Our Choices Make the Internet S(i)uck
The Order of Online Commentary
Why is it with the greatest information resource at the hands of Humans everywhere, the thing we share the most are pictures of our cats, our dogs, and ourselves doing things?
Meaningless things. Things better forgotten and indeed will be because for 97% of your existence, being a blank slate to those memories is ultimately your fate; outside of a few potent smells or key elements, your mind will recreate a reasonable facsimile of the event, even if you have pictures…
A facsimile you would be hard-pressed to be sure actually happened unless you happened to film the entire event.
Most of what we do in life, isn’t particularly memorable. Is this the secret of the complete lie that is social media?
Is this why people spend so much time creating the illusion of perfection they try and present to the world on social media?
In a time of death and suffering, where people are overdosing on pain and fentanyl, dressed as opiates for the masses; where loneliness is poisoning people with the potency of fifteen cigarettes a day and nary a puff; where suicide among police, arbiters of summary justice and those soldiers who dispense death from above, or from below are taking their own lives proving power doesn’t always mean freedom.
We are a culture obsessed with youth and beauty and dying before we can live long enough to recognize just how useless both of those things truly are. By the time we realize we should be living life instead of taking pictures of it, it’s half over and have missed the best experiences of our lives because we were filming it, not living it.
Why does the Internet instead of promoting useful intellectual discourse dissolve into debates about Jordan Peterson and his pedantic, man-baby ranting or the madness of Ayn Rand and the politicians who lack the intellectual capacity to recognize they need to sit down and shut the fuck up?
How is it that naked thirst pictures whether they be artistic or just crudity writ large, draw more attention than anything else? What are we hungry for that these pictures can possibly feed? Connection? Love? Sex? Meaningful understanding of our tax returns?
You can’t get any of those from a picture, no matter how long you stare at it.
Dark humor is the next most supported thing. It allows us to laugh at ourselves or other people without feeling cruel or mean. Dark humor is the stuff you might not say in front of your grandmother, but you heard your mom saying it to a friend on the phone when you were a kid.
Dark humor is nostalgic humor when people could say what they wanted without fear of being told they were being politically incorrect.
I didn’t say it was good humor. I said it was dark humor. The stuff coursing through the veins of every one of us at one time or another. Even Jesus was heard to say “Did you hear the one about the Roman?”
Don’t know any dark humor? Liar. Everyone knows a ribald limerick or a joke where three guys walk into a bar… Dark humor is the secret lubrication of the Old Boys Club, the back room gossip, the occasional barbershop quip, the nail salon cattiness. Everyone knows it exists. We politely pretend and mutually agree we don’t engage in it.
My Daddy Once Told Me…
Aphorisms are popular on the Internet. They are predigested thought-balloons sent up to show you have read something, once. Maybe you believe in it, maybe you don’t but they are the shortest form of acceptable knowledge transmission on the Internet. Rumored to be the stupidest, though.
Rendered insignificant to the scholarly, because they are often taken out of context removing their complete value or assigning a different value to what was said. Left can be come right. Up can become down. Cigars can become… well, cigars.
Ask the Conservative Right to answer any question will require they take a snippet of wisdom from some famous person they know nothing about and wrap up their latest bullshit nugget and parade it before the public as if it was a prized animal friend/slave and like magic they become the new sages, their alternate facts indefensible, their sagacity enshrined in video, their sanity questioned back stage, at least until the next pundit destroys them with research at 8:00.
Most people will only transmit the thoughts of other famous people. A few will dare to create new ideas (which generally speaking aren’t new, just modernized for the audience of the day). Occasionally a hash-tag is created which embodies this thought process and becomes a viral success.
For all but the most virile, viral hash-tags die off and recur like a herpes outbreak whenever a new generation discovers they weren’t the first to think of these things and transmit them…
Music videos used to be the rage, making YouTube one of the most popular places on the Internet. Before hate-rage videos, product reactions, television show reactions, whispering women, oh and secret porn became the order of the day there.
Now YouTube is a Wild West of moderators trying to stay ahead of the daily decapitations, people eating shit (seriously) or sucking down Tide pods. Or setting themselves on fire — or murdering their neighbors. Videos which show only the darkest aspects of the Human experience.
I guess one day, when an AI is trolling through the unedited archives of Youtube, it will see the unaltered humanity in all its gory colors and various shades of insanity.
But its primary takeaway will likely be: Humans are murderous and upon occasion eat cleaning products. It’s probably for the best they’re extinct now.
Tabloid Journalism with a Side of Hate Sauce, please
The cleanest cesspool you can enter online is the one which pretends to be news but isn’t. In an effort to fill 24/7/365, what was once news is now what we used to call tabloid journalism. The stuff you read while you were in line at the supermarket.
“Alien baby arrives in my living room via beam of light,” swears drunken starlet.
“Famed movie star eats two dozen raw eggs a day in a bizarre new diet. Unexpectedly exposed to salmonella by his diet, he dies wearing a bulldog mask and paws, during a naked cuddle party with a local furry group.”
“Musician has his stomach pumped and found with 20 cc’s of semen found within. He remembers nothing of the incident due to high levels of ketamine later detected in his system.”
