Internet self-analysis

I’ve commented/joked before that the internet is essentially the largest human behavioural research laboratory in history.  I sincerely hope there are a few PhDs being worked on that analyse the group dynamic we see at play here every day.  I’m sure some great truth about the human condition is waiting to be illuminated.

While being immersed in the horror that is the internet is more than enough to make you completely lose faith in human nature, taking a breath now again and stepping back can be very helpful.  Even the worst, most infuriating behaviour from morons can help you learn something if looked at from the appropriate angle. 

For instance, people’s tendency to slip into paranoia and conspiracy theories freaks me right out.  From high end 9/11 “truth” whackjobs to the insane conclusions people leap to when interacting on sites like Facebook or YouTube.  There are days when I think the majority of the planet have their brains set to a default “crazy” setting – it’s the only explanation for the leaps some people make.

It would be one thing if it was only paranoid schizophrenics having conversations with the saucer people who made these crazed dives into deep chasms of illogicality.  But perfectly rational people (or people who are good at covering a lot of the time) will frequently indulge in paranoid responses to perfectly straightforward situations.  One example is they way people respond to a glitch YouTube has been having recently.

I suspect this actually coincides with the last “upgrade” to Flash as YouTube (like most video sites) uses a Flash player for their videos.  Whatever the source, this bug has gone unfixed for way too long (at least a month)  What happens is that videos frequently fail to play.  When you click “Play” you see a little spinny thing that suggests the video is loading but nothing ever loads – the screen goes black.

Actually, not quite nothing.  YouTube make it worse by displaying an incorrect error message: “The video you have requested is no longer available.” Speaking as someone who occasionally takes on controversial topics, I am frequently receiving comments along the lines of “OMG what did you say? They’ve taken the video down!  Big Brother is silencing free speech!”  Well, no actually.  It’s just a shitty site with a shitty glitch.

But a LOT of people leap straight to a paranoid conclusion.  I’ve learned to be less stunned by people’s tendency to descend into paranoia.  Besides, with the US Government making it clear they’re indulging in wholesale surveillance of the entire population, CCTV cameras on every street corner in the UK and an internet overrun with idiotic trolls determined to fuck up your enjoyment of life, paranoid may as well be the new normal.

And then there’s the tendency of people to lie.  Most rational people have a healthy suspicion of authority figures and the media.  Great pronouncements of truth have a disturbing tendency to turn out to be self-serving lies.  And the internet has been a valuable tool in exposing many of these lies that would have otherwise escaped detection.

Mind you, the internet is also obviously a massive source of the most outrageous lies imaginable.  And a horrifyingly efficient distributor of lies.  Like most people, I spent a lot of time being appalled at the most egregious lies being circulated.  I’ve spent time trying to debunk some of them.  But you know what?  Sometimes it’s enough to take away the lesson “Wow, a lot of people tell lies.  A lot of the time.”

I’d love to tear down the houses of lies that the politicians live in.  I’d love to expose the venal media hacks who lazily and shamelessly circulate these lies without applying any critical analysis.  And I’d really love to make the gutless scumfucks on the internet take responsibility for the vicious lies they peddle.  But I can’t.  There’s too many of them.  Accepting that simple fact can be incredibly liberating.

I see people lie about petty, trivial things all the time.  I see people tell lies that are absurdly easy to prove are lies.  Not differences of opinion, not misrepresentations, not mistakes.  Deliberate, premeditated, calculated lies.  And when so many people do this over completely meaningless things, how much more likely is someone to lie when there is something serious on the line?  As much as the liars I’ve been confronted with online sicken me, they’ve helped me by ensuring my bullshit detectors are usually turned up to 11. 

Just because it’s on the front page of the New York Times doesn’t mean it isn’t a lie.

So the downsides of the internet have actually helped me balance my worldview.  Learning those things about human behaviour is helpful.  But a helpful lesson I frequently forget is that it can tell a lot about me too.  How I respond to negativity can be a very good indication of how balanced my mindset is.

The worst of the negativity is always on YouTube.  While I have had the occasional stupid troll on this blog, they’re few and far between compared to the cavalcade of idiots on YouTube.  I strongly suspect this is because interacting on a blog required the reading and the reading is more challenging than the looking YouTube requires of you.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the looking.  But there’s no denying the reading requires an additional level of commitment.

My reactions to YouTube trolls have varied wildly over the last two years, something that may well have a relationship to my mood swings over the same period.  I’ve gone from grinding them into the ground, trading insult for insult until they give up, to having zero tolerance and deleting abusive comments instantly and blocking the worst offenders.  At the moment I’m leaning more towards block/delete but indulging in the occasional slugfest when it seems funny.

But I’m very conscious of how much it consumes of my mental and emotional energy.  Case in point: a little while ago, there was a particular YouTube dweeb who was really pissing me off.  He was going the whole way, indulging in truly insane conspiracy theories about the motivations of myself and other people, telling pathetically obvious lies that weren’t even worth debunking.  And he would not shut the fuck up.

