I got my first computer in the mid '90s, and as a teenager, I acquired every kind of virus downloading porn can give you. I went to all the corners of the World Wide Web. I went to its seedy little bars, its quaint villages, its cult-run compounds and more than one of its highway rest stops. And now I'm going to tell you, unequivocally, what the five worst things on the Internet are. Because I looked them all in the eye and saw a wretched hole filled with human suffering where their soul should have been.
Lest you think this list will include such hilarious things as "2 Girls 1 Cup," some manner of off-colored waffles or citrus-based parties, let me assure you, those are nothing. Those are what the cretins email to their cronies. No, I'm talking about a more existential level of awfulness. I'm talking about the things that, on a subconscious level, make you feel just a bit queasy every time you log on, but they not only persevere, they thrive and blossom and grow. Like wieners. Cankerous wieners.
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins gave us the word "meme" as a term to describe the aspects of a culture that spread and replicate over time and through the influence of the people and culture that make use of them. The concept is both diffuse and precise at once, and was generally meant to indicate something like fashion, which shifts and adapts on a cultural level as it is influenced by a small number of individuals and then imitated to a greater or lesser degree by a larger number. A meme is not a cat having invisible butt sex. Not even invisible butt secks.
Because the Internet refined the long definition of meme down to "something that is imitated," memes are now little more than knock-knock jokes with novel, slightly new punch lines each time. As an example, here's that popular Handsome Soren Bowie meme that the kids love so much these days:
When my mother punishes me for my tardiness, she makes me wear a Soren Bowie mask so she'll at least feel a small pang of regret.
Now, while this meme is clearly awesome, others are not. Most are not. They're the online version of yelling "I love lamp" totally unprompted and waiting for everyone to congratulate you on how funny it was when you quoted that movie line from some years ago, quite out of context. You comedy trailblazer, you.
Memes are a barometer of online human laziness and lack of creativity. Whole message boards are devoted to the creation of new and the proliferation of old ones. When a new meme pops up -- for instance, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy -- it becomes so popular that you can expect to see it everywhere. Photogenic Guy ended up in worldwide news, on Gawker, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, ABC News and elsewhere while journalists kept using the word "viral" because someone in marketing told them to, even though you can tell by their expression that they keep equating it with herpes in their head. Space-age herpes. You get it from trying to bang a floppy drive. Those reporters still have floppy drives.
What the fuck? WHAT THE FUCK? Why? When did the masses pool together to have a conference and follow-up referendum on how to collectively start giving any shits about this stuff? If memes are a method of identifying a culture, future civilizations will assume we were a people made up entirely of puns that would have been booed off of vaudeville stages, and wordplay as clever as swordplay with a slow-witted baby with motor control issues is dangerous.
Never before in history have so many done so little for so long. Twitter is the technological equivalent of that scene in a movie where the nerdy lead character tries in vain to signal to the hot girl across a crowded room who he thinks just noticed him and then, upon realizing she was waving to someone else, tries to casually run his hand through his hair as though that was his plan all along.
"Hey, ladies. We smell like cheese but are lactose intolerant. Interested in a paradox?"
In fairness, as part of my actual job, I am on Twitter all day long making terrible one-liners, but that's only because it's my job and I am so terribly desperate for the validation of complete strangers. But at least I realize it. As an aside, how are you liking this article? Someone as attractive and smart as you could be off partying with celebrities, but I'm glad you're here with me. Come sit by me. I have pie.
Twitter lets you sit in your underpants eating peanut butter from a jar while you converse with celebrities, entrepreneurs, writers, politicians, psychotics, fame whores and Gladstone. Always Gladstone. There's no buffer zone, no wall. The only thing you have to keep you away from the influx of crazies is your own visibility. The more popular you are, the more attention you get, but the less likely you are to notice it all. Kim Kardashian has 14.5 million followers, several of whom she hasn't had sex with or married. In all of that, she probably has never seen one of my offers to take her out for sandwiches. And I don't give a shit, I will take her right the fuck out for sandwiches. Kim Kardashian, if you see this, I will buy you lunch. Anywhere you like, up to like $30 each. But on Twitter, because so many people are offering her sandwiches or Armenian waxing kits or whatever, she's missing out.
On the flip side, the account I use most often has around 5,000 followers. So if you send me a tweet, not only do I get angry that I have to use the word "tweet" like some kind of misfit toddler out bird-watching, but I'll see it. So if I make a hilarious one-liner about Tony Danza's BO, and you respond by telling me you want to spoon me in a hammock, I'll see that, and I'll always know you thought it, and we'll never be able to hang out, not ever. Unless it's a nice hammock.
Full disclosure -- I do not have a podcast. I was a guest on one once, and it was fun, and I have listened to several and enjoyed them immensely. So how can podcasts be one of the worst things on the Internet? Has the world gone topsy-turvy? Should we all eat arsenic-laced applesauce and masturbate while we die? No. Why would you ask that?
Podcasts are like gremlins. Put that on a T-shirt, future generations will love it. One gremlin is no big deal. It might even be awesome. Remember when Billy had Gizmo at work in New York, in his desk, and it was all adorable and shit? God, Gizmo's a great guy. But then what happened? Some twat dumped water on Bill's hard work and it ran into his drawer and then Gizmo shat out a bunch of prick gremlins and fake Donald Trump nearly lost an entire building full of innocent people and potentially the entire city of New York to ravenous, green assholes with a penchant for slapstick. Which is exactly what happens when podcasting gets out of hand.
Look at that little podcasting fuck.
To better elucidate the value of podcasts, I made this handy formula. It's a little complex, but the math is sound and it holds up under scrutiny, at least according to the janitor, who I assume has Good Will Hunting-like powers. His name's Gus. He makes his own salami. Good guy.
Does anyone know who you are? If yes, then podcast. If no, then shut up.
Now, applying this across the field of podcastery, which is not even a word, so don't jot this part down in your notebooks, you'll see that precisely 1 in 70 podcasts have any merit. The rest are podcasts by your dentist about how he just found the greatest deal on argyle sweaters and the body in the crawl space still seems fresh.
A podcast, like all things on the Internet, refuses to be bound by any rules except those it makes itself. TV shows are usually 30 or 60 minutes in length. Radio shows have DJs who get paid money and, apparently, entertain some people. Movies are generally between 90 and 120 minutes. Gary Fuckchuckle's Smile Time Podcast can be 17 hours straight, then have no new material for a month, then a 30-minute episode followed by an hour episode later that same day, then nothing for a week, until his three fans renounce him forever. Also, having nothing to say doesn't stop most podcasts from existing. That should really be an indicator to shut the fuck up. But it isn't.