Yesterday the Internet got me. I peeked at a comments section to see how my cousin (who thinks the earth is flat) answered the above math question and five minutes later I was convinced my answer was wrong and the sun was seventeen miles away.
I like to think of myself as an ambassador for the Internet; it was a second parent to me so like all fathers I feel a sense of duty to tell everyone how amazing it it, help people fix the problems it creates, and pretend it isn’t a pervert.
Everyone agrees that clickbait and fake news and all of that related toxic nonsense are problems, but I don’t agree with the solutions. We don’t need fancy Facebook algorithms or search engine manipulation or fewer buttholes creating content (though that last one would be nice). We need everyone to recognize that you are the curator of your own Internet, not math, not google, and not your cousin who thinks the world is flat. WHY DID I CLICK ON THAT, I KNOW HE’S CRAZY.
I graduated from high school in 2000. When other kids were getting their driver’s license and going to prom, I was LOL’ing and fragging people on Quake servers. I had a job, but only so I could pay for DSL.
Aside: The people near the squiggly edges of this country should shut up about how antiquated and boring and stupid the middle is. I grew up in Bumblesnout Indiana and had high speed internet in 1996. We have the same shit here as everywhere else only there’s a lot less traffic and no ocean to flood my living room. No arguments with your stance on the weather or the vistas — they are both terrible.
If you were around in the good old days of infinite pop-up loops and emails that could eat your hard drive then you likely developed a healthy skepticism everything clickable long before clickbait existed in its current iteration. We early adopters who received phone calls from helpless aunts that needed to know what bitcoin was to “unlock” their files after being invaded with Russian ransomware. People like us usually don’t read comments or click because our computers were blown up so long ago it’s no longer a memory, it’s a lingering sense of dread.
With my answer in my head I clicked anyways. Morbid curiosity drove me, I wanted to see what my cousin had to add to this lengthy discussion on 5th grade math. These aren’t edited images aside from the blurring. I didn’t cherry pick a good or bad section, this is what I saw.
That’s four different answers on the first page. Whoa.
Bottom answer is my favorite.
I read all that nonsense and it made me pause. Wait. Was I right? Was the answer 1?
They got me. Or more appropriately, I got me. I got so emotionally invested in the over-confidence of wacky people that I lost sight of what I know to be real and true. But I am the curator, these people didn’t do this, I did this.
You might call some of those people smart and some of them stupid but it’s very likely all their IQs are roughly the same. An IQ of 130 is exactly as rare as 70 — we can’t all be outliers. The difference between smart and stupid is more often the ability to tell good information from bad information than raw processing power. It’s very unlikely that most of the people you call dumb are any less capable than you or me.
A wiser man than me once said, “the best way to change the world is to change yourself.” I think what he meant is that by preaching to other people you have no guarantee of having any impact. With that in mind I am going to do better to curate, consume, and promote better content. I will keep these things top of mind and I invite you to do the same. After all the best way to change the world is to change yourself.
The answer is 1.
Or is it?