I spent a bus ride to work thinking of a way to get back at him and came up with quite a good idea for a video.  I never go after individual people in videos so this would have been going after his sort of stupidity generally rather than him specifically.  But it would have been obvious that I was going after him.  And that made me pause.

While I have a lot of fun going after the hater mentality I’ve been careful not to make it about them.  When I have a go at haters it isn’t from some deluded idea that I’ll make them change – it’s a message of support to the other victims of their stupidity.  Giving someone the message that they aren’t being attacked because they’ve done something wrong, they’re being attacked because their attacker is a fucking moron can really make  a difference.  It’s easier to bear stupidity when you have a sense of solidarity with other decent people.

So I didn’t make the video.  Yet.  I’m still going to make it because it’s a bloody funny idea (IMHO) and I think people will enjoy it.  But it needs more distance so it’s about me doing something funny rather than simply me biting back at someone who pissed me off.  The moment I made that decision was incredibly liberating.  A huge amount of stress left me when I realised I wasn’t letting this mentality control me.

And I didn’t even have to say anything to the fuckwit in question.  Because they don’t count.  That is something that I really hope decent people understand.  Sometimes, not responding is the most powerful thing you can do.  Because then you’re living life on your terms, not theirs.

Living well really is the best revenge.



Filed under Blogging, Internet, YouTube

22 responses to “Internet self-analysis

  1. islandprincess15


    I freaked out once because I saw a thing on organized stalking and it seemed to me it was crazy people who think people are after them when really people don’t even know they exist. This had a following and they blamed it on the masons and said they had secret hand signals and such. I just think they are really crazy. Crack does that to people, too, makes them paranoid.

  2. Squinch

    Don’t worry, we understand : )

    People find safety behind their monitors while they can dish out shit to other people. It’s just the way things are; no getting around it. The Internet is full of these trolls and as you say I think the best way to deal with it is to ignore it.

    But don’t let that stop you from having fun by making videos that utterly rip these morons up ..hehe

  3. DOA

    Hmm.. I’ve gone after jackasses on the internet, but the more you do it, the more apparent the futility of it becomes. Thankfully I’ve also taken a step back and really looked at these people. I realized that to spend this much energy and time to post bile is by far the clearest indication that these people are sad to the point where their lives alone are more than enough punishment for the crap they pull.
    After that responding to them has become nothing more than a guilty pleasure when I’m bored.

  4. Actually.. I get extremely tickled by the conspiracy theorists!

    My fave (lately) has been that “the IRS has flagged any single male who served in the military and is now a police officer and that they force these people to pay higher taxes!”

    hee..hee.hee… oh yeah, this one is priceless to me. Yeah, like the IRS has nothing better to do with their time … oh wait… 😉

  5. Jill the Brit

    I’m happy to say I’m a ‘more c0mmitted reader’ and have been since I discovered your blog from the hugely famous ‘Alli diet supplement’ article. I’ll continue to subscribe to your EXCELLENT piece of FANTASTIC work here on the (mostly useless and moronic) internet. Today’s entry actually inspired me to contribute some HONESTY and POSITIVITY, hence this comment. Just wanted you to know that your intelligence and your great sense of humor, irony and sarcasm are GREATLY APPRECIATED by this reader, who often despairs that the world is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket because everyone’s gone bloody insane.

    Keep talking, ‘cos I need to be reminded there’s some sanity out there…

  6. Princess: paranoid people are everywhere. Wait, that sounded paranoid.

    Squinch: I will continue to have fun at their expense!

    DOA: I agree with the guilty pleasure part. It only makes sense to do it when it’s fun because they’ll never change.

    Cinnkitty: There’s no conspiracy too crazy for some people.

    Jill: Thank you 🙂 You’re honesty, positivity, feedback and support are greatly appreciated.

  7. @Mr A.
    That about sums up my goals in life pretty succinctly…

    Ignore the idiots and live well… Works great…

    Of course, you still have to deal with the morons like the one who posted all the gibberish just before me. But hey, it prolly took him a good while to do all that, and it’ll take you not more than a second to hit the delete key…

    Now that, is an amusing thought… 😀

  8. You are indeed correct on how quickly the delete function works 😀

  9. Hey AA,

    “…Sometimes, not responding is the most powerful thing you can do…”

    I don’t want to sound critical, but it’s also the most damaging thing to do, as well. It’s a tough fucking call, for sure, because if somebody’s attacking you, they’ll not listen to reason (ie, that the shit they’re dishing out is fantastic (ie, “the stuff of fantasy,” and not “really fucking great”).

    I have a theory (did I ever mention that I have many theories?!!), which goes something along the lines of this: any behaviour that a person exhibits is that person’s interpretation of the behaviour that has been dished out to them – ie, it’s completely “normal” to troll somebody, if one disagrees with what that person is saying. That is, if one disagrees with what that person is saying, possibly on a completely minor point, it is necessary and important to not only attack their point of view on this point in as wholesale a manner as possible, but, by extension to assume that the very fact that a person thinks about a certain matter in a manner contradictory to one’s own requires that one attacks the person, too.

