Government Technology

Am I an Internet Idiot?


July 31, 2007 By

Do the Intarwebs make us more stupider? What an amusing irony it would be if the so-called Information Age actually made us less intelligent.

Along with the wonders the World Wide Web brings to our homes and offices - and laptops and cell phones and video game consoles and God knows what else - it also provides a forum for raving lunatics to voice their insanity.

One of my favorite Web sites is Digg, the news aggregator populated by news links submitted and voted on by users. The more people like the link, the more prominently it's displayed on Digg's main pages. But the problem is that the very thing that makes Digg great - user-generated content - is what makes me feel so stupid when I read it. Here is a sample of the leading links during the time of my writing: Bush's Grandfather Directed Bank Who Funded Hitler; Gay Flamingos Adopt a Baby; and Woman Drinks 12 Diet Cokes a Day.

Digg, like many other news-aggregating sites, allows users to also comment on stories. Would you believe 200 people have something to say about a woman who drinks a dozen Diet Cokes? In the offline world, you'd be lucky to find two people who'd care to comment. But online, every person can, and often does, share their two cents. Sometimes you read some really funny, insightful stuff - comments that go on to be Internet memes (temporarily popular Internet phenomena, such as the LOLcats or L337 speak). But more often, Internet commentary is evidence that the globe is full of failing high school students, conspiracy nut jobs and video game fanboys.            

For some reason, the Internet makes people do and say things they would never otherwise do or say. Over at Penny Arcade, a popular webcomic, comic character Jonathan Gabriel once enounced the brutally eloquent Greater Internet Jerkwad* Theory, which states that: Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Jerkwad*. Yet Web sites like Digg, Fark and Slashdot are getting more popular because user comments - no matter how stupid - are interesting in their own right. So much so that traditional news outlets are entering the commenting game.

In addition to the detrimental effect anonymity has on normal people, some "Netizens" have a special way of taking part of a story and transforming it into something simultaneously hilarious and utterly moronic. Take the word "Intarwebs" or its relative "Intertubes." Each began life as a play on a quote. The former word came from President Bush's usage of the term "Internets," and the latter was taken from Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' explanation of the Internet as a "series of tubes." In fact, many Internet users would know exactly what you meant from the word "tubes." For example, if a person were to say, "The tubes are clogged again," he or she would mean Web sites are loading slowly.

This is all symptomatic of the Internet's uncanny ability to reduce big chunks of very useful information into tiny bits of questionably useful stuff. I just hope these little nuggets of data I glean every day aren't turning me into an Internet idiot.

 

*less offensive term substituted for original.



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Comments

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

If places like Fark And Digg post news articles that make you "stupider," and your article on such is posted, does that mean I can blame you on a loss of braincells?

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

If places like Fark And Digg post news articles that make you "stupider," and your article on such is posted, does that mean I can blame you on a loss of braincells?

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

Fark.com makes people smarter!

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

Fark.com makes people smarter!

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

I propose that the Internet just exposes the level of idiocy that has existed in humanity for eons. I doubt that exposure to the internet causes us to become dumb, I think that the internet gives voice to the millions of previously-voiceless, who are dumb.

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

I propose that the Internet just exposes the level of idiocy that has existed in humanity for eons. I doubt that exposure to the internet causes us to become dumb, I think that the internet gives voice to the millions of previously-voiceless, who are dumb.

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

Yes.

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

Yes.

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

I'm going out of my way to not comment on this article.

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

I'm going out of my way to not comment on this article.

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

Too late, Chad.

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

Too late, Chad.

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

WAS the director of a bank that funded the Nazis. What's stupid about Digg reporting it and people commenting on it?

   |    Commented August 3, 2007

WAS the director of a bank that funded the Nazis. What's stupid about Digg reporting it and people commenting on it?

   |    Commented August 16, 2007

I'm with you. They say there is more crime, more poverty, more evil; I believe it is a simply a matter of more of whatever being exposed to more people at a faster pace than ever before.

   |    Commented August 16, 2007

I'm with you. They say there is more crime, more poverty, more evil; I believe it is a simply a matter of more of whatever being exposed to more people at a faster pace than ever before.

   |    Commented August 17, 2007

I think it would be more accurate to suggest that the Internet has made us more ignorant, not more stupid. Unless you're suggesting that the Internet has somehow infected our gene pool. If the premise you're after is that the Internet spans an ever increasing level of ignorance, I suspect you're correct. This is certainly not the case because of the lack of information Internet affords, but rather it's that we have much more control of what information we consume. A good thing? Not always. In the past we had a few channels of information (e.g. news papers, a few TV news outlets and news magazines). These outlets had to cater to a wide spectrum of audience tastes, so it reflected a broad spectrum of viewpoints. People were (forced to be) exposed to more opinions, perspectives, etc. Now we can basically spoon-feed ourselves whatever perspective we want, continuing to reinforce ever-narrowing beliefs. I think it's only a matter of time before we are completely incapable of screwing in our own light bulb or governing ourselves.

   |    Commented August 17, 2007

I think it would be more accurate to suggest that the Internet has made us more ignorant, not more stupid. Unless you're suggesting that the Internet has somehow infected our gene pool. If the premise you're after is that the Internet spans an ever increasing level of ignorance, I suspect you're correct. This is certainly not the case because of the lack of information Internet affords, but rather it's that we have much more control of what information we consume. A good thing? Not always. In the past we had a few channels of information (e.g. news papers, a few TV news outlets and news magazines). These outlets had to cater to a wide spectrum of audience tastes, so it reflected a broad spectrum of viewpoints. People were (forced to be) exposed to more opinions, perspectives, etc. Now we can basically spoon-feed ourselves whatever perspective we want, continuing to reinforce ever-narrowing beliefs. I think it's only a matter of time before we are completely incapable of screwing in our own light bulb or governing ourselves.

Edmund Wentworkth Russell    |    Commented January 25, 2010

In my opinion, planet Earth's inhabitants will have to enhance their critical thinking at a faster rate while making critical decisions about everything that concerns them, as they navigate the content of the Internet by developing more diverse ways to communicate with each other. Or, they will fall into a new dark age on this living celestial body, or worse.

Edmund Wentworkth Russell    |    Commented January 25, 2010

In my opinion, planet Earth's inhabitants will have to enhance their critical thinking at a faster rate while making critical decisions about everything that concerns them, as they navigate the content of the Internet by developing more diverse ways to communicate with each other. Or, they will fall into a new dark age on this living celestial body, or worse.

Vectorash - Sociable and Nice    |    Commented March 22, 2011

I sooo agree, idiots are out there: my point: http://www.vectorash.ro/internet-idiot/


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