The hyperlocal site Patch has a history of strange dysfunction. But today's dysfunctional Patch story is exceptionally strange. As Romenesko reported, every single Patch outlet has been publishing maps of where divorced people live.
Readers are upset about this. They've pointed out that these maps seem to stigmatize divorced people. They've yelled at their local Patch editors, who've replied that this is a corporate-mandated decision.
I understand their outrage, and sympathize with it. Some of my best parents are divorced. But that outrage is obscuring the better story, which is how deeply strange these maps are.
Try to imagine the kind of person who would even be interested in data about where the divorces in their neighborhood are taking place.
Is this someone who thinks that marriages are ruined because of environmental factors, and wants to avoid those environments? Or someone who really wants to date a divorcee, and is looking for the greatest concentration of them? Or is it someone who wants to know the best place to launch their divorce-themed business (shared-custody calendars, studio apartment rentals)?
Also, even if this person exists, anywhere, this data would be useless to them. Patch's divorce map shows divorces as a raw number, rather than divorces-per-capita.
If you look at Brooklyn, for instance, you see that there are a lot of divorces in places where people live, and very few divorces in places where people don't live. So the usefulness of these maps is that they demonstrate a correlation between the existence of human life and the probability that some of those humans will get divorced.
Look, there are a lot of things on the internet to get mad at, and if you want to get mad at this one, I won't stand in your way. But maybe this time we could agree to just point and Nelson Muntz-laugh at instead.