4 Delusional People You Meet Working on the Internet
Believe it or not, the things you see and do on the Internet don't just happen by magic. No matter the site, someone is behind the scenes, pushing the buttons and hyperlinking the text and airbrushing the girls so you, the reader, have a pleasant Internet experience. Either that, or they're just making everything look presentable so they can steal your bank account info and give your computer AIDS. It's almost always one or the other.
The point is, for some people, the Internet is their workplace. I've counted myself among that group for just over two years now (full-time, anyway). What I do is basically a fast food version of comedy, and I'm the guy putting the dick jokes on the trays and handing them to the customers.
And like any other job that involves dealing with the public, you meet some interesting people along the way. I'm going to talk about one group in particular today: the delusional.
Before I go on, though, I feel like I should clarify something. I understand that there is an actual list of symptoms that have to be present for someone to be considered "delusional" in the strictest sense of the term. Further, I understand that all of these entries might not meet that criteria. But let me assure you, I do not care.
With that in mind, here are the four most delusional people you meet working on the Internet.
The Useless Domain Name Squatter
MTV VJ Adam Curry bought the rights to the domain name MTV.com way back in 1993 when barely anyone gave a damn about the Internet. Fast forward to a few years later when people did start caring about the Internet, and MTV had to take Curry to court and shell out a huge wad of cash to get the rights to the name.
And that's the story of how buying an Internet domain name before the person who might actually need it has a chance to became a way to make money on the Internet. Now, there are people who do just that for a living. If a bus crashes into a Waffle House in Louisiana, someone will own the domain name LouisianaWaffle- HouseBus.com four minutes later and then resell it to you for five times the price eight minutes later.
While this can indeed be a savvy way to make a few extra bucks, it's important to not let delusions of what kind of financial windfall you're in for cloud your judgment when setting a selling price. For example, prior to joining Cracked in late 2011, I was the managing editor at a Playboy-owned website. At some point during my tenure there, it was revealed that someone was posting all of our content on a site with a name identical to ours, except with ".blogspot" inserted between the name and the ".com". It's been approximately never since anyone actually read a Blogspot site, but still, you don't want people just posting your shit freely without consequence.
Seriously. Don't do it.
In lieu of setting up an actual fight somewhere, we had Playboy's legal team swing into action to demand that this miscreant stop stealing our stuff. As a gesture of goodwill, we also had them inquire about maybe purchasing the Blogspot domain name from him. Not that it was of any use to anyone, but it's the kind of thing you could envision chaining up in your basement so you can point at it and laugh whenever you're down there. Like that retarded child we wrote about taking care of back when Cracked was staffed exclusively by crazy people.
So a query was made and a reply was received. This fucking lunatic wanted ONE MILLION DOLLARS for the rights to his bullshit Blogspot domain name. It was a funny number in the first Austin Powers movie, and it was an even more hilarious figure this time around. One million dollars for a cheap clone of a site that, for the most part, nobody really gave a shit about.
Shockingly, the offer was declined, and that bullshit Blogspot site is still standing. If anyone is interested, you can probably buy it for a lot less cash these days.
The Social Media Guru
Remember when Digg was a thing that people cared about? Neither do I, but there was definitely a time when that was the case. For those of you unfamiliar, Digg was (is, but barely) a site that allows users to submit links to all manner of Internet content. Other users can then vote on which of those stories are promoted to the front page. It's a lot like the American political system in that it's a democratic system rife with corruption and mostly controlled by big corporate interests.
It also gave a lot of people jobs. See, Digg was absurdly easy to manipulate. All you really had to do was assemble a big group of friends willing to blindly "Digg" everything you submitted. In return, you would do the same for them. Sure, it meant you would spend five hours a day clicking the Digg button on an endless stream of bullshit stories, but it also meant that whatever you had to promote would stand a better chance of making it to the front page of Digg. And being on the front page of Digg, at least once upon a time, meant a ton of inbound traffic to that content you were trying to get eyes on. Of course, more traffic means more ad revenue.
Becoming a Digg "Power User" was absurdly easy, but to people who didn't know that, a person with the ability to make a story hit the front page of Digg was viewed as some kind of Internet marketing genius. Unsurprisingly, "social marketing professionals" began popping up left and right. People were paying good money to see their content on the front page of Digg and all of the extra traffic that came with it. Next thing you know, people with strong Digg accounts were being hailed as the king of all social media.
"If mom could see me now, she'd still be so very disappointed."
