#2. The Internet Hates Satire
I'm not sure it's fair to blame the Internet for this, because at the end of the day, the Internet, like Soylent Green, is people. So basically, it's people who hate satire. They don't understand it. It confuses them. But I'm including this entry on my list because the Internet is super good at making people's disdain for satire clear.
And cats. The Internet also hates cats. Wait, no. Sorry. The opposite of that.
Sites like McSweeney's and the Onion rely on the Internet to find enough people in the world who appreciate the form to remain successful. But when you throw satire out to the masses, things go badly. I've written two columns about satirists being attacked by people who simply missed the joke, and I've certainly had mixed results when employing satire online.
One of my favorite columns was my defense of gay marriage from the point of view of a married heterosexual who only understood homosexuality from what he saw on TV. In it, I warned the gay community that if gay marriage were legal: 1) they'd have no excuse not to commit; 2) their sex would get less hot; and 3) the niche market for gay men as interior designers would suffer because married people aren't hip. Taken in whole, my objections to gay marriage were so stupid, it made a case for why gay marriage should be legal. That's sort of how satire works sometimes. Plenty of people got it, but lots of feisty folks wanted to know who the hell I was to tell them whether or not they had a right to get married. That was the day I learned that gay people could be just as stupid as heteros.
We're here. We're queer. And some of us are just as stupid as some of you!
And then there was my biggest failure, in which I bemoaned the death of the publishing industry at the hands of social media successes like the book and then sitcom based off the Twitter feed "Shit My Dad Says." Accordingly, I did a timeline about the rise and fall of a Twitter sensation called the Meh-ssiah who only tweeted "meh." About six people read it, and of those six, about four believed that everything I said was true.
It's hard to get too upset about these things anymore. Satire is just like color blindness for some. Eventually, you stop asking those people if your tie matches your suit.
#1. The Internet Has No Shame
The Internet has no shame for a couple of reasons. The first, everyone knows: The Internet is anonymous. We hide behind avatars and dummy accounts and user names. We can do things in secret and we run amok. That's why people are trolls and bullies. Actions have fewer consequences in the dark, and there's not much more to say about that.
But the Internet also has no shame when it comes to knowledge. In the last decade, the search engine has replaced intelligence to some degree. Somehow, the ability to find the answer to everything has made it acceptable to know nothing. Why take the time to learn facts and hold them in your mind when they can just be retrieved in a Google search box? People pride themselves more on knowing how to look for answers than having them.
Warning. This will crash your results page.
Even with a decade-plus of Internet, I can't get used to that. Maybe it's because I was the youngest of three kids, my brothers seven and 10 years older. When I overheard things I didn't understand, my first instinct was wanting to learn more. To get grounded in the same details so I could participate in the grown-up world going on around me. I was eager to consume, and I was fortunate to have parents who afforded me a chance to speak. The search engine mentality, however, is interested only in acquiring enough information to shut down the conversation. To explain why it's OK not to know.
Or maybe giving everyone equal access to knowledge has made some believe that we are all in equal possession of knowledge. But we're not. People who care about knowing will always have the edge, because they will use the Internet as a tool for more learning, instead of an excuse for indifference. And there is so much indifference online. It's almost hostility toward "excessive" learning. The Internet wants to be told just enough to keep it interested, but not so much that it gets confused or finds out how much there is that it still doesn't know. Just enough information to be repeated. That makes the Internet feel smart. But give it too much and you're being pretentious or pedantic or a hipster, even though that's not really what any of those words mean. But the Internet doesn't care about knowing what words mean, only that there's an app to look them up if it absolutely has to. And it doesn't have to. After all, you don't even know where the Internet lives or what it looks like.
Watch the season finale of HATE BY NUMBERS. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.