June 24, 2008

Internet: Serious Business

Iíve watched the Internet evolve over the years from the perspective of someone who writes for a living, as a communicator who has chosen the written word as his medium of choice and his profession. As such, I like to think, after five years of college writing, followed by a decade of writing and editing content for a variety of newspapers, magazines, books and even Web-based material, that I have a pretty good idea of what constitutes decent writing and thoughtful, well-reasoned rhetoric.

The Internet, Iíve noticed, has this strange power over what would otherwise be somewhat rational, restrained people. The Internet takes these people and turns them into rambling, obsessive-compulsive commenting idiots. Thatís not to say EVERYONE online is an idiot, but the idiots, in my experience, seem to be the most vocal. Many somehow believe, if they just write endlessly, the reader wonít notice their idiocy. On the other side of the coin are the idiots who cram so much idiocy, usually with Caps Lock enabled, into such a small space, it practically generates its own idiot gravity.

From my perspective, the idiot door really swung open at the turn of the Millennium, when online journals, or blogs, started grabbing the worldwide imagination. Here was a Web-based engine that could provide an online voice to every man, woman or child, provided they had a rudimentary understanding of Internet language coding. That small requirement, that tiny hurdle, that miniscule speed bump of extra effort and knowledge, meant most early bloggers and online journal keepers could also string together logical sentences and thoughts.

A side-effect to all that early blogging was the human desire to generate feedback from readers, to encourage written dialogue with their fellow online human beings, and it was from that point that the Internet ship sailed over the edge of the earth and into the awaiting maw of the commenting beast below.

Blogs became equipped with comment boxes or other such commenting engines, making online commentary as simple as clicking a link and typing out thoughts. No longer the sole domain of the casual and hardcore geeks, online commentary became open to the Web-based general public, which has since established itself as the single largest bloc of idiots ever to wield a keyboard.

When YouTube rose to prominence in early 2007, the geniuses behind the Internet video-sharing powerhouse made the monumentally bad decision to provide viewers with the ability to comment on each and every available video. The result has been the single largest assault on spelling, grammar, logic and general thought ever to be inflicted upon the written word.

A brief trip through the cesspool that is a YouTube comment thread yields such literary gems as:

- lmao!!! i feel kinda sorry for him but this is still funny 5/5 I also added him in my video aswell

- real smooth lmao smbdy tell me why he tried to get back up

- Where I Can Download It !!?? hahahhahaha Its Soooo Funnyyy

And thatís just a tiny sampling. There are, literally, hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of similar comments polluting YouTube comment threads alone. And I chose the comments listed above for their relative COHERENCE; there are far, far worse comments, believe me. Trying to read many of the comments is like trying to decipher Martian Braille, riddled with insulting expletives.

For better or for worse, the commenting beast has now extended its tendrils into online newspaper articles. Many newspapers, experiencing declining advertising revenue and circulations, have opened their Web-based content to the commenting opinion of readers. This experiment admittedly has potential, but that potential is tempered by the fact that roughly 80 percent of online commenters are also anonymous, and anonymous online commenters can be ridiculously insulting and hostile, often inhabiting personas they would never, EVER exhibit during face-to-face interactions.

All of this is just my long-winded way of telling you how special I am, and how unique my coherent and amusing writing style actually is. You can comment to me about it, if youíd like.

Posted by Ryan at June 24, 2008 09:23 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Five years of college writing? lostsa plp go 2 skuel fer 8 yrs there called drs

Posted by: Autumn at June 24, 2008 12:35 PM

To be fair, Autumn, I COULD have graduated in four years if I hadn't changed my major late in my third year from English to Mass Communications/Journalism.

That, and all the partying and orgies.

Posted by: Ryan at June 24, 2008 12:57 PM

I thought parties and orgies were part of the journalism curriculum.

Posted by: Jeff_McAwesome at June 24, 2008 07:14 PM

Yeah, I've too often gotten accidentally sucked in to reading the comments on a news story. I swear most of the people aren't commenting on the story itself. I think they just type up a screed of their latest screeching points, and just cut and paste it into every news article that day.

It's like a train wreck though. I try to look away but I can't. Then I get depressed and go drink half a bottle of Jamesons.

My buddy in the newspaper business told me that the paper he just left layed off a bunch of real reporters, then brought in high school students as interns to write stories. So maybe you made the right career decision going over to the dark side.

Posted by: David Grenier at June 25, 2008 06:38 AM

David, I always intended to transition over to the "dark side." Practically every journalism professor I ever had told the class not to expect to make any money for at least the first five years, unless we went into PR or marketing. My first newspaper reporting gig paid a whopping $6/hour, and if I didn't take the job, there were PLENTY of mass comm students/new grads willing to work for peanuts just to get their foot in the door, so that's hardly a new phenomenon. I'm a little surprised to hear they're plucking writers from the high school market, but given the financial state of a lot of newspapers today, it's not a complete shock.

I'm with you on the whole train wreck/can't look away thing. I'll read through comment threads on news articles just for the sheer grammatical pain it causes me.

Posted by: Ryan at June 25, 2008 08:07 AM
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