5 Popular Apps You Didn't Know Were Messing With Your Head
Apps have revolutionized the way we manage our lives. Thanks to these little smartphone tiles, we can now keep tabs on friends, find a good spot to eat, and play a few rounds of Scrabble, all from the comfort of our own toilets. There's hardly any aspect of our existence which doesn't have its own dedicated app. So maybe it shouldn't come as such a surprise that, with that much influence over what we do in our spare time, they are slowly starting to decide how we feel, how good our food tastes, and even how we're going to die.
Mean Tweets Increase The Risk Of Heart Disease (For Everyone)
People being mean on social media has become one of those natural phenomena we've gotten used to in the 21st Century. Tsunamis ruin coastlines, cows disappear in tornadoes, and people will shit-talk babies if they can do it from behind the safety of their computer screens. Harassment on sites like Twitter has negatively impacted countless lives, causing many to quit the site to preserve their sanity. But mean tweets are more than an annoyance for celebrities reading them out on Jimmy Kimmel -- sending them may in fact be slowly killing everyone within a 10-mile radius.
A recent psychological study tracked close to 1,300 U.S. counties and about 280 million Americans, and compared rates of heart disease to the number of hostile tweets coming from those areas. The result was a staggeringly consistent relation between the volume and frequency of negative tweets and an increased risk of heart disease. How strong is the correlation? Strong enough that mean tweets are a significantly more accurate model for predicting cardiac complications than smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity combined -- and those used to be the gold standard for figuring out when people's hearts would explode.
But it's not as simple as people who write negative tweets being more likely to die of heart disease. The more negative tweets that occur in a specific geographic region, the greater the rate of heart disease for the entire county. After all, digitally savvy hatemongers aren't the ones who are dying of cardiac failure in those places -- they're often too young for that. And heartless.
This has led the study's authors to believe that "if many of your neighbors are angry, you are more likely to die of heart disease." This would mean that hate and hostility infect people as fast as an actual airborne virus -- sometimes with the same lethal consequences. Tracking Twitter trolls could thus be the easiest way of monitoring these Patient Zeroes for the stress, negativity, and pure unpleasantness that causes other people's hearts to shut down.
So if your doctor tells you you're at a risk for heart disease and need to make some changes, sure, cutting out red meat and going for more walks is a good start. But if you really want to improve your health, track down every neighbor with an egg avatar and crush their hands with their own keyboards. You can even have a post-rampage cigarette on the way home.
Pokemon Go Is Influencing Where People Eat, Shop, And Live
Pokemon Go is the latest proof that you can make people interested in anything, even walking, as long as you stick Pikachu in there. The game has introduced the concept of augmented reality to the general public, encouraging players to go outside and visit their local museum, park, or megachurch three towns over in order to play.
Although Pokemon Go markets itself as a walking game, a lot of its players treat it more like going fishing. In the game, landmarks serve as stopping points for players to receive items or battle other players. Often, a dedicated player might simply set up shop near one of these "Pokestops" or "Gyms" instead of rushing between them. So now, coffee shops are filled with patient Pokemon trainers, not just people trying to make sure everyone knows they're writing a screenplay. Noticing these trainers lounging outside, small businesses started looking for ways to lure in these new potential customers -- sometimes quite literally. Some resorted to using in-game items to make Pokemon appear frequently by spending about a dollar an hour on "Pokemon Lures" (which attract more Pokemon to a location) to corral herds of players toward their businesses.
Some restaurants even started making some of their products Pokemon-themed in order to cater to all those people eagerly waiting to jiggle a few more Pokeballs out of their nearest stop. And it seems to work. Businesses are citing profit increases up to 75 percent from owners "luring" in Pokemon Go trainers looking for somewhere to sit. Not only that, but some predict that these Pokemon Go trainers might become the most loyal customers these places have, because not only do they like their coffee shop for the great half-and-half, but it's also the place where they caught their first Eevee. It's their special place now.
Of course, if an app can influence where you go, eat, and shop, it might also be able to change your life in bigger ways. The Pokemon Go phenomenon has become so widespread that some homeowners are listing proximity to Pokestops when selling their property. So we might start seeing gentrification based on the number of Pikachu in an area. Even presidential nominee Hillary Clinton held a campaign event at a known Pokemon Gym at Madison Park in Ohio. Her campaign staff dropped a Lure Module at the park and met the subsequent rush of Pokemon Go players with clipboards to get them registered to vote. Although in fairness, we think Ohio would've been a Pokemon Blue state no matter what.
