Not long ago, I accused you, perhaps hastily, of ruining the entire Internet. I blamed you for absent-mindedly destroying the most valuable advancement in interpersonal connection since the advent of language just by being your miserable, wretched, greedy self.
It's possible I overreacted.
I neglected to include the equal number of extraordinary and inspiring ways your online habits are actually improving the Internet every day, and by default society as a whole. So I'd like to personally say I'm sorry, [your name here], you're not that bad after all.
Ugh, well at least not for the reasons I stipulated.
Now, I think we can agree that it takes a tremendous amount of character for someone to admit when he was wrong, and because I am the type of someone who spews character from every orifice, I want to do more than apologize -- I want to make it up to you. What follows are four ways you are helping to make us all better people by the way you use the Internet. I am laying them all out carefully for you to see because I suspect that you might be doing all of them by accident. Sorry, apologies are hard.
#4. You're Making Knowledge Cool
Poor nerds. They had a brief window of time when the spotlight of pop culture finally illuminated their passions and then, just as quickly, all the coattail riders and scenery chewers crowded around them, proclaiming, "Hey, I'm a nerd, too! Look at me, look at how I geek out for, uh ... tacos!" The rise of the nerd and the rise of the Internet happened almost simultaneously. Expertise in any subject, no matter how niche or fictional, suddenly became currency for popularity. And while I can understand why it's frustrating for dinosaur diehards and elvish-speaking Tolkien lovers to suddenly have their favorite franchise or hobby diluted with bandwagon fanatics, the fact that the Internet is making knowledge cool is, in the end, a good thing.
Less than 15 years ago, intelligence might as well have been a curse as far as pop culture was concerned. A fixation on anything from the sciences to the seven kingdoms made you a social outcast. But today, almost 800,000 people are willing to sit patiently for 12 minutes watching someone bake bread.
Or watching someone explain complex laws of physics.
Or watching a bunch of assholes name analogues between the Ninja Turtles and the four humors.
We've fallen in love with knowledge, and that's almost exclusively a product of how you use the Internet. You hunt for novelty, relentlessly, and when that novelty doesn't manifest as sloths cuddling with cats, it usually takes the form of information. In fact, the only reason I have a job is because the Internet loves to consume interesting, unique facts. It's hard to argue that becoming smarter is a bad thing.
So the next time you scroll through your Facebook feed and find someone with whom you grew up screaming "I love science!" despite the fact that you know they never went to a single science class and did nothing but complain about how boring it was in high school, think about the alternative -- I'd much rather live in a world where people celebrate knowledge, even if it's blindly, than a world where everyone dismisses it as geek fuel.
#3. You're Making Advertisements Fun
There's a very good reason why print and television advertisements suck: The creators have to make each one as watered down and broad as possible to ensure that they reach the largest audience given their placement. They can't be too clever or they risk millions of people missing the joke; they can't be too long or they risk millions of people losing interest; and they can't be too rapey because rapists are not traditionally strong consumer spenders. But above all, they can't interact with their audience. Their best hope is to shout loud enough that people pay attention briefly before flipping the page or changing the channel.
But the Internet is different. Granted, there are still the same stubborn people trying to create television commercials as pre-rolls or by tacking ads onto Facebook about how dentists want to kill a stay-at-home mother for unlocking the secret to whiter teeth or something. But smarter companies are realizing the power of virality. They're figuring out that they are finally free to do exactly what they've always wanted: focus hundreds of thousands of dollars on making the world genuinely magic for just one person so that he or she remembers the product forever. Like this joint ad for Coke Zero and SkyFall.
Or TNT advertising "drama," just as a general concept.
That kind of promotion was never viable before because only one guy got to experience it. But our Internet habits have assured advertisers that we're all happy to live vicariously through that guy as long as somebody filmed it. The campaign doesn't have to worry about demographics or time slots or anything other than making something that's incredible, because if it's incredible, we will spread it around for them. And I'm fine with that. I'm happy to do the legwork because they made someone's life extraordinary for a few minutes, and that's way better than ruining a classic rock song while shouting at me about zero due at signing.