Bertrand Russel said that “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so full of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” The internet is crabs in a pot, the idiots dragging us all down. And anyone who dares to call another person out becomes a target of ridicule.
It just seems like anytime you say anything, you just get attacked. I feel like the internet is just full of “attack dogs”, waiting to make you feel like an idiot for having the gall to voice an opinion. It seems only those with a tolerance for endless attacks are left to comment, which just selects for those type of people, reinforcing the pool in a positive feedback until anyone left is either an attack dog who is cool with attacking everything and getting attacked constantly, or people naive enough not to realize this.
If this is what we let the internet become, we lose. All rationality dies, not just on this medium, but in the culture at large, because the culture is under the impression that the medium represents the culture. Just like with TV for the previous generation.
We’re losing faith in each other, and for good reason. We look like idiots. The internet looks HORRIBLE. It is full of hatred, emotional blindness, disinformation, confused people, the overconfident. What you know matters less and less, and how loudly and emotionally you can shout it matters more and more. The conversation, even the medium itself, seems to favor the loudmouthed idiot. But due to the difficulty of connecting to the internet, there was a disproportionate amount of smart people, so it was balanced out, all through the 1980s and 90s, and early 00s.
But now… everyone has access. The idiot can spew his garbage with just as much visibility as the wise man’s careful writings, as always, but the idiots were now in larger numbers.
Then the propaganda came. Companies and governments started realizing the usefulness of the internet as a propaganda tool. And it is easier to make dumb propaganda than smart propaganda.
So in the places where people were talking about stuff the companies and governments don’t want talked about, they just send in a thousand loudmouthed idiots, some of whom may not even realize what they’re doing or who they’re working for. They just want to say stuff loudly, and appear correct (even if incorrect in reality), and be on a team who backs up this worldview. A community with a mutual lack of humility. For many, that is enough because they’re not well-liked in the real world because of these same beliefs.
So both of the hired and unhired variety, there are people poisoning the very arenas of discussion that many of us have held so sacred for the last few decades. It really hurts. I feel like I’m watching my child die. This is my community, this is our community. But some people, mostly who do not realize the full extent of their extremely vocal negativity, have brought down the main tentpoles holding up the internet as an “information superhighway”.
Information has been supplanted by data. The difference is this: Information is data that gives knowledge. Information is always data, but data is not always information. More and more we see useless data. We can also call it “noise” in the electrical engineering sense. Our signal to noise ratio is completely fucked now, because there are so many people making noise compared to before. It’s not that humanity has gotten dumber, it’s just that the dumb have a louder voice, and there are many powerful and moneyed interests who are utilizing the loudmouthed dumb for propagandistic purposes, both to poison the discussion with nonsense, but also to push certain narratives (which is harder to hire for).
The end result is that all the reasonable people in this world that use the internet get on and see that it’s a madhouse. Then they have 2 reactions:
- Fuck this noise, I’m out of here. I have better things to do.
- Man people are fucked up and stupid. I can’t trust people.
The first reaction only strengthens the concentration of noise and weakens the signal. YOU, you rational person aspiring to have deep thoughts, you are the signal. Bertrand Russel said that “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so full of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” For a while, the internet protected us from this. But now, there are so many aggressive loud-mouthed idiots, it’s just overwhelming. Both naturally, and pushed forward due to moneyed interests and useful fools. Plus the anonymous consequence-free nature of the internet shields people from any real consequences of making poor communication.
The internet is crabs in a pot, the idiots dragging us all down. And anyone who dares to call another person out without perfect emotional tact becomes a target of ridicule.
The internet is like you’d better have everything perfect, or you can go fuck yourself in the worst way possible. And “perfect” is meaning less and less to be well-researched and reasoned, and more becoming what best pushes forward the narrative of some pre-established echo chamber.
It’s just frustrating as fuck. And it’s exhausting. The internet used to be an exciting place to learn new things and connect with people, with the occasional asshole. Now it’s like an uphill battle against a crushing current of asinine tomfoolery and misinformation.
Look at how popular the depression memes are. On some level, it shows the deep malaise of the culture that isn’t being addressed, and these memes speak to that. On the otherhand, you can be having a good day and then come across 20 of these memes and feel like a total piece of shit afterward. At what point does it stop speaking to something that needs said and instead is programming people to behave a certain way?
I don’t know if we can go back. I think it’s just over now. We can try, and I’m trying, with our new website at antiextremes.com. I’m not giving up to try and find and create good pockets of the internet where reasonable people can discuss complex things in a subtle manner. I hope the internet culture can shift away from what speaks to the lowest common denominator, and instead strive to pull our minds upward to thoughts we’ve never thought before, instead of just endless backpatting about the things we already know.