What are the psychological effects of consuming violence online?

Can our bodies tell the difference between recorded violence and real life danger?

SEBASTIAN JUNGER: The internet is sort of this crazy amazing and sometimes sort of bullying environment. In a way it's an exciting and a dangerous place. Because of the internet we can all of us now with a few clicks can watch video of incredible atrocities being committed against other people. That's new in human experience. I mean usually if you're watching someone's head get cut off you're in a situation where you're either part of that and you have some moral responsibility or your own head is about to get cut off. But either way your body goes into a sort of fight or flight reaction which is programmed by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. When you see violence your body is ready, readies itself to deal with violence.

So now what we can do is watch violence from the safety of our couch. Our body doesn't know we're sitting on our couch. The moral debate in our minds isn't engaged the way it is when someone's head is actually getting cut off in front of you. That has real consequence psychologically for people and personally I just don't watch anything online that I wouldn't be okay with seeing in person. Seeing violence up close and personally I know the effect that it's had on my psyche, on me as a person and I don't want it. I just don't watch it. And I do worry about young people who have access to this. It has to be harming them and we haven't had the internet long enough to see how that harm will play out through the course of someone's life.

  • "The internet is an exciting and a dangerous place," says journalist and documentarian Sebastian Junger.
  • He argues that because of thousands of years of evolution, our bodies react to seeing decapitations on screens as if they were happening in front of or to us.
  • According to Junger, the internet is too new for us to really understand the long-term effects it will have on our lives.

Astronomers discover what makes the biggest explosions in space

New study figures out how stars produce gamma ray bursts.

University of Warwick/Mark Garlick
Surprising Science
  • Researchers find out how binary star systems produce gamma ray bursts.
  • Gamma ray bursts are the brightest explosions in the Universe.
  • Tidal effects created in a binary system keep the stars spinning fast and create the bursts.
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The joy of French, in a dozen maps

Isogloss cartography shows diversity, richness, and humour of the French language

Strange Maps
  • Isogloss maps show what most cartography doesn't: the diversity of language.
  • This baker's dozen charts the richness and humour of French.
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Want to be a better leader? Take off the mask.

The best leaders don't project perfection. Peter Fuda explains why.

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  • There are two kinds of masks leaders wear. Executive coach Peter Fuda likens one to The Phantom of the Opera—projecting perfectionism to hide feelings of inadequacy—and the other to The Mask, where leaders assume a persona of toughness or brashness because they imagine it projects the power needed for the position.
  • Both of those masks are motivated by self-protection, rather than learning, growth and contribution. "By the way," says Fuda, "your people know you're imperfect anyway, so when you embrace your imperfections they know you're honest as well."
  • The most effective leaders are those who try to perfect their craft rather than try to perfect their image. They inspire a culture of learning and growth, not a culture where people are afraid to ask for help.

To learn more, visit peterfuda.com.