It's been 10 years since Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg, now 29 and worth $31 billion, launched Facebook. Since then, Facebook has grown to 1.2 billion users worldwide. Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo says of its appeal, "The biggest impact of Facebook was that it broke us out of email jail. Email implied you had to reply, Facebook did not. Email is formal, Facebook is a salutation. Email you send, Facebook you broadcast. It's simply a new social medium for which we're still learning the social norms."
Peter Sealey, who's worked as a marketing director for Coca-Cola and Columbia Pictures and who now serves on Facebook's board of advisors, believes it's deeper than that, convinced that Facebook engages our need to belong. "Today, the Catholic Church has 1.2 billion members, and so does Facebook, in just 10 years," he says. "Humans have an ingrained need to have a tribe and to share among that tribe." It's estimated that about 143 million Americans check their Facebook pages daily, compared to about 40 million who say they read the Bible or some other religious text daily.
And then there's yet another perspective on Facebook's integration into our lives: "We have this idea in America about the First Amendment and the freedom of association. We don't have to register with the government who all our friends are. Like if someone gave you a form and said please list, you know, your top 50 friends, I mean, no way. Nobody would do this. Except we do this now all the time with Facebook," says professional hacker and tech expert Tod Beardsley. [usatoday.com, 2/2/14; AP 2/4/14; nbcnews.com, 2/5/14 stats]
The 48th edition of the NFL's Super Bowl (between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks) was the most-watched television event in U.S. history, drawing 112.2 million viewers. Some believe that in our media-saturated, time-shifted entertainment world, live events such as the Super Bowl are increasingly important cultural connecting points. "Big-event television is a great way for people to have a communal event, to talk about it socially and to talk about it as a group," says Bill Wanger, executive vice president for programming and research at Fox Sports. "You see that in the Super Bowl numbers of the past four or five years. They've just gone up to a different level." In addition, this year's big game was also the most tweeted live TV event (24.9 million tweets) and the most-streamed online event ever. [foxnews.com, 2/4/14; hollywoodreporter, 2/3/14]
Given the growing medical concerns about the long-term effects of concussions caused by football, 40% of Americans surveyed by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal say they would encourage their boys to play a different sport. [nbcnews.com, 1/30/14 stats]
Sixteen-year-old Bella Thorne, one of the stars of the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up, is under fire for her racy new Candie's ad. It features her posed suggestively in a skimpy bikini. "Candie's isn't selling clothes, it's selling sex and teaching young girls to act seductively. Thorne sends the message that being feminine has nothing to do with being genuine and that confidence means popping your hips and shaking your butt," says Katie Yoder of the Culture and Media Institute. For her part, Thorne seems relatively unconcerned with the controversy. "I am in my 17th year and I am being me," she told Fox News. [foxnews.com, 1/17/14, 2/7/14]
American Eagle will not use retouched photos of its models for its new lingerie campaign, the company says, preserving all so-called imperfections, ranging from stretch marks to tattoos. But despite the company's apparent good intentions, research psychologist Peggy Drexler says that this strategy can be just as damaging to young girls' self-esteem. "By calling attention to the bodies of their unretouched models, American Eagle is doing exactly what it purports to be rallying against: Drawing attention to women's figures and all their possible 'flaws.'" Drexler wrote at time.com. "A similar hypocrisy occurred recently when website Jezebel offered $10,000 to anyone who could supply unretouched images from Lena Dunham's Vogue cover shoot. Under the guise of supporting and defending a 'normal size' body, they were, in fact, making a spectacle of it. American Eagle is no different." Drexler goes on to say, "It's arguably preferable that campaigns continue the practice of airbrushing, and for teens and women to believe that most photos they see in advertisements and in magazines are enhanced, and couldn't possibly represent the truth. It's one thing to understand that you can't live up to a celebrity ideal, or to the picture on the cover of a magazine—it's not real anyway. But when the teenage girl still doesn't live up to the unretouched, natural, 'real' women in American Eagle's ads, how will she view herself then?" [time.com, 1/30/14]
"I find it relatively easy to keep my clothes on because I don't really feel like taking them off. It's not an urge I have. For me 'risky' is revealing what really happened in my life through music. Risky is writing confessional songs and telling the true story about a person with enough details so everyone knows who that person is. That's putting myself out there, maybe even more than taking my shirt off."
—country-pop superstar Taylor Swift [Glamour, 3/14; eonline.com, 2/4/14]
CVS/Caremark, the country's largest drug store chain, has announced that it will phase out the sale of tobacco products (cigarettes and chewing tobacco) by October, citing its desire to be seen as more of a health care provider than a convenience store. [nytimes.com, 2/5/14]
According to a study of 17,250 teen boys published in the medical journal Pediatrics, gay and bisexual teens are using steroids at a rate that is almost six times higher than their non-gay peers. Of the 635 self-identified gay or bisexual teens in that group 21% admitted to using steroids, compared to just 4% of straight teens. Experts explain the trend by pointing to higher pressure in the gay subculture to reach the "ideal" male body type. [examiner.com, 2/5/14 stats]
Advocates for legalizing marijuana sometimes argue that pot is a more benign drug than alcohol. But a new study indicates that marijuana's influence on drivers is anything but safe. Fatal crashes involving drivers under the influence of weed have tripled in the last decade, according to a new report from researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana," said study co-author Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia. "If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcohol drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving." The researchers' findings were published in the Jan. 29 issue of American Journal of Epidemiology. [Health Day News, 2/4/14 stats]
In the wake of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's death from a heroin overdose, fellow entertainers have been weighing in on addiction.
Singer and actress Demi Lovato, whose own problems with substance abuse have been well documented, wrote on Twitter, "I wish more people would lose the stigma and treat addiction as the deadly and serious DISEASE that it is. Drugs are not something to glamorize in pop music or film to portray as harmless recreational fun. It's not cute, 'cool' or admirable."
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis said, "Today is the fifteenth anniversary of my living clean and sober, free from the grips of a long, secret prescription painkiller and alcohol addiction. I went to sleep last night imagining the grief of the family, children, friends, colleagues and fans of Mr. Hoffman. His gifts, so powerful, his demons, more so."
Screenwriter and producer Aaron Sorkin, who also has struggled with drugs, recalled a conversation he had with Hoffman in which the actor told him, "If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won't.' He meant that our deaths would make news and maybe scare someone clean." [huffingtonpost.com, 2/3/14; time.com, 2/5/14; tmi.me, 2/2/14]