Please note: anything in this article presented as fact, is at best, a guess. In compliance with the nature of the piece, I have not used the Internet to aid me in any way. That includes me refraining from Googling words I don’t know how to spell. I’m fully aware of the spell-check function provided by Microsoft, but looking up at a sea of red squiggles does little to boost my (alarmingly) ﬂuctuating sense of self-worth.
I just Googled “ﬂuctuating sense of self-worth”, as I was sure I would have spelt “ﬂuctuating” wrong. The ﬁrst website that came up was: “Narcissism at a Glance – Malignant Self Love”. This is too easy; this shit just writes itself.
I’ve also just realised that I’ve broken self-imposed Internet ban less than ﬁve minutes after enforcing it. I also just spelt “enforcing” wrong. Maybe I should come back to this tomorrow. OK, I’ve had a good night’s sleep and I’m focused. I’m going to get straight to the point. I kind of felt like up until now I was getting side-tracked, I think this has constantly been a problem with my writing. I tend to go off on tangents, which ultimately dilute and trivialise the generally important social issues I address. I think this is due in part to a need I have to constantly try and multi-task. Since sitting down to begin writing, I have ruined a perfectly good jacket by deciding I needed to remove the lining. I did so with a pair of kitchen scissors and all the care and attention of a West African nurse taking a blood sample.
Fuck; I’ve still not started. OK. Go.
Not long ago I logged into Facebook, the ﬁrst thing I saw was a picture of a dead baby in a puddle. It was just sat there at the top of my news feed. Over 2,500 angry comments sat underneath, calling the poster of the picture sick and evil (there were also lots of comments in Spanish that I didn’t understand).
I just stared at it, waiting in earnest to feel something. I was almost willing myself to feel disgust, anger, nausea… anything. Nothing was coming. It was comparable to the feeling you have when you’re standing at the urinal, ﬂanked by a pair of faceless also-rans you’ve never met, and you suddenly realise it’s not going to happen. For the few seconds you’re stood there (any measure of time here is irrelevant. This instance is absolute proof that time cannot be directly perceived by the human brain), you feel the harshest judgement imaginable being emitted telepathically. You shamefully accept it without rebuttal. They have bested you simply by voiding their bladders. However, the soul-crushing feeling in the aforementioned scenario is short lived. Within a
matter of minutes their opinions mean nothing as you return to your friends who sit there completely unaware that you have just failed to perform a task that infants and poorly trained dogs carry out unintentionally. As I stare blankly at the dead baby (an image posted by someone with the sole purpose of upsetting people), I realise that I cannot escape my own judgement. I’ve become completely desensitised. I do what any rational human being would do in the year 2012 – I blamed the Internet.
I have suffered from chronic insomnia for my entire life. As a baby, I slept so little that by the age of three I had turned almost entirely translucent. I’ve had access to the Internet for about half of my life. Naturally, when I can’t sleep I turn to the Internet and I trawl through pages and pages of literally anything, absorbing useless and often completely incorrect information.
When not looking for anything in particular and faced with a blank search box, the human mind reverts to type and what would normally be considered acceptable topics of interest go out the window. News, football and pop stars suddenly aren’t enough to stimulate my sleep-deprived brain. I want to read about genocide, serial killers and Cambodia. I have, over the years, explored the darkest corners of the Internet. I’ve read thousands of posts on forums covering conspiracy theories, religious extremism, white supremacy, black supremacy, mixed race supremacy (yes, it exists – Google it) and more. I’ve learned how to make a hand grenade out of matches and a tennis ball, and I’ve seen videos of ‘necklacing’ (an absolutely horriﬁc practice of execution and torture carried out by forcing a rubber tire, ﬁlled with petrol, around a victim's chest and arms, and setting it on ﬁre) carried out in South Africa by the ANC, that will stay ingrained on my conscience until I die (free Nelson Mandela? – of course, but his wife can jog on…).
But these aren’t just the darkest corners of the Internet; these are the darkest corners of humanity. The Internet is merely the disclosing agent. It has exposed a reality, that behind the morals, the pleasantry and the courtesy, behind the love, compassion and charity lies a morbid fascination with violence, a general dislike (and often a genuine hatred) toward fellow humans and an inherent selﬁshness so overpowering that we will bully, humiliate and try to ruin each others lives. For fuck’s sake, as if disease and famine weren’t big enough problems, people create viruses to break other people’s computers – people they’ve never met, often for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
We (and when I say we, in this instance, I mean the Western world) judge ‘developing’ nations extremely harshly. We seem to forget that to get to the relatively stable society we have today, brought about by democracy and freedom of the press, we all went through hundreds of years of tyrannical monarchy, dictatorships, public executions, witchcraft, hysteria and a monopoly of information by organised religion. We repressed women, we treated homosexuals as mentally ill and we drowned infants. We were shitheads.