At one point in 2009, it's estimated that upwards of 60 percent of the ADD and Asperger's stricken members of society were employed as "social media consultants." That last statement is false only because the facts it contains are not true. But trust me, it captures the spirit of the Digg situation in 2009. And every single one of those twitchy fucks thought they literally made the Internet work. Digg was the biggest news portal on the Internet, and they were the gatekeepers who controlled what information made its way to the masses.
But then, seemingly overnight, the bubble burst. Digg had been promising changes aimed at curtailing the rampant abuse and misuse of the system for months. It would take another entire article to explain why, but for all intents and purposes, these changes destroyed Digg. Having a story hit the front page of Digg now meant you'd get maybe 5,000 page views, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands that the same feat earned you prior to Digg's unfortunate overhaul. The ability to make a story popular on Digg was essentially useless.
Suddenly, all of those Digg "experts" were hit with a stunning realization. Their entire job could literally be summed up with this one sentence ...
"I push a button until something happens."
Outside of Digg and most video games that involve fighting, that's a pretty useless skill. But even through signs of obvious trouble, Digg has stuck around, and legions of "social media gurus" are still out there sharing links and clicking that Digg button, even though it's pretty clear that the site is nearly dead.
With Digg recently being sold for an amount that may have been but probably wasn't $500,000, it's pretty safe to say that we'll be seeing a lot more of this on the streets soon ...
The only stock photo of a bum I'll ever love.
Just joking, they're all just moving on to Reddit.
Twitter is super important these days. Not only is it a great way to keep up with news and information and grainy pictures of your friends' lunches, but it's also a foolproof way of showing the world just how popular you are. Being one of those people with 50,000 followers who only follows like 22 people back is like the American Express Black Card of Internet credibility. It's what separates the @BillSimmons from the @SportsGuy33s of the world.
If you know the difference but don't like sports, you spend too much time on Twitter.
But not everyone gets to be popular. Some people have sex, some people buy sex, you know how it goes. It's no different with Twitter followers. The Tweetspinner is a person who uses shady software programs to build up a massive Twitter following, mistakenly believing that nobody will find it the least bit odd that they went from 500 followers to 75,000 followers overnight. These programs automatically follow users based on a predetermined set of criteria (anyone who tweets the word "boobs," for example). Ideally, those people will return the favor and, before long, you're following 50,000 people who follow you right back. It takes a village to make some people seem important, and to become a Tweetspinner, what you must do next ... is destroy that village.
Over the course of a few days or weeks, the Tweetspinner will systematically unfollow damn near all of the people who helped accomplish the impossible by making this lifeless Internet manipulator seem attention worthy. And that's the thanks they get. Unfollowed. Nice.
Of course, some people don't even put that much effort into being pretend interesting. Take current Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, for example.
No, seriously, take him.
He's being accused of just straight up buying Twitter followers (which, given his background, means he probably owns those people for real now) after gaining 175,000 new followers in just one weekend without so much as inadvertently tweeting a picture of his cock.
Rest assured, people notice it when "normal" people like you do it also. It's just that they don't care enough to say anything about it.
The Person Who Thinks They're Famous
Here's a little technique I use to keep myself grounded. It's for those times when opening the Internet to see that something I've written has been read by hundreds of thousands of people leads me to mistakenly believe that I'm some kind of celebrity. After all, if a band sells a million albums, they're a hit. The logical extension there is that if my article hits 1,000,000 page views, I'm the new Coldplay.
It's perfectly logical thinking, if you're insane and don't understand how the Internet works. To keep those feelings at bay, I do this:
1. Line up 10 people
2. Tell them I work for Cracked
3. Bask in the blank stares
It never fails. Yes, Cracked is one of the biggest comedy sites on the Internet, but it's not like that's in the same realm as being, say, one of the biggest department stores in the world. On a monthly basis, we serve an audience about the size of New York, and maybe one or two of those other inconsequential smaller states up in that area.
Beige color indicates states that don't like to party.
If you're talking pure numbers, it's safe to say that most people in the world have not heard of Cracked.com. Or most any website, for that matter. Sure, the Googles and YouTubes of the world have become household names, but for the most part, if you work on the Internet, you might as well be working at the DMV as far as what it will do to help you gain any sort of enduring following with the American people.
"Famous" and "Internet famous" are not the same thing. "Famous" is getting hounded by paparazzi when you go to Whole Foods. "Internet famous" is getting an email from a lonely teen in the Midwest about how your article about growing up fat really spoke to them. You'll never have to go out in public wearing a disguise because that list article you wrote got a bunch of page views.
The Internet demands anonymity, and for the people who work on the Internet, anonymity is exactly what we get. Enjoy it while you can, "Internet celebrities." You'll probably miss the quiet times when you (I) finally do something someone gives a shit about.