    So, say I’m a socialist, and you’re a capitalist. I perceive that the ideas that you support, whilst you may be doing OK out of them, are actually doing a grave disservice to the vast majority of people. It is not enough to dissect your ideas, in order to see where they might be flawed, in my perception, but I must attack you, too, as though you were some kind of defective component in the Great Machine. It’s a stupid fucking logic, but it seems to be the mechanism that people follow, when they make personal attacks.

    Anyway, in my experience, it requires a third party, dissociated from the dispute to step in with another perspective. You’re most certainly right in that engaging in a discussion with a troll is pointless – why the fuck would anybody want to hold a discussion about how shit they are?


  10. The most important word of all was of course, “sometimes” 🙂

    Love your dissection of why people go on the attack without provocation!

  11. LOL – I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of thing so many times that in the end I had no choice but to sit down and model it, but excluding the possibility that I was as shit as I was being told I was! I may be wrong, of course, but I think it’s close enough to work as a starting point, in such cases!


  12. dismutased

    Hey, is this where I sign up for the great behavioral experiment?

    I’m in yr blog, readin yr words…

  13. Matt: I think you’re bang on the money

    dismutased: Stalker!

  14. dismutased

    No bunny boiling… promise!

  15. Hmmmm, you have an honest face, I guess I can trust you

  16. dismutased

    Wow… you’re so DENSE!

    The honest faced ones are ALWAYS the ones that hold an ocean of crazy.

    You really think Glen Close has a case of crazy face, the woman who played Sarah, Plain and Tall?

    Sorry, must away now to change the pet sacrifice on the altar to a fresh kill, no bunnies of course…

  17. It just shows how gullible I am!

  18. Davross

    Have you ever noticed how shit quality some of the most viewed videos are on youtube, like seriously, take like the fat kid dancing, like what the fuck! , what does that say about people and what they find humorous WTF!?!?

    By the same token, there are a number of other videos like, m a y b e ‘evolution of dance’, but still there isn’t anything that sticks out that has real values in a video on youtube, videos that are popular but not really worth watching. Most of them are just a waste of time if your skimming through shit looking for something helpful, but generally i hope you get the gist of what i’m talking about

  19. @Angry, you write.

    “For instance, people’s tendency to slip into paranoia and conspiracy theories freaks me right out.”

    Why do you link paranoia with conspiracy theories. Maybe the real life conspiracies causes the paranoia.

    BTW, the YouTube bug is easy fixed by refreshing the browser.

  20. Davross: As someone who spends a lot of time amking original content for YT… don’t get me started on how shit the “popular” videos are.

    Alan: The real shit is enough for me without having to invent fantasies. I think the paranoid conspiracy theories are an attempt to escape from the horror of reality.

    Also, refreshing the browser does not “fix” the bug. It can get around the bug (sometimes you have to refresh multiple times.) But it does not fix the bug. YT have to fix the bug.

  21. @Angry

    So what are the paranoid conspiracy theories. I say the biggest wacko one of all is that the elite of the planet are reptilians shape shifters. :-)~

    Concerning 9/11 truth (tin hat on), this is an interesting one. The main reason for not believing in this theory is that explosives would have had to be placed within the buildings prior to the events of 9/11 but then we have all this strange things or event occurring.

    The anonymity which vents gas of`some sort at the bottom of the image is very suspicious.

    This one is even more fascinating. The BBC have psychic powers indeed.

    The internet hoax is very usual. My question is why would the lies of the Bush Administration only begin after 9/11?

    My personal opinion is that myriad of facts concerning this day beg many answers. The firefighter themselves have an interesting site.

    I dare say with your support of Ron Paul that you may like me seem to think that some freighting Nazi power has enveloped Washington. I don’t think you would denies the conspiracy theories of the New World Order.

    I think that the paranoia in society is something to do with some governments avoidance of the big questions and the contempt by politicians that is shown to people when they ask questions. This in itself is very threatening and makes people question everything that seems unusual.

    I do believe that the biggest crime is when the trust of politicians is neglected by the politicians themselves.

    BTW, you correct, the bug with YouTube is not fixed but rather got around by refreshing (lazy words there).

  22. I appreciate Ron Paul’s honesty but I would never vote for him – I disagree with too many of his policies. And so far as 9/11 “truth” goes I think it is 99% bullshit. Some evil motherfuckers crashed planes into the buildings. A million things should have stopped it from succeeding but by a combination of criminal ineptitude and blind luck saw them succeed.

    It is true however that the Bush administration lied. They lied about the lack of warning (they had explicit warning). They lied about their competence (they were completely incompetent). And worst of all they subverted the tragedy with blatant lies about who was responsible to provide justification for an immoral and illegal war that they had decided to pursue years earlier. They had just been waiting for an excuse. In that light, I can understand how the conspiracy theories take hold.

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