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Note to Self


Is your phone watching you? Can wexting make you smarter? Are your kids real? These and other essential quandaries for anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age. Join host Manoush Zomorodi for your weekly reminder to question everything. From WNYC Studios.

Is your phone watching you? Can wexting make you smarter? Are your kids real? These and other essential quandaries for anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age. Join host Manoush Zomorodi for your weekly reminder to question everything. From WNYC Studios.
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Is your phone watching you? Can wexting make you smarter? Are your kids real? These and other essential quandaries for anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age. Join host Manoush Zomorodi for your weekly reminder to question everything. From WNYC Studios.




Help Us Collect Political Ads on Facebook

ProPublica reporter Julia Angwin is collecting political ads on Facebook, all across the country. Just in case someone needs to check on them later. Like if the Russians bought thousands of ads to sway an election. And she needs your help. She and her team built a browser plugin that collects ads from Facebook, and asks users like you to decide if the ads are political or not. Ads marked as political are gathered into a giant database - the only repository of these ads available to the...


Meet an Online Emotional Escort

When we get big news these days, we reach for our phones. We text our loved ones. Husband, wife, mom, best friend. Or, in some cases, our Invisible Girlfriend. We all need someone to tell (or text) our stories to. Even if they’re paid to text back. This week, we revisit a story from 2015 about a service called Invisible Girlfriend/Boyfriend, and how it’s helping lonely adults use their phones to feel understood. Even to feel loved. Quentin, a man in his 30s with cerebral palsy, wonders...


How to Find the Right Amount of Screen Time

Screen time is a daily battle. Between kids and parents, between ourselves and our better judgment. But maybe it doesn’t have to be. There is a better way. This week, Manoush talks with NPR education correspondent Anya Kamenetz about her brand new book, The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life. Practical strategies, solid research, and some reassurance that mostly we’re all gonna be fine. Phew. And we peek at the extremes of screen obsession, from...


Dear Manoush: The Advice Episode

You send us a lot of questions about managing tech-life. This week, Manoush has the answers. Is there a secret to managing the overload of information coming at us every day? What about all those random accounts you’ve signed up for over the years - can we EVER make them go away? And how do we stay plugged in with friends and family if we decide to break up with social media? It’s the first-ever Note to Self advice show. WE HAVE LINKS While researching this show we compiled a list of...


Search Inside Yourself For Peace and Joy

Chade-Meng Tan was employee number 107 at Google. And before he retired at the ripe old age of 44, he created a class there, Search Inside Yourself. It was about mindfulness, with an engineering twist. He never said go deep into your emotions, because engineers would ask “How do you quantify deep or shallow?” Which itself is kind of a deep question, really… Let’s create some calm as this year ends. It all starts with one deep breath.


Alexa, Is Amazon Taking Over The World?

This week, the tradeoffs we don’t see when we shop on Amazon. How the company’s dominance from retail to web hosting could create a dystopia of social profiling. Why the answer isn’t to cancel your Prime. And yes, I test drive the Amazon Look so you don’t have to. Amazon is the new Standard Oil, the “titan of twenty-first century commerce,” as rock star lawyer Lina Khan wrote in her viral law journal note. Which, incidentally, might be a nice thing to include with your packages this...


"You Deserve to Die" and Other Fun Conversation Starters

Dylan Marron is internet famous. He makes clever and (actually) funny little Facebook-friendly videos about light topics like Islamophobia, masculinity, privilege. Which attract a *lot* of comments. Many loving and laudatory. Many… not. Like the message from a grandmother in North Dakota saying he deserved to die. The teenager saying he was the most pathetic human being he’d ever seen. A gay artist in Atlanta saying he was everything wrong with liberalism. At first Dylan was shaken. Then...


Let’s Check The Tape

An incomplete list of objects that are listening to us: Siri. Alexa. Google Home. The Nest. Our cars. Our smart TVs. Cayla dolls. All these listening devices raise digital privacy concerns, of course. But recordings can be really useful, too. If only there was tape from a courthouse hallway in Alabama, circa 1979. A mall in Gadsden, Alabama, early 1980s. A Congressional office building, a USO tour. You never know when a transcript of your everyday life might come in handy. The...


The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica

David Carroll is hunting for information. About himself. He knows himself pretty well. And so does a controversial marketing firm. Cambridge Analytica claims it holds up to 5,000 data points on over 230 million American voters. The company implied it was the secret sauce in the Trump campaign (then they took that back.) But this company may share your online marketing profile with political campaigns, retailers, and potentially foreign governments. What if you, the profiled, wanted to...