The difference between our hundreds of years of publicly and unapologetically acting like shitheads and, say, the current situation where many strict Muslim countries, China, certain African nations and others (at this point I’d normally surrender myself to Wikipedia) are being shitheads is that, while our acts of extreme violence live on only through grainy illustrations, museum exhibits and vague, dramatised recreations, theirs will forever be available to view, with perverted fascination, in the coldest, dampest corners of the Internet.
We pretend we cannot fathom how they can behave in such a sub-human, barbaric manner, yet if someone emailed you a link to the footage of Steve Irwin being killed by a stingray you’d watch it. You know you fucking would.
We have been granted freedom of the press (and therefore freedom of the Internet) and what have we done? We’ve become Nazi’s, pedophiles, bullies, stalkers and hackers. The truth about human nature had almost been conﬁned to the history books, but we have pulled it kicking and screaming back to the forefront of public consciousness.
OK, I’m gonna be honest with you. At this point I feel like I may be starting to lose focus. I’m ﬁnding this article incredibly hard to write as the Polish couple next door have been playing the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat soundtrack on repeat for three hours and my brain has gone a bit funny.
Anyway, I’m gonna plough on irrespectively. I’m going to do something I constantly berate my friend, Pat Cheddar, for doing. Pat, for all his wonderful qualities, will argue, with absolutely no facts or sensible opinions to back up his case, until he can actually visibly see your soul attempting to escape your body. His main bargaining tools are repetition and raising his voice, and, if all else fails, suddenly pretending he agreed with you the whole time.
While I’m being honest (and I’m sure you were wondering), Pat Cheddar isn’t his real name. I felt I should protect his identity. Fuck it, his real name’s Simon Talbot – and while I’m at it, the Polish couple next door are called Mr and Mrs Sobczak. I really, really hate Mr and Mrs Sobczak.
I spend far too much time on Facebook. It’s sometimes my only link to the outside world when I’m sat mindlessly working at the computer. If you had explained Facebook to me when I was 14, when I was trying to chat girls up in the virtual pub on AOL, my head would have exploded. The idea of something so complex, wonderful and incredibly social would have seemed so amazingly perfect that it could not have possibly existed. Of course, there’s always a catch.
The catch this time was that, while in theory Facebook should be a tool I use to further my career, keep up to date with my friends’ lives and share photos with members of my family living on the other side of the world, it has turned out to be just another way for me to embarrass myself when I’m drunk.
I have access to this potentially amazing technology and I use it to post the same four or ﬁve songs, torture myself by looking at photos of my ex-girlfriends and bully a boy named Jason Duncan simply by replying to all his status updates with “Shut the fuck up Jason.” I’m not alone in my futile actions. In fact, compared to some of the utterly inane dribble some of my ‘friends’ post, I’m Oscar fucking Wilde. Whether it’s pictures of their lunch, photos of their fat, stupid babies or updates regarding how tired they are after the gym, it does nothing but make me angry and hate the world we live in. Even worse than the trivial, boring society fodder are the cyber-communists who think they’re actually aiding the revolution by posting links to articles on Palestine, the Occupy movement and the plight of child soldiers in Africa on the Guardian website. You’re not helping anybody; you’re just pissing me off. You can’t love Che Guevara and Steve Jobs. That’s not the way it works. P.S. In case he’s reading this; shut the fuck up Jason.
You know the bit in ‘A Day in the Life’ by The Beatles, where it just builds up into a horrible tangled mess of noise? Where it starts to sound like an awful nightmare? That’s essentially what this article has become. It’s not even clear to me anymore what I’m trying to say, or why I’m trying to say it, I just want Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to stop and I want to go to bed. However, if you are familiar with ‘A Day in the Life’ you’ll know that after the scary, nonsensical bit ﬁnishes, it concludes with a driven, focused and completely unrelated piece of music. I’m going to attempt to turn this piece of writing this round in a similar fashion. So, in conclusion, I think the point I was trying to make is that we worked bloody hard up until the 1950s to build a society that on the surface had managed to conceal most of our moral failings. We simply ignored child abuse, sexual deviancy and bad things happening to brown people. Our ﬁlm stars were put on pedestals as apposed to meticulously guided toward mental illness and housewives cooked pies and cakes as apposed to crystal meth. The Internet has made everyone a journalist. It has redistributed the power from news producers to consumers and while, in theory, this is a good thing, in reality it means that ‘news’ is now reported in a completely unreliable, even more biased and often entirely fabricated manner. I don’t even have the energy to start on WikiLeaks, but let’s see how much of a hero Julian Assange seems when Zimbabwe is running around with the blueprints to an atomic bomb, threatening to blow up The Netherlands. Always trust your gut instinct – if he looks like a creep, he’s probably a creep.
If we delete the Internet now, we at least stand the chance of our children’s children being born into a world cloaked in blissful ignorance. I don’t know how I can further my cause, how I can spread the word, but I have to. This is something I believe in. Maybe I’ll organise a march, chain myself to the railings of Downing Street or set myself on ﬁre on live television. Perhaps I’ll try and get Bono and Sting involved. Any of these ideas would work. I’ll have a good think about it and decide on a suitable course of action. Though, to
be honest, I’ll probably just set up a Facebook group or something.
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