Hello, welcome to your weekend!
The attentive reader may notice a strange interruption in this weekend’s newsletter. Above the divide, see Margaux’s cover story exploring how social media platforms can identify when users are experiencing manic episodes or other symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Its reporting builds on a decade of research showing that TikTok, Instagram and other sites can tell when someone is out of control, often before a user’s friends or family know. Although one researcher claimed that “a 6-year-old could tell you if someone was manic” on social media, the platforms themselves often do little to help.
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Now skip to the bottom of the newsletter and time what Metaverse builders really care about: legs. Avatar legs. The non-existent virtual reality avatar.
That’s not to say Mark Zuckerberg can’t think about sanity and digital appendages at the same time, but it’s striking how disjointed the real world and the imaginary are becoming. As we are persuaded by social media companies to spend more time and attention in the metaverse, young people using existing social media products are painfully disintegrating in the real verse.
It makes you wonder: When tech leaders’ attention shifts to the next massive social experiment, who cares about the people still living in the current experiment?
TikTok and other social media have become a go-to outlet for people with bipolar disorder, which can put them at serious risk of harm. Such was the case with popular influencer Gabbie Hanna, who melted last month in front of millions of viewers. Margaux explores the difficult questions surrounding the interaction between mental illness and social media: what responsibility do platforms have to protect users with manic episodes? What if the technology itself worsened their relationship?
Last week, the Meta COO stepped down after a 14-year tenure. With the start of the next phase of Sandberg, Annie assembled a cabinet of billionaire whisperers, PR consultants and marketing advisors to come up with a series of scenarios. Should Sheryl invest? Join another council? Try politics? If you’re reading, Sheryl, this is where you might want to look further.
Christopher Bouzy, the founder and director of the four-year-old anti-hate research organization Bot Sentinel, faces widespread abuse in his fight against trolls and hate bots. But as Jessica Lucas reports as she wanders through the hottest cultural hotspots of recent years—from the Amber Heard defamation case, to the slime campaign against Meghan Markle, to Elon Musk’s comeback fight to take control of Twitter—it seems he’s host of the match.
Sleepless nights were once a badge of honor among the tech elite. Now there is nothing worse than a sleepless CEO. Between sleep trackers, smart mattresses, supplements and subscriptions, there’s no shortage of ways to optimize a night’s sleep. Arielle talked to startup founders and technologists to find out what they use to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up with more energy.
See: First Chucky, then Annabelle, now M3GAN
What’s scarier: a future where advanced artificial intelligence becomes sentient, or a future where robots can twerk like Miley Cyrus? Terrible, the trailer for “M3GAN” offers both. The film, out January 13, stars Allison Williams (“Get Out”) as the modern-day Dr. Frankenstein, who brings home an AI doll as a playmate for his orphaned niece Katie. You can see where it is. It wasn’t long before the robot doll started cutting people up, pushing kids past moving cars, and occasionally running around on all fours like one of those TikTok girls from a horse. The trailer’s virality has all but ensured that “M3GAN” will be a box office success, and not just because of that crazy dance scene. – Ariel
Listening: A “new” interview with Steve Jobs
“It’s nice to sit in the car and listen to you smoke,” Steve Jobs told Joe Rogan last week. Sure, Jobs died in 2011 before he had a chance to sit down for an interview with the podcaster, but that didn’t stop the AI from wanting the conversation to exist. Podcast.ai, a weekly podcast created with artificial intelligence tools, compiled hours of speeches from Jobs and videos from Rogan into a 19-minute conversation. The result is eerily realistic, with the pair discussing everything from LSD to Microsoft chess. Now the podcast is gathering suggestions for which famous people will go to the powwow next: Albert Einstein and Buddha are current favourites. — Margaux
Reading: Bad news, bears
Alas, we bring you a disturbing new story of attempted election meddling: A spam attack this week targeted Greasy Bear Week, the annual contest hosted by Katmai National Park, Alaska, where the Internet chooses its favorite large sea urchin, all with the goal of raise awareness of conservation. Ballot stuffing resulted in 9,000 fraudulent points for a brown bear named Holly, according to NRP. When organizers discovered vote fraud, they added a captcha to the judging process, and in the end, Bear 747, a 1,400-pound man nicknamed “Bear Force One,” won for the second time. It is unclear whether Holly will accept the outcome of the election. — Monkey
Note: the birth of car sharing
Rarely tech-savvy Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Hollister clothing brand is introducing a new feature that retailers should have been using for years. According to the Wall Street Journal, Share2Pay offers customers without credit cards (such as teenagers) the ability to upload their virtual shopping carts to the Hollister app and then share them with others (such as parents, you h) to the checkout and payment. The Share2Pay recipient can also change and remove the sharer’s choices, creating a win-win-win: teens can push adults to pay; parents control teenage shopping habits; and branding helps convert browsing to sales. – Annie
who makes you think
Narrator: Sorry tadpoles, the legs are actually not soon.
Until next weekend, thanks for reading.
Weekend editor, Informationen