Essay: The Bottom of the Internet

9 Feb

A couple of days ago I ran across a phrase that I really liked–“the bottom of the internet.”  I don’t remember what article I read it in, and for all I know it’s a common phrase that will show everyone how uncool I really am.   What it was referring to was the comments section that is pretty much standard on any website.

In the mid-90’s, back when I was in school and the internet was called the information superhighway (remember that?)  one way people imagined cyberculture was a place where people could have in depth discussions about many topics and a sort of enlightenment would come about.  That hasn’t happened.  In fact, it became clear rather quickly that people wouldn’t cluster around discussions about platonic ideals or, symbolism in 18th century poetry, or which painter had the most masterful use of the color red.   Nope–what we get are memes, porn, and trollish snarking.   I’m not saying there aren’t some wonderful things the internet has, and there’s certainly some corners of the internet that have bracing conversation, but scroll to the bottom of nearly every page, there it is, the dregs.    Here’s what is objectionable there:

1)  Racism and homophobia:  One thing that is unclear in these comments is how much is authentic, but you’ll hear more racist and anti-gay epithets thrown around here than anyplace else.   Whether the person is racist or just likes pissing people off, it’s just as awful.

2)  Preaching:  Because I will choose my religion based on what people say beneath an article about Paula Deen.

3)  Extreme opinions:   You’ll get people wanting to spout off without listening to anybody.

4) Justin Bieber and Barack Obama:  No matter what the article/video is about, conversation will inevitably go towards one of these two.   It doesn’t even have to have anything to do with politics, pop culture, or music.   How a story about a Picasso painting possibly being a forgery can lead to a rant about Obama overregulating everything is beyond me.   Ditto a recipe for sponge cake and whether this is the most delicious or not can veer into Bieber rants.  Are these two guys the center of the universe?

5)  Horrible grammar:  I can handle things being a little bit rough–I’m no stickler, but there’s comments that are barely readable.

6)  ALL CAPS:   Caps doesn’t make me take you seriously.

7)  Rants about how the video you just watched sucks:  Look guys, the internet is purely voluntary.   I can understand getting sick of hearing about an overexposed celebrity, but if you go to a site and choose to watch something, you’re the idiot.

8)  Rants under articles where it’s clear the person didn’t read it.

9)  “You call this news?”:  Even when the comment is correct, it’s really annoying.

10)  …back when music was good:  Let’s be clear.  There was never a magical year where “music was good.”  Every year thousands of songs come out, most of which aren’t very good at all.   What you’re telling me with that statement is that you like certain songs that you’re used to and are uninterested in anything else.

11)  …things used to be so much better:   You’ll get someone going on some sort of speech about things being better “way back when.”   People used to be respectful.  Kids used to be clean cut.  Everyone went to church.  America was glorious and strong.  A regular person found it easy to do well.    Sorry people, this is completely imagined.   When I was little, people used to say that about the fifties.  Now people say that about the 80’s (?!)  Yep, the mall decade was officially when people used to be respectful, music was good, pie tasted better, and everybody got laid.   Nope.   Not even close.

12)  Complaining about “political correctness”:  Political correctness isn’t political at all.  They’re examples of the social bargain, where we as individuals sacrifice some of our desires due to the group.  In exchange we get the benefits of society.   This is why you don’t pee on the subway or slap a crying baby or a number of other things.   Sometimes both sides can go too far.   Sometimes the group demands too much, and sometimes individuals push their limits on freedom.   However, to claim that politics has anything to do with this conflict that has existed since tribal times, is incredibly ignorant.

Oh, there’s much much more you’ll find at the bottom of the internet–conspiracy theorists, anti-smoking zealots who smoke pot, “knowledge” that is really hearsay, mentions of studies that never actually happened, corporation bashing, haters, bringing up Hitler, exaggeration, trite sayings, and more.

So this is what enlightenment looks like.

Huh.

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Essay: The Bottom of the Internet”

  1. Anne Smith February 10, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    I do think in writing an essay about internet bullying. Hope I can write it best like yours.

    • pewterbreath February 11, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

      Thank you! I think the more people talk about this stuff, the more things might improve.

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