Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Internend: How The Net Was Ruined

by Rick Nash

aka, 'Why I Never Read YouTube Comments'.

Let me bring you back to the days when to be seen using the Internet with any kind of regularity would make you a bit of an oddity in the eyes of so-called 'normal people'. As a 14-year old kid, I had just secured my first my first-ever writing gig, on a Fox Sports pro-wrestling fan site. Not that my friends or family gave much of a shit about the site itself, but the select few of them who didn't think I was an absolute freakazoid for being able to type more than five words a minute seemed a bit proud of me. I think it was something to be proud of. Still do.

Over time I got a few 'fans', so to speak. One guy, *Charles* as he referred to himself, would constantly send me long, detailed emails breaking down each column and I'd always make it a point to write him back. He seemed genuinely honoured that I did so. Well, at least it seemed that way. Knowing what we do now, we all know it's possible that *Charles* was a pedophile in his 50's and was grooming me for an encounter that could scar me until death. I also got hate mail, being quite content being 'the bad guy' and take the unpopular opinion when required.

Either way, for whatever reason a decent amount of people would click on my column each week to read what I had to say. Because, I think, I had something interesting and decent to say. Something, perhaps, that others either thought but couldn't express themselves, or hadn't thought of to begin with.

Fast forward a few years later, I was an editor for the same site and suggested we start incorporating more interactive stuff into the site's design. The Internet was changing; instead of people going out of their way to have 'experts' like me set the agenda, they wanted to be the expert themselves. Comment sections were becoming a must for almost any website. 'Blogging' was becoming an actual job that paid actual people actual money. "Nah, it's a fad," was the general feedback I got. The site shut down a few years later.

Whether my theory was the reason why is a different story, but it was proven right. Over time, the likes of Bebo, Facebook and YouTube started popping up, with the focus now being on the user having their say. The stigma of a 'web geek' slowly evaporated and instead of the cool kids telling the Internet kids to 'get a life', the cool kids now rushed to get their life on the Internet.

Don't believe me? Let's have a look at the Alexa.com Internet rankings: among a plethora of search engines, stores like Amazon, porn and websites in languages I can't understand, the top 25 sites include Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter, Blogspot, LinkedIn, Wordpress and so on. Sites that rely on YOU having your say to survive are booming.

You have to go to Number 58 (BBC Online) to find a site with information and opinions provided by experts in their respective fields. Either people would rather read the unfiltered opinions of not-necessarily-qualified bloggers like myself, or they're too busy writing up their own blogs to realise that an expert's opinion actually exists. Who needs to read what a reporter who's spent 25 years in Gaza has to say when you can read what a 25-year old in Pasadena who's read at least 25 stories about Gaza has to say?

For more information on this story, we now go to our correspondant in a basement in Iowa, ILoveBigBoobs69

Even the BBC website must bow the the wishes of the masses. At the bottom of its top story (at the time of writing), it has a section encouraging comments from those affected by the story or those who have something to say on the matter.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against people having opinions, insights or gags. As I've spoken about before, I run parties for big WWE pay-per views including convention-like pre-shows that pretty much live or die based on audience participation. We encourage everyone to chant along and get people up on stage to do impressions or challenges for prizes. And that's precisely why the whole night works: the people attending are the stars.

But there's a time and a place for these things. The Internet doesn't realise this. The Internet feels that every major or minor happening in the world is but a precursor to them unleashing their latest witticism upon us all. I'm still wondering how the world didn't erupt in a series of devastating earthquakes and tsunamis with all of the collective belly-aching that must've gone on during the 'Tweetathon' known as the Papal Conclave?

Oh right, it's because we were all too busy thinking, "Hmmm...what do I know about Argentina so I can make a funny?" instead of actually reading the thoughts of funny or insightful people. Like that joke, "What were you doing when Michael Jackson died? Texting a joke about Michael Jackson dying."

He wouldn't be smiling if he knew what Twitter was, and what they were saying about him.

Hey, I'm as guilty as anyone of partaking in this phenomenon. It's addictive. I spent last week's Pope announcement surrounded by my housemates and friends yelling "POPE! POPE! POPE!" every time a gust of wind blew that fucking curtain slightly, and trying to come up with funny hashtags to tweet about it (we settled on #PopeIdol in the end. Christ, I'm still talking about it. The fuck is wrong with me?!)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, when I need a laugh, I find a funny person. When I need to know an interesting fact, I'll go to a website that can tell me it (user-edited or not). And when I need to know the weather, I don't need everyone on my fucking Facebook feed to tell me.

