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I fucking can’t even with I fucking love science

I fucking love science clickbait

I fucking can’t even with I fucking love science.

Image credit: Fowl Language Comics

With all the hoopla this week from Kavin’s and Yvette’s Skepchick article about I fucking love science, I think we need to clear something up.

Nobody wants I fucking love science to go away. Nobody is asking for them to shut down or stop promoting science. What we are asking is that they lose the misleading headlines- the clickbait.

I fucking love science has 21.6 million followers as of this post. That carries with it an enormous responsibility to put forward content that is not only interesting, but also factual. When something isn’t factual, or is otherwise misleading, you deserve to be called out on it.

The ever-growing concern for the (lack of) quality in I fucking love science has led to many people being overly critical of IFLS, resulting in pages like I fucking love clickbait.

Skepchick was created by Rebecca Watson (whom I am a big fan of!) in 2005. Kavin and Yvette co-wrote their piece about IFLS and posted it to Skepchick. Shortly after it was posted, Rebecca edited the article to add in Elise’s rebuttal (Elise is the owner of IFLS) at the bottom of the article. Intentionally or not, this suggests that Rebecca does not trust or support her authors. If anything, Rebecca should have allowed Elise to respond in a separate article, not the same article. Even if you’re friends with Elise, it sends a very poor message to your writers to allow this.

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The rebuttal

Elise’s rebuttal to the concerns raised left quite a bit to be desired.

Regarding the “new ice age in 15 years” article that IFLS shared that IFLS, the next day, blamed the researcher for (and then double-downed on the not-taking-responsibility-for-posting-bullshit):

Well yeah. The media. Including ourselves. That was sort of the idea, you know? We screwed up, and so we criticized ourselves.

No, not really. You deflected. A better click-baity headline for you here would have been “We fucked up and didn’t fact check before disseminating nonsense to 21+ million people.”

I then didn’t hear from these people for more than a year. They never got in touch, apologized, or explained… To this day, they’ve never contacted me directly. This was an incredibly, incredibly painful time for me.

A former associate of Elise’s attempted to reach out to Elise back in February:

ifls1

Regarding the concerns for copyright infringement- there is no way to know the accuracy of the quantity of claims lodged against I fucking love science, however there is evidence available:

  1. Poor pluto: Design on threadless by Hadria vs. Posted to IFLS without any credit
  2. Survey of 100 images shared by IFLS
  3. IFLS selling jewelry not created by IFLS
  4. IFLS not crediting Katie Mack (instead crediting ASAPscience and someone else with the photo) on the Solar/Lunar/Apocalypse photo (ASAPscience themselves took a graphic I made and didn’t credit me or the author of the quote)
  5. Axl Dyer did have a conversation with Elise about changing the name of IFLS in 2012 (Axl uses the last name Takion on Facebook as a video game reference):
    ifls2

… Amongst other examples.

Elise also claimed that the idea of making a profit “didn’t cross her mind for years” (yet she did in 2012).

No, we didn’t. Or at least, no one ever discussed that with me. It was a Facebook page. It was a fun hobby. Honestly, the idea of it generating revenue didn’t cross my mind for years.

From 2012:

ifls3And a comment on Elise’s personal page:

ifls4

The clickbait

The one thing Elise failed to address was the actual real concern raised in the article- the clickbait:

  1. What the perfect penis looks like
  2. Boobs!
  3. Astronaut says aliens prevented nuclear war (posted the same day as the Skepchick article, no less)
  4. Watch this poor hyena fail miserably at sex
  5. IFLS speculating about a “cure” for Autism
  6. Other articles about dicks.


Nowhere in Elise’s rebuttal does she even begin to broach the subject of clickbait on her site. Instead, the focus seems to be on who gets “credit” for I fucking love science- which is a moot point, really. With science and science promotion, the focus should always be on the message, not the messenger, but if you have the ability to give credit, give it.

I fucking love science serves as a gateway for many people into science. Personally, I’ve always been interested in science, but I fucking love science absolutely impacted my interest in science as an adult and served as my starting point into skepticism. It lead me to other pages, such as the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, which inspired and motivated me to create my own pro-skepticism page.

The danger of posting clickbait or flat-out wrong articles is that the layperson will read the headline without actually reading the article ( since 70% of readers only read the headline).

When you share a story with a not-exactly-accurate (or wrong) headline, it causes the layperson to purport that there’s a condom that detects STDs (there isn’t), there’s going to be an ice age in 15 years (there’s not), that hospital births are more dangerous than home births (they aren’t), and that there’s a potential cure for Autism.

Elise, you’re doing a disservice to the public when you share clickbait like this. If you are going to market yourself purely as an avenue for science communication, you are accepting the accompanying responsibilities. I fucking love science started as an excellent opportunity to increase science literacy for the layperson, however it has now regressed into a terrible example of science communication. Whether you want it or not, you have a responsibility to engage, educate, and excite people about science in a factual manner.

Nobody likes being told that they’re wrong, but part of being a skeptic is being critical of your own kind when needed- this helps us avoid the echo chamber effect. It’s not enough to say you’re receptive to criticism. You actually have to do something to address it.

Edit (4/9/16):

Subsequent to posting this article, Danielle Andrew (who has written for IFLS), left a nastygram on my personal Facebook page:

I fucking love scienceShe deleted the response shortly after I posted my reply: I fucking love scienceI should also point out that IFLS pre-banned me after posting this blog, too. Pre-banning someone for a page is possible, but it’s a bit of a process to do so.

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Written by Dan Broadbent

Science Enthusiast. Atheist. Lover of cats.

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