Pinterest Makes Users More Likely To Be Anti-Vaccination
Pinterest is the social media network completely dedicated to online scrapbooking, if scrapbooking entailed drunkenly staring at other people's perfectly manicured nails at 4 in the morning. Yes, compared to other social media platforms, Pinterest can easily claim the title of "least incendiary" by a wide margin. Also, Pinterest has a unique following among social networking sites -- its user base is 85 percent female, and according to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of mothers who use the internet are on Pinterest -- primarily newer moms between the ages of 20 and 29. It's basically Eat, Pray, Love: The App. But there's also a dark side to this maternally nurturing environment. A study conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University found that, based on a sample of 800 pins (images) about vaccinations, 75 percent contained clear anti-vaccination sentiments. Even more baffling: 21.5 percent of these pins accuse the government and the pharmaceutical industries at large of mass conspiracy.
Not that Pinterest is built to attract anti-vaxxers. It has simply become a breeding ground for creating new ones. Research shows that new parents are incredibly susceptible to becoming anti-vaccination merely by reading anti-vaccination rhetoric for no more than five to 10 minutes -- or your average bathroom break. And while pro-vaccination users prefer to combat this phenomenon with facts and common sense, the anecdotal, nonfactual nature of anti-vaxxers has been found to be more effective when influencing uninformed parties.
Unfortunately, much like their children's illnesses, anti-vaccination will be left to fester in the Pinterest boards. According to its spokesmen, Pinterest feels that intervening would be a violation of their free speech policy. So for the foreseeable future, a lot of people who spend their free time pinning and repinning will remain afraid of needles.
Tinder Ruins Your Self-Esteem, Especially If You're A Man
The beauty of Tinder's online dating mechanic lies in its simplicity. Swipe left for "no thank you," right for two tickets on the bone train to Pound Town -- or, y'know, a healthy and stable relationship. This quick and easy method takes a lot of bitterness and insecurity out of the dating game. At least, that's would happen if a lot of members weren't insulted several times a day for not responding to some dudes' dick pics. That can be very damaging for your self-esteem (for both parties).
A study conducted by scientists at the University of North Texas confirmed that Tinder is a great way for single people to feel terrible about themselves. Turns out that having a bunch of people physically flicking your picture off their smartphone screen so they never have to look at you again is bad for your sense of self-worth. Even though the app was designed to make dating more safe and fun, most female Tinder users feel less satisfaction with their bodies and physical attractiveness when directly compared with non-users. But even though the experiment was initially designed to focus on female Tinder users, statistics revealed that both genders experience a significant level of body dissatisfaction after extended Tinder usage. If Tinder were a drug, it would come with a label warning users of acute dysmorphia, blurry vision, and delusions of photogenic genitalia.
But while everyone gets to feel equally shitty about being judged on their looks, and men experience the same negative effect on their sense of self, only male Tinder users seem to experience decreased ego and develop feelings of exploitation. Even men who had above-average levels of self-esteem fail to withstand the negativity of Tinder, and repeated use resulted in diminished self-confidence.
Researchers did warn that this could be a classic chicken and egg situation -- that online dating could simply draw more insecure men, and that only confident, stable, manly men dare to approach women in real life. (Clearly, they've never seen the borderline sexual assault in countless pickup artist videos on YouTube).
Taking Instagram Pictures Really DOES Make Your Food Taste Better
Instagram is the reason we all know what our friends would look like if they'd gotten their picture taken with a crappy camera from the '60s. But even on this Mecca for the self-involved, there's still a social media caste that is universally reviled by everyone: people who take pictures of their food. Even restaurants are getting in on the foodie hate, banning people from taking photos of their food by claiming it's an irritation and distraction for other patrons. Which is their loss, because scientifically speaking, no one enjoys their food more than someone who has just documented it for all their social media followers.
Multiple studies have found that taking pictures of your food with Instagram does make the food taste better. Researchers from the Journal of Consumer Marketing claim that the act of sharing photos of your food significantly enhances the flavor and taste, after you've put the phone down and gotten around to eating it. After all, everyone deserves to get the best culinary experience their Hefe filter can muster.
The science behind it? One study cites the momentary active delay in consuming your food, which increases the length of time you savor it. Those few extra mouthwatering moments of anticipation have an impact on the flavor of your lunch. Another study shows that ritualized behavior makes food more flavorful and savory, and there's nothing more ritualistic than staring at your food through the lens of your camera and then letting it sit there as you dutifully type in a bunch of hashtags. Indeed, Foodstagramming might prove to be the greatest spice in history. We'll soon be at war with Spain over it.
Last Halloween, the Cracked Podcast creeped you out with tales of ghost ships, mysteriously dead people, and a man from one of the most famous paintings in U.S. history who years later went all Jack Nicholson in The Shining on his family. This October, Jack and the Cracked staff are back with special guest comedians Ryan Singer, Eric Lampaert, and Anna Seregina to share more unsettling and unexplained true tales of death, disappearance, and the great beyond. Get your tickets for this LIVE podcast here!
Follow us on Facebook, and give us a big hug, please.