S and I were talking last night about the internet as entertainment vs. the internet as information source. We have some jointly-conceived, hypothetical class of internet user (S characterized them as AOL-type users) whose entire online experience is limited to what they see on the welcome page. Or what shows up on the Explorer homepage, ie third-rate NBC content about child painters or the latest viral cat video. For these users, S hypothesizes, the internet has replaced television.
(This sounds really judgmental. I should probably stop while I’m ahead. Or just change streams.)
I’m finally reading the George Saunders collection of essays, the title essay of which (“The Braindead Megaphone”) discusses the cultural phenomenon of being bombarded by ill-thought-out but loud messages that people begin to parrot because it’s easier to parrot those messages than it is to drown out the noise and think the issues though on one’s own. (Bad paraphrase.)
The 24-hour news cycle (with special emphasis on certain networks) is a braindead megaphone. The internet can be, as well: it’s easier to log in and passively rely on some mega-corporate welcome page to guide one’s idea of what’s newsworthy or entertaining on a given day than it is to find one’s own reliable content aggregators, or even to set up your own feed that draws from a variety of sources.
There’s a lot of thoughtful commentary online. For every Tosh.0-grade, Jackass-style stunt-gone-wrong clip, there’s a post about, say, reconciling one’s relationship with weight and body image or respectfully disagreeing with a NYT review of the Jeff Koons porn paintings.
Although …. maybe I’ve overstated. There are untold thousands of Tosh.0-grade, Jackass-style stunt-gone-wrong clips out there. I suppose it’s easier to butter your entryway tile and lure your roommate to the door by ringing the bell than, say, writing an essay. I’ll have to get on that.