If You Work With Garbage, You Will Get Dirty

Orthodox Jews play a careful dance in judging which cultural phenomena are seen as acceptable, possibly beneficial, and what they reject from surrounding society. While Modern Orthodox and Fervently Orthodox Jews may disagree on the level of media exposure that is accepted into their homes, most all have red lines, elements of culture which they reject. See the end of this post for an inspiring remark on the effect of this self imposed cultural isolation, by a popular American radio talk show host.

In contrast, secular society has endlessly debated whether violent or explicit video games negatively influence gamers, and generally, society will consider much objectionable material “art” and protect it (at least the critics will). Implicit is the premise that exposure to objectionable material doesn’t harm people, or if it does, barely harms, and only in a passing way.

In this light, the following New York Times article, Policing the Web’s Lurid Precincts, is particularly telling:

An Internet content reviewer, … sifts through photographs that people upload to a big social networking site and keeps the illicit material — and there is plenty of it — from being posted. His is an obscure job that is repeated thousands of times over, from office parks in suburban Florida to outsourcing hubs like the Philippines.

With the rise of Web sites built around material submitted by users, screeners have never been in greater demand. Some Internet firms have tried to get by with software that scans photos for, say, a large area of flesh tones, but nothing is a substitute for a discerning human eye.

The surge in Internet screening services has brought a growing awareness that the jobs can have mental health consequences for the reviewers, some of whom are drawn to the low-paying work by the simple prospect of making money while looking at pornography.

“You have 20-year-old kids who get hired to do content review, and who get excited because they think they are going to see adult porn,” said Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer at MySpace. “They have no idea that some of the despicable and illegal images they will see can haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

Ms. Laperal also reached some unsettling conclusions in her interviews with content moderators. She said they were likely to become depressed or angry, have trouble forming relationships and suffer from decreased sexual appetites. Small percentages said they had reacted to unpleasant images by vomiting or crying.

“The images interfere with their thinking processes. It messes up the way you react to your partner,” Ms. Laperal said. “If you work with garbage, you will get dirty.”

Here is popular conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage‘s evaluation of what happens when teenagers stay away from all that cultural garbage:

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