Some Things I Did On The Internet I Don’t Want Anyone To Know About: On Neopets and the Ashley Madison Leak

Some Things I Did On The Internet I Don’t Want Anyone To Know About: On Neopets and the Ashley Madison Leak

In the wake of the Ashley Madison breach, there’s been a lot of talk about the notion of “justified” leaks. In recent memory, “The Fappening” iCloud photo leak in 2014 resulted in a number of celebrities’ private photos making their way on the Web. The Internet was largely outraged and supportive of Jennifer Lawrence—arguably one of the more famous victims—and echoed her sentiments that the photo leak was tantamount to a sex crime, but this time around we’re a lot less concerned about protecting the privacy of some 37 million people whose Ashley Madison account information was leaked by vigilante hackers who took it upon themselves to Hester Prynne all those alleged adulterers.

Now I’m no Josh Duggar fan, and I’m not too keen on Sam Rader, the YouTube dad who siphoned his wife’s urine for a pregnancy test, either, but I do believe that every person deserves the modicum privacy they’re supposed to be entitled to online, regardless of where their behavior may fall on my personal moral compass. I generally embrace the notion that if you don’t want something to go viral, you shouldn’t do/type/sign up for it, but do we really want to live our Internet lives as though hackers might always be watching?

If that were the case, we’d never make another online purchase we were too embarrassed to make at a brick and mortar store. We’d never find the answer to another health question we were too nervous to ask our doctor. We’d never discover new communities. There’s a lot of shady and downright awful stuff available on the Web (e.g. ignorant diatribes on Facebook and zit popping videos), but Internet privacy is something we should all be entitled to (unless you’re up to something illegal, of course), whether we’re ordering a blow-up doll or signing up for a recipe newsletter.

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Instagram Banned #Curvy, And Here’s Why It’s Supremely Uncool

Instagram Banned #Curvy, And Here’s Why It’s Supremely Uncool

In a move that quickly enraged the Internet, Instagram banned the hashtag “curvy” because the tag violated Instagram’s policies and was being used inappropriately to share pornographic material. As a follower of Kylie Jenner on Instagram, I casually stumble upon my quotient of unexpected sexy selfies without needing to explore too much, so I can’t comment on what level #curvy has blighted the application’s sterling reputation. For me, one of the great things about Instagram is that it’s relatively safe to scroll through in public, something that can’t be said of contemporaries like Tumblr or Reddit. On Instagram, I can be reasonably assured that when I look through my feed on the train, I’m going to see more artistic pictures of laptops and coffee than I will penises, and I appreciate that. But going the systemic route and blocking #curvy altogether is a really bizarre way to address a legitimate policy violation problem.

Because #curvy was apparently synonymous with naughty pix, I went on Instagram looking to find images that violate their policies. And I have to tell you, I didn’t have to get too creative to come across a fair number of penises and breasts. The individual offending images have been censored here, because unlike Instagram it just made more sense to me to block individual images rather than striking their hashtags from the record entirely.

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Despite #curvy being blacklisted, images are still allowed to be tagged with #hot, #boobsfordays (which I mean, is that tag ever taking someone to a relatable Julie Louis-Dreyfus meme?), #sexybeast, and countless others that explicitly imply you’re going to come across pictures of some hot person’s naughty parts. It’s weird how prevalent these graphic images are, because Instagram’s policy on pornography and nudity seems pretty straightforward:

You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service.

Sure, sounds fine to me. But if you’ve been on Insta lately, it’s pretty obvious the application is cherrypicking when they’re enforcing their policies, and that’s the real crux of the issue. Why make an example of #curvy, a tag that has legitimacy in representing the body positive community on an important social media platform, when #boobsfordays gets to stick around? More to the point, if the issue is the misuse of tags or an effort to filter content that isn’t relevant, why do meaningless tags like #follow4follow have a home there?

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What community does #follow4follow represent? Who does it bring together, aside from the Instagram users most desperate to raise their follower count? What message does it send, if any? Despite it’s apparent misuse, #curvy contributed to something important, worthwhile, and good, even though I disagree with the notion that “curvy” is interchangeable with “plus size.” Nevertheless, Instagram is an influential platform, and being able to glorify curvy (plus size, whatever, etc.) bodies there is significant.

I really wanted to give Instagram the benefit of the doubt that this epic ban had nothing to do with body policing, but when I searched #thin, I was surprised by what I found. First of all, I received this prompt on Instagram for the first time ever:

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Um, wait. Generally, if an application or website is enforcing strict terms of use, messages like this don’t need to exist because in theory there is no graphic or offensive content to come across. There’s a larger issue here that Instagram is a place where nipples and naked bodies cannot be seen, but images that could potentially promote eating disorders are okay. Personally, I’m of the opinion that an emaciated body is every bit as obscene–albeit for different reasons–as a curvy, sexually-suggestive one, but that’s a different matter.