Revisiting Cambridge Analytica’s Role in the Presidential Election

The first chapter in our look at Cambridge Analytica. Back in March, we asked the controversial digital marketing firm what services they provided for Trump. And experimented with our own psychometric profiles. Listen to our latest episode to learn about the new lawsuit that could shine a light on Cambridge Analytica.


It’s Not Over Nyet

When governments start pulling the strings of power with algorithms and bots... we ALL become political puppets. Listeners, it’s time to consider how online interference moves into the physical world. President Trump recently met with Russian president Vladimir Putin who told him that his country definitely didn’t meddle in the U.S. election last year, online or off. Good thing that’s cleared up. But if for some reason you’re not inclined to take either (or both) of those two men at...


Spy Terms of the Internyet

Russian spy tactics have gotten an upgrade since the Cold War. This week how they work now: bad actors, active measures, advanced persistent threats. Cyberwar has its own vocabulary. So we got ourselves a tutor. Join Manoush and information warfare expert Molly McKew, who puts the fun in fundamental assault on democracy.


Nyet Just a Conspiracy Theory?

During the presidential campaign, Daily Beast executive editor Noah Shachtman opened up Twitter, saw all the vitriol and fake news and conspiracy theories, and thought 'Man, is this really my country?' Then Noah and his team started to investigate Russian interference in the election. Videos made in Russia, purporting to be from the American South. Activist groups invented in Russia, prompting Americans in Idaho to attend real-life protests. Is this his country? Yes. Also, maybe no. As...


Where Do I Go Now?

Manoush is a nice human being. Polite, punctual, present. But man, is she a rude robot. Recently, Manoush attended a conference as a telepresence robot. (Imagine an iPad, on top of two brooms, with a Roomba as the base.) And she careened around interrupting conversations, sideswiping people and disrupting panels. Literally an out-of-body experience. We lose track of our bodies every day now. We spiral into some Instagram stalking mid-commute and bump into someone on the street. We...


Play Video Games for Your Mental Health

If you’ve ever played video games, or swapped tiles around on Candy Crush, you know the feeling of winning. Like a light in your brain, a mental fist pump. But you probably also know that guilty feeling after realizing you've spent 30 minutes plugged in. That worry, when your kid spends hours on the console. Jane McGonigal, game researcher and futurist, is here to take away some of that guilt. She’s a champion of gaming as a form of self-help. Because, Jane says, that light you feel when...


Talking to Myself

Eugenia Kuyda and her best friend Roman had a habit of texting back and forth all day. When he was killed in a car crash, the void was enormous. So she put her technical skills to use. She gathered all his texts, his emails, his entire digital footprint, loaded them into a system that finds patterns in data, and created a bot version of Roman. Then she started hearing from other people who had lost loved ones. They wanted to make a bot too. And Replika was born. Replika works mostly by...


I Didn’t See Your Text

We used to RSVP to events. Now, invitations live in our Facebook notifications and group texts. And we just ignore them. It’s so easy to forget there’s a human on the other end. Asking you to show up. Renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel says we’re suffering of aloneness. Our phones create distance and intimacy at the same time. Esther has a way out of this strange paradox - some ideas for how we can treat each other better. We do, too. Well, Esther’s idea, our tool. Take five minutes...


Ghosting, Simmering and Icing with Esther Perel

So you’ve finally matched with someone you like on Tinder. Your chats are funny, smooth, comfortable. When you meet in person, you sit at a bar for five hours without noticing the time. “That was so fun! Let’s do this again!” “Yeah, sure!” “How about next Tuesday?” Then… radio silence. Ghosted. Or maybe the fadeaway is more subtle. You try to make plans, and they’re into it, but they’re so busy. A project needs to be finished at work, then friends are in town. Yeah, you’re being...


Forty Years of Coding In a Man's World

Silicon Valley has a gender issue. That's hardly breaking news. But things have escalated recently. Some examples from the last few weeks: The Ellen Pao saga. The James Damore memo at Google. The ouster of Uber’s CEO. The frat-house behavior at SoFi. The utter lack of consequences for VR startup Upload. Sometimes it's straight-up harassment. And sometimes problems stem from the bro bubble - nice guys, but they’re all the same guys. Everyone else “isn’t a good fit.” Ellen Ullman has seen...


Eavesdropping On Epiphany

José Cruz is a college student, research scientist, and phone power-user. He spent 6 hours in one day on his screen. So he wanted to cut back, make more time for research, reading, and mental drift. We gave José a copy of Manoush's new book, Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self. The book has a week of challenges, and José did them all. He recorded the journey. It wasn't easy, but boy, was there a payoff. Plus, seventh grade...