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.