Friday, October 23, 2015

The internet: a place of wonder and waste

The internet is a funny place. Actually, it's kind of a funny word. Back in the day, everyone used to capitalize the word Internet. It was a proper noun that seemed to demand that mere mortals cower in awe of its very existence. Now it's just a common utility that no one under 25 can ever remember being without.

There's more stuff available on the internet than humans have ever previously had access to. I use the word stuff deliberately, due to the broad variability in the quality of content. Sometimes it's surprising what ends up going viral. Less surprising is the dreck that people try to force to go viral.

I have a personal policy of refusing to click on any link that includes some variation of the following hyperbolic language:
  • You won't believe.
  • Stunned.
  • Made her jaw drop.
  • One weird trick.
  • Nothing could prepare me.
  • Absolutely incredible.
There's much more to that list. But you get the idea. There's even a browser plugin called Downworthy that turns "hyperbolic viral headlines into what they really mean." The phrase "Will Blow Your Mind" becomes "Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment." "One Weird Trick" becomes "One Piece of Completely Anecdotal Horse****." And so on.

The internet's incessant hyperbole is annoying, but it has become so common that my mind mostly automatically ignores it — after registering its annoyance. Some of the other more common time wasters bother me much more.

Consider the multiple videos/photos depicting crafty or handy things that you can 'easily' do yourself. Food projects seem to hold a special place among this genre. When it's a photo, the food always looks worthy of a spread in Better Homes and Gardens. When it's a video, not only does the food look like it was expertly prepared by a gourmet chef, the video is sped up and/or skips the tedious parts to conceal the fact that it took 14 hours to make the concoction.

Whenever I try to replicate any great looking dish, let's just say that the presentation of my recipe and the internet representation of the same differ greatly. I know what looks good. It's just that when I set out to make that delicious looking highly symmetrical dainty I saw on the internet, it comes out looking like an irregular pile of something or other.
How a Thomas the Tank cake looks on the internet

How a Thomas the Tank cake looks in real life
- when crafted by someone else
- mine would not look this good
This is also true of just about anything else that you have to look at. Crafts, construction, yard care, etc. It would appear that I missed out on some of the basics necessary for  making something visually appealing. Perhaps that's why all of these do-it-yourself videos irritate me so.

Or, maybe it's just the fact that all of those DIY videos entail work that I would be required to do. Car repair is the absolute worst for me. I watch the guy show how to do something that takes maybe 30 seconds in live time. Two hours later, after several trips back to the computer, skinned knuckles, sweat, grime, and scarred car parts, I put my tools away and vow that I will never again attempt car repair on my own.

People also seem to enjoy posting inspirational quotes that are intended to ennoble. But sometimes you see the same quote so many times that it becomes pedestrian. The same is true of overused jokes. Worse are the posts showing the results of insipid online quizzes/tests that people have taken. Really, folks, this is just pathetic.

The internet is also full of more wonderful things than anyone can ever access or even know about. As is the case in real life, you still have to sift through a lot of mundane material and various levels of rubbish to get to it. Alas, increased quantity does not make it easier to apprehend quality. The opposite seems to most often be the case.

The internet is a place of wonder.
Or maybe not so much. It's your choice. Enjoy surfing the web.

1 comment:

Bradley Ross said...

"I have a personal policy of refusing to click..."

I have the same policy! And I've started using my ad blocker to remove some of the common "suggested sites" sections with obnoxious headlines, even when those links are back to the same publication I'm reading. I don't want to reward the behavior with clicks.