Experiences are personal

It is easy to think that many males may have a habit of invalidating women’s experiences.

But what also sometimes happens is that some takes another person’s experience and wants to own it, define it, take it away and completely bulldozers over the other person’s experience.

A few days ago, I saw a post online about some confusion about children who are merely young being “diagnosed” as having ADHD.

Another one of these “FFS!” moments.

Those naughty naughty kids! How dare they and oh, how incredibly SMART of the researchers in question to see that young children were  being put in boxes and being accused of having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.</sarcasm>

In the same discussion, I saw an educational psychologist moan about the difficulty of properly diagnosing children in a way that really annoyed me, but mostly in hindsight (as went for the topic of the discussion).

I have meanwhile identified why the comment annoyed me so much.

There was zero attention for the children, or even for only one child, in the comment. It was all about this psychologist’s need to be able to put children in the appropriate boxes.

If you do that, you steal a child’s experience and make it your own, to serve you. It focuses on what you need, not on what the child needs.

In doing so, you deny the child its own experiences, don’t you? You tell the child that his or her experiences don’t matter, as long as people get to put the child into a box, that that is all that matters.

To some degree, you are robbing the child of its own childhood.

The fact that children are being misdiagnosed as having “ADHD” because they are young almost seems to indicate that there is no such thing as ADHD and that people (psychologists?) are looking for problems that aren’t there.

Maybe they do that so that they can ignore more difficult problems that do exist. Why else would adults, and notably psychologists, do something as bonkers as this?

Or maybe it means that psychology is an utterly useless profession.

Maybe it means that standardized designer babies really are around the corner, with the option of creating children who never fidget and never run around and never dance or jump or scream.

(Just tossin’ a few options around.)

Poverty damages children

In my inbox this morning, as part of BPS Research Digest, an overview of the effects of poverty.

The British Psychological Society:

https://digest.bps.org.uk/2019/12/03/the-psychological-impacts-of-poverty-digested/

Turns out that poverty can be really bad for children, ruin their chances in life. I talk about this in my course, in the lecture on whether it is better to be tall than to be short. The factor that makes the real difference appears to be childhood nutrition.

But not only can poverty affect your brain, it also often makes other people treat you as if you aren’t a fully-fledged human being. Many belittle you or even ridicule you – and that does not help, in my experience. It does not help when the message “you’re stupid, you’re stupid, you’re stupid” gets hammered home over and over and over again.

There is this blind assumption, for example, that if you visit a foodbank, you can’t possibly have anything to contribute to society. After all, you’re “stupid”.

The fact that you’re poor is not the result of how “stupid” you are.

It’s the result of luck, or rather, its absence, as I’ve posted before. Pure chance. Poverty can be the result of having tripped over that wobbly pavement tile. (Or a hacker. Or a disgruntled employee.)

 

Stalking and criminal harassment

This morning, Laura Richard’s newsletter dropped into my e-mail box. Laura founded Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service.

The current approach, namely that stalking is a regular police matter, does not work. In my opinion, assessing and investigating stalking should become the domain of specialized task forces containing specialized psychologists, psychiatrists and IT specialists. They’d be much more efficient and effective.

  • Police now waste a lot of time and resources on “stupid shit” that is not actually stalking. It leads to police fatigue, the assumption that any new reported incidence of stalking is bound to be more time-wasting “stupid shit”. (Many police officers prefer to investigate issues like money-laundering.)
  • Police do not have the required psychology and psychiatry knowledge. It is fair to say that the stalking knowledge of the average police officer is similar to that of the average homeless meth addict. Police officers are not able to distinguish between cases that are merely “stupid shit” and cases that contain a serious threat to someone’s safety.
  • Currently, going to the police is often the worst thing to do when you are being stalked in a worrisome manner. It enrages the stalker but also confirms that he is in control and untouchable.
  • Police do not have the required IT knowledge. It is a persistent myth that stalkers always only use their own public name in digital stalking and never use advanced IT knowledge. And, unfortunately, police take any kind of printed digital matter at face value. (I could easily fake printed evidence that anyone – even, say, Barack Obama or Donald Trump – sent me an e-mail stating that he is going to kill me. If I use the name of any random local individual and print that faked e-mail to me, police are likely to accept it as evidence. Police prefer printed matters as they can be scanned into the computer system whereas any kind of other evidence “would likely get lost”.)

Specific examples?

Police clearly failed Shana Grice who was fined for wasting police time when she reported stalking, then was killed by her stalker.

Police may actually have precipitated the murder of Molly McLaren but, in any case, could and should have foreseen the attack on her, hence should have acted to prevent it, in theory. The murder of Bijan Ebrahimi could have been prevented too.

This is not the fault of the police. It is the result of police being unequipped to deal with stalking cases.