When I finally got to these #thin images that I fully expected to haunt me, I came across the mother load of Instagram porn (which has been censored for this article):

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Look at all those images violating the terms! And right under our noses masquerading as #thin! Why would #curvy get tossed, but all this #thin porn remains? You can’t tell me the Official Tag Banners at Instagram didn’t search for related tags before making the decision that curvy had to be expunged for the good of Instagram. Clearly, people are using adjectives that often describe bodies to smuggle porn onto Instagram, and if that’s the case, why not ban all those tags? Curvy, thin, stocky, slender, pear-shaped, lithe–they all must go! Categorically ban them all if they’re so subversive, but don’t single curvy out.

Banning #curvy sends a really icky, crawly message, and gives deference to the idea that curvy bodies 1) first and foremost associated with sex above everything else (which isn’t something that should be assumed of any body type/size, if you ask me) and 2) have less right to be seen than some sexy beasts sharing what their stupid penis looks like with a Ludwig filter or #thin people simulating masturbation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that curves resoundingly connote sexiness, but it’s markedly less great (and borderline skeevy) to make a decision based on the presumption that titillation is primary function of curves and furthermore that those curves are somehow more dangerous or less desirable than #thinspiration or all those accounts that tell you how many squats will get you a great butt.

Not cool, Instagram. The next time you take some really weird measure to enforce your policies, do try to keep in mind that hashtags aren’t as precise as the Dewey Decimal system, so #curvy can easily become #curvee, #curvyyyyyyyyyyy, or #curvie, which might indicate you should pursue the individual users who post inappropriate pictures.

Coping With Waistband Gap and Aspirational Attire

Coping With Waistband Gap and Aspirational Attire

I’ve carried my extra weight in my thighs my entire life–ever since my mom struggled to find diapers that didn’t cut into my little baby legs–and believe it or not, losing 120 pounds doesn’t come with the reward of transformed hourglass proportions. I think most people would agree that one part of your body is bigger than the rest of you, it can become a major source of insecurity, and that insecurity only compounds exponentially when fashion turns its back on you, too. I may never be able to look in full-length in full acceptance that my thighs are excess carbohydrate magnets, but the biggest obstacle of my thighsolation is not cellulite or chafing–it’s thwarting the insufferable waistband gap all pear-shaped women have endured at some point.

Waistband gap.
Waistband gap.

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I Can’t Pretend Anymore: Minions Are The Absolute Worst

I Can’t Pretend Anymore: Minions Are The Absolute Worst

Minions. Seven letters once functioned as a broad-spectrum term to describe all the world’s sycophants—or, albeit less notoriously, mini onions—has now become synonymous with those abominable yellow imbeciles from Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2. By popular demand, capitalist greed, or generous donation from the National Association for the Advancement of the Color Yellow, an entire feature film devoted to the origin story of these dreadful Minions is coming to theaters July 10th. As someone who normally roots for the underdog, it isn’t without regret that I confess after trying to give them a chance and pretending to tolerate them for entirely too long, I’m ready to admit that Minions are without exception the most grating, insipid characters ever brought to life in a kid’s movie.

Before I continue, it’s worth mentioning that Despicable Me is not a Pixar movie. Perhaps you, like me, assumed all movies using 3D computer animation were either Pixar or Disney, but that is not the case. (Not yet.) It’s entirely possibly that the production company is responsible for the Minions’ lack of appeal: they haven’t been blessed with the magic of the mouse or the jumping lamp. Many of the comparisons I’m going to draw between the Minions and other similar kids’ movie cronies will reference Disney and Pixar films, though it is worth mentioning this is not truly and apples to apples comparison.

Let me begin with the appearance of Minions.

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No One Is Looking At Your Fireworks Photos

No One Is Looking At Your Fireworks Photos

Every year in July, Americans wearing their washed-out flag shirts from 2000 that they’ve kept because they only wear them once per year (unless they recently painted their living room) gather together on an open field with picnic blankets and folding chairs to partake in the Sisyphean task of capturing the best moments of a fireworks show on camera. In a poll conducted by the United States Wasting Time Foundation (USWTF), when presented with a list of most patriotic pastimes, 73% of respondents chose “trying to take good pictures at a fireworks show on the 4th of July” over “listening to Bob Dylan,” “attending a baseball game and actually staying until the ninth inning,” and “proudly singing the chorus to ‘American Pie,’ but mumbling through every other verse.”

