Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ice Cream and Research

I saw this article linked in my Facebook feed. I tried to respond on Facebook without sounding like a nut who gets too worked up over things my Facebook friends might not be as passionate about, but I failed miserably, so I gave up and brought the fight over here to the blog instead.

So the article is about how Ben and Jerry's came up with some new flavors to add to their offerings. Neat. I don't think an ice cream commercial counts as newsworthy, but there are people who disagree, so that's fine. It's HuffPo; I don't expect great things, really.

The link on Facebook that led me to it claimed that B&J had come up with some great new invention that would revolutionize the ice cream industry as we know it. (Verbatim: "Ben & Jerry's New Invention Could Change Ice Cream Forever" with the summary text "Why has no one thought of this yet?...")

Click through, and you find that the only news here is that there are four new flavors of Core ice creams (the kind where there's a "core" of something other than ice cream down the center of the container).

I remember eating far more than my fair share of Karamel Sutra in high school, and it was a Core flavor... chocolate ice cream on one side, caramel ice cream on the other side, with fudge chips, with a core of caramel in the middle. It's like magic. I understand the excitement over the concept of the Core flavors; I remember feeling that excitement in 2002 when Karamel Sutra hit the shelves.

But it took me 20 seconds of "research" to learn that it was 2002 when Karamel Sutra was released. That was over a decade ago. Cores are, therefore, not new. And as far as I know, they have not yet revolutionized the world of ice cream. (Not in the far-reaching ways the headline seemed to prophesy.)

Now I'm getting to my point. As an academic librarian, I see students on a regular basis who have no interest whatsoever in doing research. I get it; it's not for everyone. But if you're in college, it is a requirement. Research papers, as it turns out, require a little research.

Not everyone is a college student, obviously. But I do feel like certain situations call for just the tiniest amount of effort in the field of "research." (I use the sarcastiquotes because I don't feel comfortable putting basic Googling on the same level as real research simply because I lack the right nuances in vocabulary to set them apart from one another.)

In this context, it's not really that vital; nobody's life is going to be changed that drastically from seeing a headline promising an ice cream revolution and finding that it's just four new flavors. But I've seen this happen so many times with things like Amber Alerts (either totally made up or years old) being reposted on Facebook inaccurately. Whenever I see one that's incorrect, I make sure to comment and tell people it's wrong, because it's just like crying wolf. If everyone reposts every fake Amber Alert they see, when a real one pops up, it's lost in a sea of fake ones and nobody knows whether they should take it seriously. It takes a minute, tops, to Google them. You'll know immediately whether it's on Snopes.

I don't lament the decline of the English (or any) language due to acronyms/initialisms, new words (I don't say "fake" or "made-up" words because aren't they all?), or other markers that curmudgeons point to when they want to blame teenagers for all the problems of the modern world. But I do lament our decline in willingness to fact-check literally anything. My biggest pet peeve is bad journalism (which is nearly all journalism, unfortunately) because it's irresponsible, lazy, and makes my job (as a responsible information-seeker) really difficult; I have to wade through all the crap to find one shining example of good information.

I know there are financial reasons that junk like this gets cranked out constantly (if you don't think I realize that B&J probably paid someone at HuffPo to write that article in the first place, you gravely insult me, and I also know someone probably got a little cash thrown their way for sensationalizing the stupid article for social media consumption... and it worked, because I've clicked on it about 7 times today) but that's only part of the problem.

But you know what? It worked. I am dying for a pint of Karamel Sutra right about now.

No comments:

Post a Comment