Tired of reading about Charlie Sheen's antics? There's an app for that.
Download Tinted Sheen, a browser plug-in for Firefox and Chrome, and wherever the manic celebrity's name or image appears on the Web, it will be redacted and replaced with a colored rectangle, allowing you to consume your news in peace.
As a bonus, the extension also blocks a few key phrases that you probably wish you'd never heard in the first place, such as "tiger blood" and "Adonis DNA." Tinted Sheen will also rescue you in those moments of weakness when you Google "Charlie Sheen," replacing the actor's name with asterisks in the search box.
If you download this extension, chances are you won't keep it for very long. For one thing, seeing big colored rectangles on your browser does nothing to help erase Charlie Sheen's existence from your consciousness. It actually does the opposite.
What's more, the plugin, which, according to ABC News took just an hour to code, takes a rather ham-fisted approach to redaction, blocking the word "sheen" anywhere it appears. Google Charlie's father, "Martin Sheen," and it will instantly replace it with "Martin *****," which will then redirect you to entries on the 16th-century theologian Martin Luther. Google 80s pop star "Sheena Easton," and you'll get search results for the Canadian geophysicist A. Easton Wren. Which really isn't the same thing at all.
In fact, once installed, Tinted Sheen will even block Google searches for itself, redirecting users to search results for tinted moisturizer.
The add-on was created for the Free Art & Technology Lab by Greg Leuch, the lead Web designer for the viral-tracking website BuzzFeed. Leuch also created a browser add-on that does the same thing to Justin Bieber's name. He is also part of JESS3, the group that brought us Block Your Ex, a browser plugin that lets you enter up to five names of former significant others, and vaporize them, Eternal-Sunshine style, from Facebook and Twitter, all without having to go through the awkwardness of defriending or unfollowing them.
As of now, applications that let you create a personal online damnatio memoriae are for the most part clunky and ineffective (I couldn't get Block Your Ex to work on Chrome or Firefox). But what happens when they improve, giving Web surfers the ability to scrub out all traces of a person's online existence? Journalism experts have long warned that the rise of the so-called Daily Me – hyper-personalized news feeds that filter out all the stuff you don't want and leave only the stuff you do – can lead to very warped perceptions of the world. Perhaps Daily Me 2.0 will go one step further, allowing each of us to set up our very own Ministries of Truth, in which unwanted people and facts can be easily dropped down the memory hole, roiling our cognitive consonance no more.
But where some see informational isolation, others see freedom. It's your computer, after all. Shouldn't you have complete control over what gets displayed on the screen? Or do you have an obligation to be exposed to the full breadth of the day's news – including the trivial and annoying garbage – so that you don't become completely disconnected from the Daily We?
Who knows? But one thing is clear. If you'd already installed Tinted Sheen, you would have been much less likely to find this article.
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