In the early 1960’s, a gentleman named J.C.R. Licklider proposed that a vast global network of computers would benefit the research and development in various scientific fields and would aid future generations to communicate and share information. His vision was to have all the Universities of the world connected to one another so they could share research notes, get help on incomplete formulae and have a platform for knowledge sharing. No one has heard of him ever because he has a stupid name, and because he didn’t wear a glittery golden dress and sing something along the lines of, “Baby get up let’s party!”
That, and because his entire idea behind the internet was ridiculous. Where the hell do all the videos of cats fit in? I mean, buddy, your research on cosmic radiation and helium nuclei can wait, but I need to tell Julia what I had for lunch with Tom at that cute little 70’s themed cafe and I’m going to need to send her a photo too, I can’t just tell her in words. What am I, an ape? So could you get working on that?
Ever since the term “personal computer” was introduced a few decades ago, the average IQ of mankind dropped by about 40 points. Today, the internet has turned into a swarm of wriggling, slimy, writhing cannibalistic snakes that eat their first born child and gloat about it to another snake who then promptly eats the first snake. According to the latest figures, there are almost two and a half billion people on the planet who use the internet. Let that sink in, two and a half billion people. Pretty much everyone is on the internet now, which is why it’s become so horrible. It’s no longer a niche for the well informed and educated, like you know, me and you.
As the internet is supposed to be a platform for us to share information, take part in intelligent discussion, perhaps learn about new cultures and better ourselves as human beings, a lot of people optimistically join groups, forums and take part in discussions on social networks. What happens of course, is that from an eager young sapling that yearns to get a few rays of sunlight, they turn into fire breathing Giant Sequoias from the depths of hell. It’s not their fault, it’s just that everyone on the internet is a demon.
Here’s the difference. A few years ago (perhaps before 2007) if you approached someone online and said, “Hey, did you hear? Nokia is about to launch a new phone series and apparently MP3 ring tones are a standard now!”, the response you would get is, “Yeah! I heard man, that’s amazing isn’t it? I can’t wait! Are you going to get one as well? I’m thinking about getting the 5510, what about you?” And just like that, pleasant conversation would continue and both individuals would pick up a little bit of information and log off and go on with their lives without being emotionally scarred and not in need of therapy.
Today of course, it would be slightly different. “Hey, did you hear Samsung is thinking about launching a phone called the S-IV?”, the response would probably be along the lines of: “Yeah, what you think I’m stupid? I heard about this a few days ago, I’m signed up to the secret Samsung society where I get all information direct from the CEO himself. I get it on my secret beta e-mail account from a new e-mail provider who might go public, but only after seven years. I can tell you already that you won’t qualify for it. Anyway, about the Samsung group, it’s an invite-only community so I can’t get you into it, but if you pay attention to my news feed you can pick up on some information I give out from time to time. And by the way, this phone isn’t called the S-IV, it’s actually called the ESS FOUR. I hate it already.”
If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with just a little scar like that. If you’re unlucky however, this person would probably take a screenshot of your conversation, put it on Facebook and on ten other websites, make a complete mockery of you finding out fourteen seconds after the “experts” that this phone is going to be launched, put up your photograph in police stations and have you banned from the internet for being so ignorant. In a matter of five minutes your entire life would have been turned upside down and your parents would have to send you to boarding school and you’ll spend the rest of your life working as a teaching assistant.
I’ve encountered a similar phenomena when introducing people to music. It gets unnerving. A few years ago, when you told someone about a new band or a new track, they’d jump with joy and listen to it and would thank you for all eternity for introducing them to that band or song. Now however, you may as well stick a gun in your mouth and shoot yourself rather than try and give out a recommendation. “Hey, have you heard of the Sonic Awakening? They’ve got some fantastic tracks in their second album, you should check them out.”
You can change my name if the response is something that’s not along the lines of: “I heard of them in mid-2008 during my post-indie phase. I’m more into real, soulful music like Sunset Showdown, Dark Enigma and Blood Beauty these days. Sonic Awakening is nonsense, their second album was the worst. I hate the way the lead guitarist wears a brown belt with black boots and besides, if you’re into that kind of music you should listen to the Vanishing Insanity. Much better. Are you using torrents? You must be, you’re backward. I hate your face. I have FTP access to one of the servers of a major release group, can’t share my user credentials with you because they’re IP specific. Anyway, later.”
And you’re sitting there, fingers frozen above your keyboard trying to make sense of what the fuck just happened. You see, what happened was simple, it was the internet. People used to be much nicer when they didn’t have access to such a trove of information that they could use to act smart, run a quick two second search to sound informed and try and fool everyone in the process. What they don’t realize however, is that they’re only fooling themselves. Everyone’s an expert on everything and no one else’s opinion but their matters (by the way if you don’t agree with this post you can go to hell, and take your stupid face with you).
Pretty much everyone online these days is an expert on gadgets in addition to being a literary scholar and a part-time environmentalist who is getting a distance learning degree in Applied Psychology while working part time with NASA as a Rocket Scientist. Poke someone enough on the internet and you’ll realize that their beliefs and opinions oscillate between bizarre and absurd. You’ll get a lot of lessons on Corporatocracy, of course coming primarily from individuals seated in a StarBucks with $12 coffee and a $1,500 MacBook Pro. People get carried away on the internet, perhaps that’s the problem. Everyone’s turned into a bit of an extremist coupled with being absolutely neurotic, and when perceived anonymity on the internet gives them a chance to be a slightly improved version of themselves, they end up being a re-incarnation of Stalin in his worst mood.
Idiots are now easily able to access information, opinions and exchanges by and between informed and intelligent people and they take absolutely no time in voicing that opinion as their own. It causes complete conversational chaos (CCC – I just coined that term) because they’re voicing opinions that aren’t their own and they have no idea about, but will stick by them no matter what. What people on the whole fail to realize is that information online from people isn’t supposed to give you an opinion, it’s supposed to influence yours.
So what do you do online? Arguments are completely out of the question so perhaps we should try and find a group of people we agree with? Perhaps join a group of Android enthusiasts or maybe Dark Knight fans? Unfortunately, you can’t agree on the internet either, that’s even worse than arguing. Each time Christopher Nolan releases a new movie, the world explodes and public holidays are declared. The man makes some great movies and everyone should get excited about them. However, you see, on the internet it’s different. It’s not good enough to be excited, you must completely lose your shit because after all, it’s eventually a competition about who’s the bigger Nolan fan-boy.
The internet is the only place where you can go and say, “I’m a huge Nolan fan, can’t wait for the upcoming Superman movie” and get a response like, “Shut the fuck up, I quit my job and murdered my neighbor’s ferrets and I’ve devoted my life to waiting for the Man of Steel! Get out! You’re not a true fan!” That’s right, you must quit your job and become an animal poacher to be perceived as a true Nolan fan on the internet.
All said and done, it’s not all bad out there. You can still find corners of the internet where the resistance is still holding out, where there is still hope. As far as I’ve experienced and been told, there are still no known dangers associated with simply reading text and watching videos online, if you must engage in conversation however, do so very carefully and at your own risk. You have been warned. Good luck, and godspeed.