Human beings have a long history of being interested in capturing these temporal bursts of color in a format they can keep forever, but ironically never look at these photos after July 5th of the year the photo was taken. So dire was this need to immortalize fireworks on our memory cards and overcrowded photo libraries on our phones that camera manufacturers had to have an important meeting.

Leading Camera Manufacturer: The people want to be able to take pictures of fireworks.

More Expensive Leading Camera Manufacturer: But a dark sky combined with a colorful explosive that’s at it’s most photogenic for about two seconds? For the amateur photographer, it’s impossible to get a good shot!

Leading Camera Manufacturer: You’re right…

Shady Camera Manufacturer Conglomerate That Also Sells Appliances and Frozen Foods: Well, why don’t we try to develop a fireworks setting to match the snow and pet settings we rolled out…

More Expensive Leading Camera Manufacturer: That’s a great idea!

Shady Camera Manufacturer Conglomerate That Also Sells Appliances and Frozen Foods: Only let’s make sure it doesn’t work so all the fireworks just look like the outtakes from an acid trip at an EDM festival.

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Why Going To The Dentist As An Adult Freaks Everyone Out

Why Going To The Dentist As An Adult Freaks Everyone Out

According to those 1-800-DENTIST commercials and a Gallup poll that shows one third of American adults didn’t go to the dentist in 2013, a lot of people are throwing serious shade at the oral care industry. As someone who’s survived braces and who has but one cavity staining an otherwise untarnished dental record, I’ve actually always enjoyed going to the dentist. Maybe it’s because the dentist is one of the few medical specialities that doesn’t insist you step on the scale prior to each visit.

A tooth cleaning is the mouth equivalent of getting your hair washed at the salon without being expected to leave a tip. Plus you get all that free dental loot, like a soft bristle toothbrush, new floss, or the elusive tongue scraper, that all sit ignored on a shelf in your bathroom like the arrowhead exhibit no one visits at the museum. What other medical appointment sends you away with a goody bag that doesn’t include an expensive prescription or some disappointing test results? When it comes to health upkeep, the dentist is about as good as it gets, but for as much as I enjoy getting my teeth scraped with that little hook tool, I’ve noticed that going to the dentist as an adult is a lot more uncomfortable than it is when you’re a kid.

Earning respect at the dentist as a kid is pretty easy if your mom nags you enough to brush your teeth twice a day. As long as you don’t bite the dental hygienist (guilty) or expose how much sugar your parent(s) actually feed you, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be leaving with a sticker and one of those sticky hands from the treasure chest. During every trip to the dentist in my youth, I remember seeing one kid, who you’d describe as “being a handful” in polite adult terms and “being a miserable little twerp who should probably be in a time-out until he’s 45” in all other terms, in the waiting room who would refuse to go in when he was called because he hadn’t finish playing Pacman in the waiting room. Back in the exam area, you could always find an overdressed little girl en route to a family photo appointment at Sears who would start wailing the second the dentist lowered her chair. Most memorably, there was always one kid getting seven cavities filled with a vigil of dental office employees around him, soothing him as he cries and practicing the disapproving looks they’ll give his mother later. With all those grimy dental delinquents around, it was easy to establish a good reputation.

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How To Tell If The Dog In A Movie Is Going To Die

How To Tell If The Dog In A Movie Is Going To Die

There are a lot of things that can ruin a movie, like a bad storyline, second-rate special effects, an unbelievable romance, or Tara Reid, but nothing wrecks a movie quite like an animal getting killed. Of course it’s gut-wrenching when any animal (except a shark or a mean dinosaur) dies in a movie – I’m thinking of Bambi’s mother and Mufasa and getting a bit misty – but when a dog dies in particular, you want to rewind your entire life and decide to take a nap instead of watching the movie in question. You want to brainwash yourself and return to that sunshiney place of ignorance where that fictional dog lived, safely contained in its 90 minute Blu-ray adventure.

If you’re nodding your head right now, chances are you’re like me: You can easily keep a dry eye through any number of human deaths in a movie, but you become hysterical at the mere thought anyone might touch a hair on the sweet Beagle’s kissable head. The outcome of the movie Titanic or Game of Thrones weighs heavy on your heart, but you’ll survive. Yeah, it’s unfortunate many of the characters didn’t make it, but they’re human beings and we can totally get more. People are a dime a dozen, but where else can we find a talking Golden Retriever or an Alaskan Malamute that rescues skiers from an avalanche other than in movies that by all rights should have a happy ending?

There is rarely legitimate reason for the dog in a movie to die. Whenever a dog dies in a movie, I imagine the screenwriter sitting at their writing desk, adjusting one of those adjustable Pixar office lamps thinking, “What’s the most messed up thing I could do? Hm, I could give the guy who just fell in love terminal cancer at a time in his life when he should be at his prime… No. Too Nicholas Sparks. I know! I’ll have the spunky little girl kidnapped and strapped to a bomb! Too predictable… Wait a second. I’ve got it. I’ll have someone shoot the family’s Labrador Retriever in a scene that doesn’t further the plot in any conceivable way.”

