Sideswipe: January 07: Opening a can of beans on Twitter

Sideswipe: January 07: Opening a can of beans on Twitter


Twitter has been agog with a story which began when a daughter wanted some baked beans and her father, John Roderick —a.k.a. “Bean Dad”—told her to open a can and heat some up. But the nine year old girl had never used a can-opener.

Roderick decided not to show her so she could figure it out for herself.

He told his daughter:”The little device is designed to do one thing: open cans. Study the parts, study the can, figure out what the can-opener inventor was thinking when they tried to solve this problem.”

When the girl after six hours finally punctured the can she was triumphant. So was dad. Then the haters came — some labelling his actions child abuse.Then came the memes and the digging up of his prior tweets, some of which were indisputably racist and anti-Semitic.

On the face of it, this is the social media pastime of publicly second-guessing parenting decisions, writes Lenore Skenazy on “Once I read Bean Dad’s past tweets I could very easily damn everything he did and said as cruel and reprehensible. It allowed me to label him, once and for all, as a jerk. I’m not sure that’s something we should be doing whenever we’re faced with an idea that is new or ambiguous. Digging back, hoping to find evidence of a character flaw so we can easily dismiss or despise someone, seems to allow us to hate instead of think.”

Card’s international detour

A reader writes: “We were in Auckland in November and sent a birthday card to a relative in Nelson. We wondered why she hadn’t received it on time as we allowed about a week. She finally received it exactly two weeks later and to our amazement it had been stamped by the Swiss post office in Zurich. Funnily enough we actually handed it to the collector as he was clearing our local post box as it was right on 5pm and we were pleased we made it. I have to say in these trying times of Covid a fortnight isn’t bad to go from Auckland via Zurich to Nelson .”

Smoke gets in your eyes

Idea:In an experiment, a person in a room is filling out a questionnaire when smoke starts coming under the door. What do you do? You would get up and leave, tell someone in charge and do so without hesitation, right? Now imagine the same situation, except that you are with several other people who don’t seem to care about the smoke. What do you do now?

Results: When alone, 75 per cent of people reported the smoke almost immediately. However, when two actors were present, who were working with the experimenters and told to act as if nothing was wrong, only 10 per cent of the subjects left the room or reported the smoke. Nine out of 10 subjects actually kept working on the questionnaire, while rubbing their eyes and waving smoke out of their faces. We seem to rely heavily on the responses of others even against our own instincts. If the group acts as if everything is OK then it must be, right?Wrong. Don’t let the passivity of others result in your inaction.

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