The 4 Worst Times to Be on The Internet
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.
World Cup/Release of New Video Game
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?
The Day a Huge Meme Blows Up
Meme. Meme. Parody of meme. Round-up of parodies of meme. Anti-meme. Meta-meme. Meme meme meme.
The morning of Rebecca Black's infamous Internet debut, one of my coworkers forwarded me her terrible, terrible music video. I'm sorry, I typed that wrong. Eleven of my coworkers, 25 high school friends and 132,000 Internet strangers forwarded me that video.
And I'm just as guilty, because I sent it around to everyone, too. I was excited, because I finally had a place to put all of the hate-joy I'd been stockpiling. So I shared it with friends, traded jokes about it, rewatched it and did all of the things one does when a new viral sensation comes out.
Then a few hours went by and I was ready to actually start my day, but the Internet hadn't quite caught up yet. Because the Internet is infinite and caters to a massive audience that is constantly just waking up, it doesn't really advance throughout the day like a person does. It doesn't "get over" a viral video when you do, because a million people just saw it for the first time while you were taking lunch.
"For shit's- I was gone for two minutes!"
And then the parade starts. The meme leads the way, followed by parodies of the meme, followed by articles collecting all of those parodies, followed by meta-parodies, or self-aware-memes (Christ, talking like this is killing me), followed by self-important articles ranting about how meme-obsessed we've become. And even if the source of the meme is great, and even if some of the parodies are hilarious, it's still just, at the end of the day, exhausting. Back in whenever when Rebecca Black's video came out, by 2 o'clock, I just wanted to read about something new that wasn't related to Rebecca Black, but even important sites like CNN were talking about Black (probably). Being on the Internet all day when a huge, viral meme drops is like being the only person in the room who saw The Sixth Sense a year before everyone else did.
"No, yes, I- Yeah, I got it, it was very shocking. Has anyone seen any other movies?"
Fucking April Fools.
I can't get any work done on April Fools' Day, because every goddamned website pulls some kind of goddamned stunt.
It's fun for absolutely anyone who doesn't have to get anything done on April Fools' Day, which isn't who I am. (As a refresher, I am an angry, tired get-off-my-lawn sort of fella who has an Internet addiction and an inability to understand why people like to have fun.) IGN made a trailer for a fake Harry Potter show, Hulu pretended to be a website from the '90s, YouTube turned every video link into a RickRoll, Google did ... something cute, I'm sure (they do every year).
Mah! You guys are wicked.
I do get it. I understand the fun in these pranks. I laughed at Hulu's fake site and generally appreciate whatever Google decides to do. I know that no one's genuinely trying to fool anyone else; it's all about making a fun, silly joke.
It's only a problem because, on April Fools' Day, no one knows who to trust. When the Wall Street Journal and Times.com want to get in on the April Fools' Day fun just like everybody else, you can't trust any website conclusively. Everything you read could just be some elaborate prank. Or not elaborate, just stupid. A lot of sites just want to convince the reader that something false is true, so they just put forward some fake yet totally believable story. Some entertainment news site may report "This just in: Tommy Lee Jones cast as lead in new Quentin Tarantino movie," and then turn around the next day and say "April Fools! There IS no movie! Haw! Prankmaster!" Because some people think a good prank is just a convincing lie, and not a clever joke. Because some people don't know how pranks work.
"HAH! Got you, no he's not! You look like such an IDIOT."
As a result, you can't trust any site or any story you read, all day, so you're better off avoiding all of them altogether.
Which is ... a bad thing? Am I complaining about having to take a day away from the Internet? Yikes. Yikes. I've gotta ... I've just got to take some time away. I'm gonna go outside and call my family, you guys. Please stop reading this article ... now.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's Senior Writer (ladies), and he is growing a hideous mustache on his face all month long to fight cancer, (Proof of hideous mustache!). Donate to his face right here (everyone). Or donate to Cracked writer Soren Bowie's face right here, or donate to Team Tiger Awesome's Nick Mundy's face right here, or anyone on the Cracked.com Cancer-Fighting Attack Squad right here
For more from Dan, check out 5 Famous Inventors (Who Stole Their Big Idea) and Why Humanity Can't Get Past The 7 Deadly Sins.