Maybe you’re thinking about a movie like Cujo, where the dog in question is kind of crazy. Or perhaps you’re thinking of Old Yeller or that scene in Of Mice and Men. These dog deaths are still heartbreaking, but those aren’t the kind of unexpected losses that makes you want to bawl for the rest of your life and give up movies forever, because no film has enough entertainment value to compensate for the possibility of seeing a loveable dog die. Over the years, I’ve become better at identifying when a movie may lead to an unexpected dog death. If you want to absolutely certain, you can check out Does The Dog Die, recently featured on Long Awkward Pause, it’s a database that allows you to search movies to see if any dogs are killed or injured. But in case you happen upon a movie and the battery on your phone is dead, look out for these movie dog death warning signs.

There’s An Adolescent Who’s a Loner

It’s often a boy with shaggy brown hair and a twinkle in his eye that screams, “I summon you plot to show me how unfair the world really is!” If the movie you’re watching features a kid who’s being bullied or doesn’t fit in at school and through some unlikely series of events (like a wily stray outsmarting an overweight dogcatcher) the kid becomes a dog owner, just assume the dog is going to die by the end of the movie. This is especially true if the little munchkin is afraid of the dog or doesn’t want to take care of the dog.

The Mom Or Dad Didn’t Like The Dog, But Now The Dog Has Become A Member of the Family

If the mom or dad has been particularly bitchy to the dog, but then based on the dog’s performance through some traumatic event has decided to embrace the pet as a member of the family, letting him or her sleep on the bed and eat “people food,” the dog is almost definitely going to die. In the movie business, this is what they call the Heartwrenching Acceptance Switcheroo. The Heartwrenching Acceptance Switcheroo tricks viewers into thinking the dog is invincible, because surely if the skeptical head of the household can accept the animal, it can survive anything for movie purposes! It’s come so far! You are wrong. No dog is safe.

The Movie Has Been Otherwise Upbeat And There’s No Reason The Dog Should Die

So everything’s been going great in the movie. The dog has settled into its home, and it probably has some adorable routine with the kids where it carries their backpacks to the car or changes the baby’s diapers or something. At some point in the movie, the dog probably woofed in response to a question and everyone viewer laughed in unison because it’s almost like that darn dog understands English! Well, I hate to tell you this, but don’t get too attached this pooch, because he or she probably isn’t going to live. I know you’re naïve and you think “this isn’t that kind of movie” or “there’s no way they’d kill the dog,” but believe me: They will kill the dog, and you will wish you forget all the backpack carrying and the intelligible yapping.

The Dog Has Its Own Music Score

Sometimes movies with dogs will create a music score that plays every time the dog is on screen. Whether Fido’s tearing through the garden or going for a walk, there will be this brassy triumphant music that slows to a spritely woodwind lull, heavily accented by the sound of a piccolo. If the dog has its own song in a movie, know that at some point – probably when you least expect it – this song will be slowed down as the prematurely dog dies out of nowhere. Beware dog-specific music tracks.

The Dog Becomes A Hero

If a movie dog saves anyone’s life, please grab the tissues, because that dog probably isn’t going to survive in the end. This is especially true if the dog becomes a hero in the neighborhood, beloved by all the townspeople for its heroic efforts. Any movie dog that survives against all odds — like coming back from a war or being the lone survivor of an earthquake — will probably stay alive in the movie just long enough for you get attached before something horrible happens to it.

There Are Lots of Scenes That Show The Dog Alone, Especially Walking

Any dog that gets too much solo camera time in a movie isn’t going to live. As a viewer, it might seem like this is the director’s way of helping us get to know the dog on a personal level. Look! There Fido is running after a squirrel. Now he’s laying on the floor with his chin on the ground. Isn’t he sweet? Yes, he is. He’s perfect. He’s everything a movie dog should be. Unfortunately, he’s not gonna survive, because this is a subliminal isolation tactic used by only the most heartless moviemakers to make us think the animal star of the movie is going to be okay. Be wary of too many dog scenes.

There are some notable exceptions to these criteria, but don’t say you haven’t been warned the next time some freckled boy and his little sister lose their best friend to Hollywood’s heartless whims.

This blog post was inspired by the trailer for the movie Max, a film that I — as a two-time German Shepherd owner — will never be watching unless someone kidnaps me and tapes my eyeballs open in front of the TV. This isn’t intended to spoil the movie for you, but if you get through that trailer thinking Max is going to live happily ever after, I’ve taught you nothing.