Happy Monday, as they say. Ride hard.
Happy Monday, as they say. Ride hard.
Yeah, this tea pot featured on HazelandMare.com is awesome. Obviously. You want to leave a comment that says so? Sure. Knock yourself out. Doesn’t really get us anywhere, but always nice to hear a chorus of good cheer. But I’ll never understand what compels people to make comments like this:
Hahaha, oh this is awesome. My brother was such an A-Team fan when he was a kid. Feel better!
Who gives a fuck about your brother? How is this pertinent or enriching in any way? I wish I could regain the thousands of cumulative seconds I’ve lost reading meaningless commentary online (which is why I typically avoid comment sections all together … unless I’m really avoiding work) — don’t you, Pointless Commenter, wish you’d spent those precious moments saying something that wasn’t inane?
I don’t mean this as a personal attack. I mean it as a general attack. There’s no going back now, I recognize that. But once upon a time we spoke to each other in person and tried to avoid the vapid sputterings that brought conversation to an uncomfortable standstill. Imagine the faces of your friends when you’d say something stupid. The staring. The cough in an awkward silence. Conjure and reflect: The whole internet is staring at you. The whole internet just cleared its throat.
Oh, and not for nothing, but whose brother wasn’t really into A Team as a kid? Newsflash: No one’s.
For a quick by-the-numbers lesson on the sad state of current media affairs, read the opening sentence of media guru Ken Auletta’s column in this week’s New Yorker:
In the past three years, newspaper advertising revenues have plummeted, a fourth of all newsroom employees have been laid off or have accepted buyouts, and more than a hundred free local papers have folded.
The industry’s unlikely hero, Auletta continues, is AOL, which has hired 900 journalists in the last year, adding another 40 each week to its mushrooming Patch local newsroom network. Or should that be anti-hero? The compendium of online newspapers in small, affluent communities numbers 700 in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and each is run by an editor who makes, Auletta reports, between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.
Just a few short years ago, $40k was the starting salary for a bottom-of-the-masthead magazine reporter. Not, certainly, what an effective Editor-in-Chief should even consider. Honestly, I don’t know what Patch writers make, but I know it’s not much, and that it is a source of much nervous and angry chatter among journalists who are hungry for work but unwilling to chew and swallow their pride for sustenance. It’s no wonder we’re all so fucking bitter.
Other, funnier numbers from the story include:
Still being able to subscribe to the New Yorker and read it in print on the subway: Priceless.
If we weren’t so bored, you wouldn’t be famous.
Once upon a time you got word of a good book and you had to read the thing to join the conversation. Then a couple hours in the cinema caught you up on the latest movie. Then half an hour in front of the tube. And so on. Now thirty seconds at the computer is enough to turn any no-name into a sensation.
Here’s the problem with the internet being free and accessible: it’s lowered the bar irremediably.
So not only can an idiotic hoax, like the Hot Jenny Quits via Whiteboard, jpeg put-on, reach near-immediate saturation, but there’s no way to differentiate between the clicks of the gullible and the clicks of the academically curious. A web-surfer forwarding on the series of 33 utterly uninspired photos of “Jenny” “quitting” her “job” with lame wannabe witticisms on a whiteboard has the same clickrate value as, say, a curmudgeonly blogger doing her minimal due diligence before ranting about how stupid the whole thing is. Moreover, it puts imaginationless attention whores on virtual par with true visionaries like Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who put in his two-beers notice while riding the inflatable slide off a plane at JFK.
We’re never going to win the war on bad taste. Reality TV has taught us that, if nothing else. And, sadly, there’s no way around the democratic equanimity of the web that makes every click matter. If there were an Internet Constitution I’d move that stupid people be given 3/5 of a click, but alas, it shan’t be so. In lieu of a “solution” I offer at least a way to balance the scales. For every one thing you read online that makes you feel dumber for having read it, click on one thing with the potential to edify or inspire. At the very least, maybe we can each emerge from a day at net zero (if not on the emergency raft). Call it the new net neutrality.
When I titled my last post I was aware of the Pixels video’s tremendously quick web saturation — I mean, that thing was all over geek and civilian sites in, like, seconds. I also noted (parenthetically) that the filmmaker’s name did not appear on the website of the production house he was e-rumored to belong to. Well, by the end of Friday my inclinations proved intuitively on-target: pirate versions of the video abounded, along with rampant false information on the auteur’s affiliation. I received an email from the studio responsible for Pixels asking me to correct any inaccurate information here. Of course I did so, and then wished them luck taming the rest of the internet.
It was a vivid microcosmic example of what happens — or at least could happen — on the web every day. The speed of information and the widespread lack of accountability, not to mention the commonly-occurring conflict between getting it early and getting it right, makes it way too easy to transform a flippant remark or malicious misinformation into a virtually unstoppable digital zeitgeist. For my part in this instance, I wrestled with some cognitive dissonance as a writer trying to keep up with the informational tide who also nurses a once-a-fact-checker-always-a-fact-checker’s discomfort with unverified information. In the end I compromised, deciding that the issue at hand — right studio/wrong studio — wasn’t such a big deal if I fucked it up and opting for timeliness with a weak disclaimer. The fact that I wavered at all, and whether or not others did, is immaterial; bad news travels as fast as good news and wrong news, and we’re the ones who set all of it in motion. We, meaning anyone who writes on the web, meaning basically anyone.
So if this is some sort of Internet parable, then what’s the lesson? Ideally: that people ought to take extra time and attention to minimize the trafficking of false or inaccurate material on the web. Realistically: This is the way things are and they’re not likely to change, so always remember to have some salt with your surfing.
Happy Monday, Nerds. Ever wonder how the internet started? No? Oh, well, once upon a time there was no internet. And then this stuff happened, and then some other stuff, like Eudora in the late 80s and Netscape in the mid 90s, and then your mom started contacting all your friends on facebook. This video, created by a recent “communication design” graduate in Germany, Melih Bilgil, takes a look at how it all began. I kind of love the retro educational film-reel feel.
A warning to true, God-fearin, freedom-lovin ‘Mercans — you’re about to find out so I may as well tell you: the word “Internet” originated in, gulp, France. (Contrary to popular belief.)
True, it ends just as things are getting good. Look for Part II: Porn Takes Over and Part III: Update or Die! (wherein individuals who fail to document themselves online fade out of existence) coming soon.