Should we not leave the funny to the funny people? Leave the news to the reporters? Leave the opinion pieces to those who actually know enough about a subject to formulate an interesting opinion? (I heard about the Cypriot banking crisis, for example, from someone on my Facebook feed ranting that "Enda and the government are probably going to do this next!!!" and getting a bunch of likes for it. There are a million valid responses you could have to that story. "Fuck Enda Kenny," is not one of them. While everyone is entitled to an opinion, some people should not be entitled to speak theirs aloud).

"I'm Enda Kenny, and I hate Cyprus. For some reason..."

Are we so engrossed in trying to stand out ourselves that we're diluting the effect of those that put actual work into what they do so deserve to stand out?

How does the Internet's self-empowerment/importance benefit us, as a whole, in any way? I can see how it benefits those that provide services that allow people to do so, but not me directly (unless you count me essentially wanking on the keyboard by going on extended Twitter rants about things that I'll have forgotten about within an hour).

Before Bebo and Facebook, I was blissfully ignorant of the idiotic political ideologies of those I went to school with. And I was happier for it. I have neither the time nor energy to correct them all either. So all their posting of Fine Gael-related conspiracy theories (inspired by Cypriot government crises) has done is pissed me off. My life is significantly worse now because I have been forced to endure their stupid, uneducated opinion. Actually, hang on a second while I delete that dumb fuck as a friend.


Similarly, every Tweet or Facebook comment from people that I've made an active choice to follow is subsequently ruined because, by accident or design, I may now have my attention raped away from their funny/insightful musing by the unfunny/torturously thick comments trying to 'outdo' them, or prove them wrong. Let's pick, at random, the most recent funny tweet in my feed and see if this theory follows through:

A funny enough gag. But, true to form, one of the most recent comments underneath it only serves to ruin it:

Apologies @UKlifeGuide (if that is your real name); the next time you Google yourself you may be in for a bit of a shock that this momentary reply has been selected at random to be mocked. But, then again, maybe you shouldn't have been such an obnoxious, know-it-all cunt that was unable to comprehend a simple joke for what it was.

Of course, we all know the worst culprit for this: YouTube comments, where even an 8-year old kid doing a cover of Taylor Swift's new track is just 8 comments away from someone trying to convert her to a Christian way of life; and 16 comments away from said 8-year old girl having to ask her mother what the word "nigger" means.

Again, let's go to another random funny video on my feed, again falling under the theme of Paddy's Day:

No less than 36 minutes before I'm writing this, the entire joke got taken too far and, ultimately, destroyed by the, presumably ironically named, 'TheAlmightyCoolOne':

TheAlmightyCoolOne 36 minutes ago 
They are actually talking about two different things, see WowLethalone is correct, alcohol is an organic compound. Whereas what joker13265 is saying is that an alcoholic drink such as beer is a solution, as beer simply contains alcohol, it isn't alcohol itself, joker13265 was just incorrect with his wording (most likely due to lack of knowledge). In conclusion, alcohol is an organic compound, alcoholic beverages are solutions, Justin Bieber is gay and atheism is the best religion.
The reply, "Ha ha" would have sufficed. But brilliant, I hoped this comment helped you on your goal to win friends and influence people 'TheAlmightyCoolOne'. I'm sure posting this really added to your whole 'video-watching experience'. And I'm sure, One who is Almightily Cool, there are people right now queuing up to go on a date with you to the latest comedy flick in the cinema so they can be overwhelmed by interesting tidbits of useless information you've compiled upon your quest to be cool. You're like an all-purpose Director's Commentary; the kind of guy who informed his mates when he was a child that a chicken is significantly unlikely to ever need to cross a road.

The reality is that the Internet has devolved. Let's face it, I'm lucky right now if 10 people are reading this far into the piece, because 90% of those who clicked on it just clicked to see if it was a picture of a cat or porn.

Reading this blog may have made some people think and re-evaluate how they go about their web browsing business. But that's the problem: people don't want to think anymore. They don't want to take the time to consider the facts or how this wondrous wealth of information may benefit their lives. They just want their friends, or randomers for that matter, to think they're funny, smart, or Almighty and Cool.

There. I sold out. Are you fucking happy now?

And what do we have to show for it? It's all just noise at this stage. We literally have the world at our fingertips and all we've done with it is make noise, laugh at cats, wank to porn, over-analyse jokes and troll. What a fucking waste.

Rick Nash is a former pro-wrestler who currently DJs for hire, makes piss-poor sports bets and has a community radio show. Altogether, he's a real bum, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you thought this piece was in any way insightful or entertaining. But still, follow him on Twitter and stuff.

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