Monday, July 14, 2008

When in doubt, attack the internet...

More and more, I’m coming to realize that there is a wide divide between people who are tech savvy people who spend a lot of time online, and the rest of the world. But neither seems to see this gulf.

I think that many people have it in their minds that they are completely normal. That the things they do are completely rational and everyone else would do things exactly the same way if only those other people only understood. They think that they are exactly in the middle of the road with their opinions and view of the world.
Except, of course, that most other people are stupid.

Anyway, this attitude applies to people’s internet behaviour. Whatever people do online, they assume that most other people use it the same way. Not true.

Let me ask you this. Have you heard of Twitter?

Twitter is one of those things that makes the geek divide so visible. Basically, it is a constantly updated “mini-blog” where you tell a group of people who are “following” you over twitter what you are doing at the exact instant. And here’s the thing – for the most part, either you have never heard of it or you think every single person in the world is using it.

There are all kinds of sites online that are constantly being described in everyone is doing it kind of way. But in truth these sites are only being used by a tiny, incestuous community of online geeks who are also using all the other things that everyone is doing. This tiny community is setting the debate for the web precisely because people outside this small community have no idea what they’re talking about – or that there’s even any kind of debate. Email works great, right? Net neutrality? You mean a bunch of fishermen who won’t take sides?

And so anyone trying to figure out the internet, inclusing politicians and reporters and corporate investors are told things like, “Everyone’s on Twitter.” “Everyone gets their news on Digg and Slashdot.”

Ah, Digg. Digg sucks. Trying to figure out the world through Digg is a little like having school children vote on what gets in their history text books. You have a bunch of people who think being a Jedi could be considered a religion, and look into whether or not Superman could survive a nuclear bomb in his ass (Dudes. It’s fiction. The writers can do whatever they want.), deciding what is the most interesting things for people to know about. Super hero movie trailers and lists of things that suck often make the top ten. World events? Only if you can somehow spin them to be anti-Bush.

And not only that, but often people get together and agree to “digg” each other’s posts. Yep, like it or lump it, life is all about how many friends you have. Even on the internet.

And there are certain things you can and can’t say on the internet. Insults being the number one thing communicated over the single most sophisticated system ever devised. To preserve human history and learning, medieval monks spent their lifetimes copying old books. All so that we could call someone an idiot for his lack of knowledge of Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver. What you can’t say are things that attempt to provide a layer of context that lies outside of science fiction or Digg. You won’t even get an insult back, and on the internet, if you’re not insulted you don’t exist.

And in conclusion, I wish I had some kind of point. Some kind of advice in order for each of you, dear readers, to make a difference in your own lives. But I got nothing. If you’re dead set on making this world a better place, you could bring me fresh fruit. You know, if you want.

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