Shana Grice’s, Bijan Ebrahimi’s and Molly McLaren’s are examples of sad cases that make it into the limelight. Most don’t, yet happen anyway.

On the other hand, cases of stalking can also involve people with, for example, certain intellectual deficiencies whose behaviour puzzles other people so much that they don’t know how to deal with it and feel stalked. Police do not know how to deal with that either. Criminalizing such people (with learning difficulties or intellectual disabilities) serves no purpose whatsoever, and only does harm. It is a matter of educating the public. (I once spotted a poster about this at my local police station, from a foundation or charity.)

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/shana-grice-murdered-stalking-fined-for-wasting-police-time-michael-lane-trial-lewes-crown-court-a7637196.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/bijan-ebrahami-refugee-murdered-iran-killed-paedophile-bristol-avon-somerset-police-council-gang-a8116341.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/molly-mclaren-death-trial-boyfriend-tinder-kent-university-whatsapp-messages-a8175281.html

 

Facebook in trouble?

Facebook appears to know it is in trouble over the experiment it conducted (see previous post). On CNN, I read this morning that a spokesperson said it was research “to improve our services”.

It looks like Facebook is trying to jump through hoops. But Facebook doesn’t fit through the hoops.

When users consented to their data being used to improve Facebook’s services, most users will have assumed that this referred to services provided to the users, not services Facebook provides to advertisers. (When you’re happy, you are more optimistic, hence more likely to click on advertisements. Pessimists have a more realistic view of the world than optimists, but optimists likely see themselves as more successful than pessimists.)

And when Facebook users consented to their data being used to improve the services, they sure as hell did not consent to psychological experiments being conducted on them.

They may have expected Facebook to analyse the data and make use of the results of those analyses, yes, but they were likely thinking in terms of technology or something along those lines. Upgrading server x that delivers Facebook to country y. They may also have expected to see baby products being advertised to those who clicked on such ads and posted baby pictures, and office products being shown to people who stated that they are self-employed.

Facebook tweaking the streams of users to bring them the items it thought users wanted to see, that is one thing. I can be annoyed about Facebook not showing my friends’ posts in my timeline, no matter how many boxes I tick to try and get them to show and I can be annoyed about commercial posts I get shown no matter how many boxes I tick in an attempt to get rid of posts about products I cannot even buy because I am many miles away on the other side of the world, but that is an entirely different ballpark compared with Facebook deliberately tweaking the streams of users to make them feel happy or make them feel miserable, or even attempting to see whether it can or not.

Facebook – and the two university researchers along with it – has crossed a line, again. This time, Facebook has made an unforgivable mistake.

It is true that other media manipulate us all the time. But we expect that. We know that the BBC only reports what it wants to report and does not present an objective overview of society. We know that commercials feed us bullshit, that buying that car or buying that dress or perfume won’t make glamorous models suddenly find us irresistible. And I know that when CNN – CNN Money, that is – writes that “it does not appear that Facebook faces any legal implications”, CNN is trying to manipulate its audience too.

That does not apply when it comes to messages from our friends. It may still be true that we have one or two friends – or children – who may consciously or subconsciously try to manipulate us, but when it comes to messages our friends post combined, we do not expect those messages to be manipulated by a third party in such a way that we become happier. And we certainly don’t expect our Facebook streams to be manipulated to make us miserable.

Happy or sad?

 

Facebook could have conducted this experiment equally well after explaining what it wanted to do and allowing users informed consent. It chose not to.

The US Army provided some of the funding for this experiment. That does not help.

I have meanwhile realised how Facebook may be able to get away with this in a court of law. Facebook could claim that it was carrying out this experiment because it was concerned about the number of suicides and other problems precipitated by bullying on Facebook. It could say that it was trying to figure out how it could tweak the streams of its users to prevent such problems for its users. Unless some whistleblower provides evidence to refute this, that might very well work.

Facebook in for a major battle?

I just learned that Facebook made the blunder of conducting a massive psychological experiment on the users of its English-language version without their explicit consent. This is extremely unethical.

This is bound to have legal consequences.court

The Independent published about it today. The paper reporting the results of the experiment appeared in PNAS.

I hope to see class actions in every country that uses the English version of Facebook because this is most definitely not right. No amount of word-twisting by Facebook (or the researchers) can cover up that no users ever consented to this kind of experiment being carried out on them.

In addition, the university researchers involved in the study should be investigated and disciplined. If they were in my employ, I would sack them instantly.

They have damaged the scientific reputation of their universities and, in my view, do not belong in academia. I trust that Cornell University and the University of California will take the appropriate steps.

On the other hand, these researchers are highlighting a serious danger that lurks behind social media, but it does not appear that this was the motivation for their unforgivable conduct.