I probably spend too much time on the Internet. It's not a problem or anything. I can stop any time I want, I just won't today, and probably not tomorrow, either. But I'm fine.
Whether or not this is an addiction (it is!), is irrelevant. The point is, I've spent so much time on the Internet that I can now recognize the worst times of the year to be on it (you probably can too, because it's the day after Thanksgiving, and you're here, reading this silly column). I dread these days all year and complain about them to anyone who will listen. Because what's the alternative? Not going on the Internet? Shut up.
No one is talking about anything.
The holidays are amazing. Everyone gets to spend time with their family, gathered around a turkey or Christmas tree or Hanukkah Squid (right?), sharing a meal, and stories and laughter and love.
No one's working or running around; everyone's just peacefully enjoying time with their families.
And that's great, but what about the socially maladjusted folks, for whom the Internet has become surrogate family? What are we to do?
The problem, since everyone is out enjoying a rare day off, is that no one is doing anything. There are blogs I check, comics and shows I follow, but everyone's taking their rightful vacation. All of the socially-important news sites that I claim to visit, and all of the pop culture and entertainment news sites that I actually visit usually have some kind of cheerful "No updates today -- enjoy the holiday weekend!" message, so I'm forced to go a day without knowing anything.
Sure, Cracked.com updates with a few new pieces of content, but I've probably already read those before they even get published. Even most forums are full of people talking about how no one's around. For someone like me who works on the Internet professionally and spends time on the Internet degeneratively, it's like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Some sites are on vacation, some are lazy and some just acknowledge that, since it's going to be a slow traffic day anyway, they might as well not waste time writing up something new. Hell, even I'm slacking. This article was supposed to be five entries long, but, you know ... Thanksgiving stuff came up. This entry barely has an ending.
Everyone is talking about one thing, but you hate it.
Or if you don't hate it, you at least don't understand it or care about it. I picked the World Cup and the release of a new video game because those are two things with which I am totally unfamiliar and about which the Internet-at-large gets totally excited. But this can apply to any big world event that most people love that you're just vaguely aware of. I'm sure some people feel this way about the Super Bowl, and I'm sure some felt it about the writer's strike a few years ago, and I'm sure some people feel that way about Occupy Wall Street now, or anything else that has ever dominated the news at any time. God help you if you're a Cracked fan who doesn't care about Batman (does such a thing exist?). When The Dark Knight Rises comes out in 2012, I guarantee you that 15 of our 21 pieces of content that week will be about Batman. And if you're not interested, you're just left out. Because everyone will be talking about something you're not invested in, and you just won't know what to do with yourself.
"I guess I'll ... go outside? Am I pronouncing that right?"
I cannot stress how little interest I have in the World Cup. I like sports, but not soccer, and certainly not Planet Soccer. I have all of the information that mankind has ever discovered at my fingertips, but I still refuse to Google who won the World Cup, because that answer will never be important to me. It could have been America, it could have been my neighbors, it could have been fucking space and it wouldn't matter to me. It's not that I hate soccer or the World Cup or anything, it's just that I'm not interested in the subject so hard that it sort of consumes me.
When the World Cup happened last ... (year? March? Tuesday?), I was bombarded with World Cup stories all over the Internet. And, yes, it is the whole Internet (or at least the only parts of the Internet that I'm interested in; the parts that update daily). ESPN.com's talking about every game (match? brawl?) and every player (rumbler? swordsman?) and speculating on who is going to take home the big trophy (medal? Quidditch badge?). Tumblr is full of soccer gifs and vuvuzela-related memes (since I never really dug into the story, for two whole weeks I thought there was some star soccer player called Vuvu Zela). And, because of the way the Internet works, if everyone online is searching for and craving World Cup-related content, every website that publishes daily articles is going to try to get in on that by covering something vaguely related to the World Cup, even if that site doesn't typically cover sports.
There's nothing wrong with that. It's smart business. Give the people what they're looking for. Tap into the zeitgeist, and so forth. It's only a problem if, like me, your lack of interest in the most popular subject at the time is so strong and thorough that it's almost an active apathy.
I feel the same way about new video games. At some point in the last eight years, I got really bad at video games. Maybe they got harder, maybe my eyes got worse or my thumbs got fat, or maybe I just didn't have as much time to devote to gaming as I had in the past, but the bottom line was that I could no longer just pick up a game and be good at it (at least not without letting other aspects of my life suffer), so I had to make a choice. And I decided to turn my back on gaming, because I don't like being bad at things, and if I don't ever try, I'm not technically bad at it. (This is also why I don't surf.) As a result, I'm left out in the cold whenever a new Fallout or Modern Warfare or Crash Bandicoot comes out, because it's all the Internet wants to talk about. The Internet has so many inside jokes about Portal 2 that I don't get that I feel like the nerdy kid in middle school. Because I don't know enough about video games. I go to Reddit several times a day, but I don't play Skyrim, or even know what kind of game it is. Do you have any idea how alienated that makes me feel?