More delusion on the internet

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Scott Wikander (left) and Devon Razey (right)

Scott Wikander (left) and Devon Razey (right)

Geez, are the youngins defensive. I recently wrote a piece called “4 delusions of the digital age” wherein I tried to say that the internet, while being a useful tool, is not a magic wand that can fix all the world’s problems. Well, that did not sit well with a certain PBATFEOM. (Note for the guy on Facebook who lambasted me for saying that abbreviations can cause confusion: that stands for “Person Born After The Final Episode Of [easyazon-link asin=”B001DMVZNK” locale=”us”]M*A*S*H[/easyazon-link]” – in my circle of friends we use that all the time.) I got an immediate response calling my writing stupid and my stupidity was going to be proven “using science.”

I might have to update my initial post to 5 delusions, but first I need to get a handle on what exactly Millennials consider “science.” Apparently Dr. Who GIFs and random Einstein quotes qualify.

Here’s the thing about PBATFEOMs. (See how well that works? I don’t know why we don’t abbreviate everything?) Their whole lives, they’ve been told how special they are because their parents were deathly afraid of hurting their self-esteem. So when someone says something that doesn’t jibe with their rose-colored glasses, they get cranky. When they get cranky, they lash out, usually in the form of a meme or unintelligible tweet.

See, my initial post was not meant as an attack on Millennials – the previous paragraph is what an attack looks like – but merely an attempt to drop the veil a little. I never tried to say that modern technology is evil or that the under-30 crowd is stupid. I love the internet; it’s freaking awesome, but being a PBBTFEOM (is this gag getting old yet?) I don’t walk around in a haze of arrogant self-importance.

Want to see what I’m talking about? Here’s a quote from Devon Razey’s post where she was attempting to make a point about intelligence:

“Hand an iPhone to an ‘unintelligent’/non-bookish person and she’ll use it to do something like spread a social media message asking for support for a cancer victim, or reach out to her dream company with a unique proof-of-talent message that supersedes a resumé and cover letter that will be thrown straight in the shredder, anyway.”

First off… “unique proof-of-talent message”? Hooooly F$%K! Who talks like that? That gave me some queasy flashbacks to my years of producing horrible marketing videos for soul-crushing corporations. But more to the point, in Devon’s world everyone is smart and charitable – everyone – even the “non-bookish.” And everyone uses technology to either cure cancer or find their dream job.

Are there people out there promoting charity on social media? Of course there are, and I’m sure lots of young people are, um, messaging proof of their talent, but I think the number is a lot smaller than she thinks. Also, you might want to look up the definition of “unique”; I have bookmarked for just such occasions. (Old Dude doesn’t use a dusty old book? F$%kin-A internet!)

So in order to support my point, let’s use some “science,” as the kids like to call it. What I actually did was spend five minutes googling some stats which may or may not be true since I don’t really have time to fact-check them because us old people have spouses, kids and a mortgage to pay. But for the sake of argument we’ll call them “facts,” since this is the internet and all.

As of 2013, Kickstarter – you know, the site where you can make all your dreams come true* – had 112,347 projects launched and 10.66 million pledges. Kudos to you, internet: 10 million people pledging to help a hundred-thousand dreams come true. Sadly, more than half of the projects (56%) didn’t get off the ground but hey, that’s still about 48,000 dreams coming true thanks to the internet.

But I never said “nothing good comes from the internet”; my point was that the majority of people are not using the internet to advance society. Sure, 10 million people supported Kickstarter projects, but over 36 million people have watched the Keyboard Cat video. Sure, KC has been around a lot longer, but that number is just for the original video. What about all the follow-ups and reaction videos? Well, according to YouTube, there are roughly 249,000 of them – more than twice the amount of Kickstarter projects – and I can’t bother to see how many views they all have. (Maybe that’s a worthwhile use of technology for one of you internet-savvy 20-somethings? Help an old man out.)

Here’s a more glaring number for you: digital jack-off site Pornhub had 14.7 billion visits – yes, billion with a “B” – and that’s not since its inception. That’s just last year alone. 63.2 billion sex videos watched in a year, roughly 1.6 million viewers per hour. And that is just one porn site. But score one for advancing technology: more than half of that traffic was from mobile devices. Talk about multitasking! (rim shot)

OK, that’s a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, since watching a video is not a commitment like supporting someone’s dream, but that’s still a massively tilted scale.

How about this breakdown: Kickstarter gets about 15 million visitors per month. They’ve been around since 2009, so that’s about 720 million people who’ve been to their site and 10 million who have pledged some amount of money. That is just over seven percent. So either the majority people of the internet are dicks who don’t care about other folks’ dreams, or the folks engaged in digital panhandling just have some lame-ass dreams. I suspect the latter but ultimately does it matter? (Maybe they just need a better proof-of-talent message?)

So to reiterate, I never said technology is destroying us. I don’t view smartphones and the internet as tools of the devil. As Devon said in her reply, “people are the same everywhere and through all of time.” This is true. We like to look at naked people, we think kitties are cute and, occasionally – not all the time but occasionally – we do something charitable or creative.

Sometimes we use technology to that end. Most of the time we don’t.

*may not be 100% accurate

See Devon’s response here.

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