Today, this stuff is found in the news feed of all but the most respectable journalism. ProPublica might be the only place left where I can find news, that’s actually news.
Watching the Hate Brigade of Blonds on FOX or the Racist Avengers like Tucker Carlson pointing out that diversity isn’t an asset, and that ravaging hordes of zombies (er… Mexicans) will be coming toward the border and only 45 can save us.
Yeah. News. Gotta love it. Does this mean there aren’t good news services out there? No. They are simply drowned out by the sensationalist media which, in their search for the elusive metrics to convince advertisers they are relevant, these companies will put up ANYTHING if it will get them a click or two million. Being paid by advertisers to promote hatred.
Thus the road to society’s personal hell is paved through Madison Avenue.
Rants from the Sidelines of Life
Not quite the low man on the totem pole comes the personal polemic, the rants, the screaming the invective of a few dedicated souls who pour out their hearts or whatever passes for one, in rants about those people they hate over there that they have never met. Rants about men or women and why they don’t date anymore because all Human beings are trash, in their enlightened opinion.
An opinion they want you to share, of course. So you can all be miserable hating, not having, talking about, secretly envying or lusting after something you cannot or should not or are not BOLD ENOUGH to admit you want.
You hate that leather daddy who walks around dressed resplendently in his outfit? No, you don’t. You secretly envy the fucking balls it takes to put on that outfit with the ass out and strut around town like its the thing to do. You want to be him but your parents sent you to Yale and told you to be a entrepreneur and you take out your frustration on your subordinates and secretly see a dominatrix with the billions you squeeze out of the fools who buy your products.
Yeah. Wouldn’t it just be greener to admit you’re a freak, put on some leather and go with it?
The personal polemics I see on the Internet vary widely from the smartly done, intellectual discourse on our sociopolitical climate, to discussions about racial dynamics and how we can overcome the thing that isn’t a thing called race. When I discover these smartly written things, I covet them, I follow those people because such works are balms to my soul.
They make me believe in humanity again.
You think you are seeing the worst the Internet has to offer. But you are wrong. You could be hearing about it too. Imagine canned radio. Available at any time, a mystery dish whose pedigree, ingredients, themes, plots, schemes, histories, both foreign and domestic remain in a superimposed state, neither alive nor dead.
The podcasts you aren’t listening to could reveal the best or the worst of the Human experience, but you won’t ever know. Most people don’t have time to listen to them. They are too busy looking at cat pictures, which are easy to digest and low in calories.
Frankly, one of the things I hate most about podcasts is there is no objective way to know they are going to be good except to spend the time listening to them. This means like every other media source, people are making it, archiving it, with the possibility that after the day it airs and for a couple of months afterwards, it may never be listened to again. Without a transcript, everything stored within its bits of data lie on the shores of impossibility, available but unlikely to ever reach anyone except the most dedicated. Or the clinically insane with nothing else to do.
The truth of the Internet is shocking.
The absolute truth is this:
Humans suck. Without moderation, without someone willing to absorb, delete, restrict what COULD be on the Internet, including snuff films, murders, beheading, racist rants which would cause you to explode if you were exposed to them, human trafficking caught on camera, the Amazon warehouse workers weeping in corners, and any number of other atrocities, you would drown in the horrors which comprise the festering spirit of a species in its final days.
A species struggling to come to grips with its better nature, but unable to let go of what it doesn’t have, doesn’t know it wants, can’t recognize it needs, won’t allow others to be themselves, and an incessant desire to control things that have nothing to do with them at all.
The Order of Online Commentary is just an observation I made, recognizing people click on the things they do because they want a release from what they know is lingering online, just out of the corner of their eye. Their own innate fear of being obsolete, useless, and just one more bit of mindless traffic on the World Wide Web.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
We all have the power to change this. Share new things which inspire you. Which reveal the world to you in new ways. Share the love you have for people who write about their struggle and are uplifted by it. Jackie Summers always inspires me, and I secretly covet his cat pictures as well. We have the power to make the Internet better.
The Dark Web will still exist.
Terrible things will still be happening. But how great would it be if we all just stopped sharing Tucker Carlson and his Brigand of Hateful Blonds on the Internet. If we shared ideas which gave us hope rather than despair.
What if we wrote about the things which heartened us in these dark days. Wrote about those events which meant we weren’t the worst thing ever cooked up on the petri dish that is the Earth?
Change this Order of Online Commentary by sharing things which show us at our finest. This doesn’t mean we have to ignore bad news. It means we need to temper it with facts. With solutions, with rigorous debate. With intellectual capacities honed by reasoning, not by emotions stoked by over-privileged bigots who bought their way to power.
Let’s remake the Internet into a lasting legacy of the species, not the final networked gasp of an organism in despair.
Amplify the awesome. Share something inspiring and meaningful online every day.
He is also the Cognitive Dissident, living in desolation, a disillusioned, and despondent essayist who has lost all hope in the improvement of the human species. But, somehow, despite it all, he still remains defiantly hopeful humanity may still escape the Sword of Damocles.
He is also a freelance journalist for Polygon.com and Panel & Frame magazine. Thaddeus is the co-founder of Futura Science Fiction Magazine and one of the founding members of the Afrosurreal Writers Workshop in Oakland.