I’ve been pondering for awhile now why the Internet sucks so much. Sure, it has its good points (like free knowledge), but it also has the largest collection of idiots ever assembled in one place, virtual or not. All you have to do to verify this for yourself is to spend a few minutes browsing through random profiles on MySpace (don’t spend too long though; that level of stupidity is contagious). Some of that has to do with the anonymity that is frequently afforded on the Internet; after all, if you fear no repercussions, no damage to your reputation, then you won’t hold your tongue. But the problem goes deeper than that.
The problem is that the morons are incessantly vocal with their idiocy while the smart people generally know better and only pipe up when what they have to say is actually worthwhile. Let’s use this blog as a case study. The level of commenting here is overall pretty decent (though active moderation plays a bit of a role in that). But there’s one particular post that has attracted attention from the absolute worst of the web’s denizens: my post about Zwinky.
Zwinky is a crappy online “game” targeted at children, and it shows. The comments on that post are simultaneously ignorant, vulgar, poorly put together, and unnecessary. Like an intrepid scientist studying a fatal disease in a Petri dish, I have resisted destroying that which I know is evil in order to better study it, so the comments remain thoroughly and dangerously unsanitized. I dare you to read through all of those comments in their native state and not feel terrible for the prospects of humanity’s future.
These kids are just so damn dumb. They don’t know how to spell, they don’t know how to punctuate, they don’t really know how to write at all. It’s as if their English teachers tried their best at the Sisyphean task, realized the futility of it, and then, in sheer desperation, began having sex with their students in order to be sent to adult prison, where at long last they are no longer tormented by idiot kids. This is what IM speak does to people! And it’s horrendous! I tried to make a “New Rule” to elevate the level of conversation:
All comments must observe proper written English punctuation, spelling, grammar, capitalization, and proper style. All offending comments will be subject to immediate disemvowelment at my sole discretion. I don’t know if it’s all the lessons on creationism or sex with teachers, but it seems like they’re not teaching kids writing anymore in schools?!
But it proved hopeless, as it turns out none of the little buggers were actually reading the preceding comments before contributing their verbal diarrhea to the pot. Intelligent adults like you and I don’t mindlessly comment on every little thing; we only contribute to the discussion when we have something worthwhile to say. Not so with the Zwinkybots. My post on Zwinky doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic compared to some of my other posts, but it has gotten a lot more comments. It’s as if kids (and yes, I’m using “kid” interchangeably with “idiot” here), upon seeing a comment box eagerly awaiting input, cannot resist. This also explains the abysmal quality of comments on sites like Digg, and especially, YouTube. It’s the age-old 80/20 rule made manifest: 20% of the IQ is responsible for 80% of the comments.
I think we should start teaching in schools that participation isn’t valuable just for participation’s sake. Tell the damn kids that unless they truly have something worth saying it’s best not to pipe up at all, and by virtue of being kids, they will rarely have anything truly worth saying. This will also have the pleasant side effect of fewer instances of teacher-on-student sex. But I’m not hopeful. I think we’ve already lost this war. My only respite will be to focus my writing exclusively on topics that kids aren’t interested in whatsoever. Like grammar.