In the scramble for recognition that has characterized the Internet age, we’ve left a few things like radio, CDs, and shame by the wayside. None of it is the exact fault of this monster we’ve created but barely understand. It has, however, done a disturbingly good job of creating outlets for the worst of us by giving them voices and an audience. It was Penny Arcade that coined the term “GIFT,” or “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory,” but it’s so much more marvelously complicated than their original definition these days. All they said was that if you give someone a voice, an audience, and a degree of anonymity, they will turn into a complete fuckstick. I’m here today to tell you that they were right. They were far more right than we ever could have thought.
On all four corners of the internet are little hubs of terrible, ranging to a blog I found that likens anorexia to a religion (the authoress of this blog also has a photo stream where she finds pictures of female celebrities eating and calls them fat), entire websites dedicated to the adoration of a show for little girls about horses, and an until-recently hidden subculture who call themselves “transabled.” That is, they are physically capable men and women who choose to identify as physically crippled. Only in this day and age could a group of hypochondriacs come together and demand that we believe them and put them on disability just because they say we should. Because they may be physically healthy, but in their hearts, in their souls, they’re missing their left leg from the knee down.
I could go on about this sort of thing all day (I might later, actually), but there are a few places where you can really see the numbers in action as far as human mediocrity goes, and one of them is Reddit. Reddit is many things to many people, and I can’t fault it for the noble bunch of ideas that went into its inception. Hell, it’s still a place where people seeking very specific information can find it easily; I myself found an excellent exercise program and recipe for tacos there and use both regularly.
And then there’s the disappointment.
Make no mistake: for all the good things about Reddit, it’s a veritable who’s-who of attention whores, lazy assholes, apathetic netizens, and violent retards (violent in that they’re violently retarded). Through equal contributions from each of these parties, Reddit eats originality and digests it into a mediocre stream of inoffensive thought-slurry. Being on Reddit for too long is like being on antidepressants. Things that might have been funny or impressive at one point simply elicit a sharper exhale than usual for the former and a frown of “not bad” for the latter.
This is the fault of no one but everyone. There are a couple different ways you could read that sentence and they’re both correct. We’re going to cycle down the list of people I just gave in the last paragraph and examine why they are all uniquely responsible for the wasteland of mediocrity that is the front page of Reddit.
Attention whores are a fascinating bunch, especially when they’re the ‘doggedly driven’ variety, not the ‘obviously unstable’ bunch that we tend to see in real life. The hardworking attention whore dedicates time and effort into filling six different subreddits with the same image; the same image he posted on the same six subreddits three months ago. He will do this upwards of twenty times a day, and his only reward is upvotes. This is, apparently, enough for him. Note: very often will the title of one of their posts begin with “My girlfriend….” This is a lie. This is a Cheney-tier lie.
Then there’s the lazy assholes. These are the ones who see a bandwagon and hop on immediately with something that is only topical, not funny. He will shop the fez onto the picture of a pretty starfish someone posted earlier and make it into a Doctor Who joke. He will throw a pair of captions onto a picture of a celebrity leaning on something and turn it into a tired Dos Equis riff. He will find something out there in the world with the word “apple” in it and make the lawsuit joke. He does this because he knows that no matter how unfunny or unoriginal he is, the fact that is on the bandwagon assures him recognition.
Third, we have the group of people who facilitate the antics of the first two: apathetic netizens. These are the people who hold the real power on Reddit whether they know it or not, and they can be mercilessly exploited without ever knowing that they were the victims of being sold really shitty content. See, there are certain patterns one can glimpse in what posts get the most upvotes. The apathetic netizens like cats. They like references to things everyone saw. They absolutely love hearing about things that are unusual, but not to the point of weird. They like hearing the same joke a hundred times, and they love it even more when the joke is ever-so-slightly repurposed for an ever-so-slightly different context. And man, do they ever love whomever it is that just did that slightly noteworthy thing. Don’t ever fuck with that guy/girl/monkey with a coat. There’s a lesson to be learned from all this: people aren’t smart, they aren’t adventurous, and innovation offends them unless they benefit from it directly.
Finally we have the violent retards. Now, the violent retards aren’t really part of the main problem that I expressed. Being crazy, they’re a bit of a breed apart, and thus the harm they do is hard to track. Sometimes, we’re lucky and they’re simply entertaining, as was the case with user aalewis and his rather pitiful entry into the r/atheism circlejerk (linked here). Other times, they are just annoying and find stupid things to get offended at or make the comment section of one post into their personal courtroom, handing out vocal judgments of every other comment and explaining why he upvoted/downvoted them. Then there are the ones who have horrifically skewed views on the world and congregate to let the insanity coagulate. These are the types who visit subreddits like r/bodyacceptance (which is made up mostly of egregiously overweight women who think their health problem is something to be accepted as a part of who they are), r/mensrights (men who might have been truly wronged once, but now wish to make their hatred for women institutional), r/mylittlepony (the pathetic manchildren who have turned Lauren Faust’s at best 5/10 animated series about saccharinely-named talking horses into their religion) and r/clopclop (the pathetic manchildren who jack it to porn of Lauren Faust’s at best 5/10 animated series about saccharinely-named talking horses).
Don’t settle for Reddit. If you want to experience the internet, go exploring, don’t go to its self proclaimed “front page.” You’ll just end up horribly underwhelmed.