up

1. The lonely lives of scientists*

There is a study that says FaceBook may (weaselly language alert) make women feel bad about their bodies.
Most spent about 80 minutes on Facebook every day. The most popular activities were reading the news feed and looking at photos, according to the study. 
Spending more time on Facebook was linked to a significantly greater likelihood that a woman would feel bad about her own body, the study revealed. It also was tied to greater odds that she would compare herself to others. 
That was especially true if she felt like she needed to lose weight, the researchers noted.
Unless, of course, the causality runs the other way. 

This should be obvious enough even for a scientist to figure out. FaceBook is the sort of thing that would appeal to women who already feel bad about their bodies; they can interact without actually being physically present to others. 

* I stole that headline from James Taranto

2. The advice they give

Slate's Dear Prudie column handles the case of a man who is asking his wife for a paternity test for an as-yet-unborn child. The advice Emily Yoffe, who writes the column, gives would certainly be good advice if the facts as are as reported. The problem is that we can't know that; we only have one side of the story.

Yoffe has a disturbing tendency to almost always take a woman's account of her relationship as true. It could be, as this woman claims, that there is no good reason to ask for a paternity test. Then again, who knows.

I'll tell you what would worry me in this case: this woman seems to really, really want a child. The man may be thinking that she really wants this child more than she really wants him. He may, as she claims, have no reason to suspect infidelity but he may also have noticed a significant change in her attitude towards him since the positive pregnancy test. It may be that the child is his but he suddenly feels pushed away. The woman asking the question tells us that this is the first serious relationship for her husband and it has led to marriage and children. If you were this guy, you might just be asking yourself how you got so far so fast given a previous track record like that. He probably hasn't thought things through but he has a sense that something isn't right and he started to fear this one thing because it's better to have a name to put to your problem than to be feeling scared of something vague and indefinable.

3. Identity theft?

The most fantastic element of the saga — the fact that Don stole the identity of a wealthier, more accomplished dead man during the Korean War and has lived it ever since — is there because it’s central to the series’ theme: that the American advertising industry is dynamic, but fake and inauthentic,because much of American society is just the same.
That is one of the 956,000 results that Google gives for the search string, "Don Draper stolen identity". The assumption that Draper stole his identity is widespread. It's not a claim that he stole his identity for it is made with far too much certainty to be anything but an assumption; the people who say this don't think they need to argue the point; it is as obvious to them as the fact that Don Draper has black hair.

I don't think it's true. At the very least, true identity theft means taking something that is someone else's and Dick takes almost nothing more than a name from Donald Draper and, except in cases of copyright, to take the same name as someone else in no way robs them of the full use of it.

The real Donald Draper was an engineer. Dick Whitman didn't set out to become him. He didn't set out to pass himself off as the other Don Draper. He didn't write cheques against the other guy's account, didn't apply for jobs on the basis of the other guy's record. Dick Whitman used Don Draper's name along with his serial number to apply for a driver's license and then went to work as a used car salesman.

I think Esther Perel, whom I wrote a post about a few weeks ago, describes perfectly what happened in the transition from Dick to Don when she described why people have affairs:
Very often we don’t go elsewhere because we are looking for another person. We go elsewhere because we are looking for another self. It isn’t so much that we want to leave the person we are with as we want to leave the person we have become.
When Don tells Anna Draper that he wants to get married, he suggests that she should meet Betty. She brushes the idea off. He wants to take care of her, says he owes her "this whole life". She tells him he'll have a family and that it will be good for him, "this is a chance at a whole new life".

4. Toxic Shame

One of the most popular explanations of why people behave like Don Draper behave the way they do is "toxic shame".

Toxic shame, according to the theory, derives from childhood fear of abandonment. Your parents didn't meet your needs and you blamed yourself. You convinced yourself that the way to please them was to appear to not have needs. This habit carries on into adulthood. These bad habits cause us to interact with others in ways that are ineffective.

I can't make up my mind about it. Part of it seems absolutely correct. I see my own bad habits match the theory. On the other hand, there have been long periods of my life when I have avoided these bad habits. I wonder if the problem is not that we have these childhood behaviour patterns but that a serious crisis of confidence can cause us to revert to them.

5. Me too!

Wish I'd written this:
“Mr. Campbell, who cares?” is one of my favorite moments of the show and maybe even of TV history. There’s so much about it that’s brilliant, from the way that it instantly subverts a seemingly very important plot point to the way it cuts to the quick of every thematic point the first season has been building. We’ve been trained for so long by television to look at these sorts of big, character-defining mysteries as the only things that matter, and on most shows, the revelation of Don’s true identity would have had serious, world-shattering consequences. Here, it’s just a thing that Bert ultimately doesn’t give a shit about. For the most part, nobody is ever as interested in us as we are in ourselves, and that’s a hard lesson to learn. Pete expects Bert Cooper to behave like a character in a story who really cares about the protagonist’s big secret; Bert Cooper is just a man who’s old enough to know everybody has secrets.
Read the whole thing. 

The author of the above piece makes the very good point that one of the bad story-telling habits of our time is to make everything hinge on the big revelation. This reflects a popular psychology that says that getting the truth out will make it possible to progress. Having everything build up to this moment only to have nothing change is more like what actually happens in life.

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