5 Things You Are Not Allowed To Do On the Internet
Go On Wikipedia Without A Specific Goal. I am of the belief that Wikipedia should be used with as much wary discretion as prescription medicine. When used properly, it’s beneficial for all parties involved. When abused, you will wake up in a dumpster at 5 a.m. shivering and rambling about the War of 1812. And what makes this even more difficult is how innocuous most Wiki-benders seem at first. You have a paper to write, or an argument to settle, and you look up, say, John Locke. But then you click on philosophy, which leads you to Stefan Zweig, which leads you to pre-war European intellectuals, which leads you to Dadaism, which leads you to nihilism, which leads you to so, so much crying. Even the most simple of searches can leave you either reading about the reproductive processes of single-celled organisms, or reading a textbook-like definition of felching. So, to prevent this from happening to you (again), I recommend writing down exactly what it is you need to find out about and ignoring everything else, even the most tempting of links — even the one about toilet paper roll direction — and get to your goal. Clean, quick, painless.
Engage In Any Form of YouTube Commentary. Amongst the most undisputed truths of the internet is the fact that any and all comment forums will, eventually, become a festering pile of human brain waste and our worst characteristics in their most uncensored form. And no comment forum exemplifies this better than those under YouTube videos. Without fail, a discussion about a video of a cat playing with a piece of popcorn will quickly devolve into a theological, political, and socioeconomic debate amongst the world’s least literate writers. It is my personal belief that the most militant racists, sexists, religious extremists, and Luddites coalesce on YouTube to disseminate their propaganda and scream at each other in all caps. And, in perhaps the most unfortunate feature of YouTube’s comment section, one only sees 10 comments at a time, so the vast majority of the time, one has absolutely no clue why the first three commenters are screaming about France banning the veil under a video about leg exercises. And, should one be tempted to engage in this discussion (as there is no forum-like reply format for people talking to one another) you actually have to scroll through comment after comment to find the person towards whom the previous commenter was hurling his vitriol. Scrolling, of course, that leads you past a veritable smörgåsbord of paranoid theorizing about global warming, Islam, and the Illuminati. For your own sanity, it is in your best interest to keep your eyes glued to the top of the screen and just watch your video.
Google A Potential Significant Other. I understand that the temptation to learn everything you can about the person who’s about to buy you all-you-can-eat chicken wings is a great one. What if this person is a sex offender, a white-collar criminal, or a former serial killer onwhose punishment the State government was incredibly lax? With the help of Google, one can at least know ahead of time if your new date is the kind of person who has to walk from door to door, announcing their presence to their new neighborhood. But there are two fundamental problems with Googling a person we’ve never met (or only vaguely know), the first of which being, unless their name is Keanu Aristotle Murakami, there is a high chance you may be getting links for the wrong person. There are a lot of Cathy Joneses, and unless you really know the person (which would defeat the purpose of the Googling) there is no decent way of telling if the Cathy Jones who apparently ran a blog aggregating pictures of dead animals is the one you’re going out to dinner with tonight. The other problem, of course, is that the information you find can be incredibly misleading, and leave you with a bad taste in your mouth before you even start things off. We all have skeletons in our closet, and if they include a particularly vigorous stint as a moderator on a furry forum or a night spent in jail on “aggressive public urination” charges, so be it. That doesn’t mean we can’t change, or that we aren’t better for the experience. There’s no reason to veto someone before even meeting them. And even in the best of cases, if you find out they spend their time donating to charity and helping multi-ethnic handicapped children build playgrounds in bright, inoffensive colors, that still means you’re going to have to pretend like that’s news to you at the date so you don’t come off as the most creepy person who ever lived: “You were in the Peace Corps for two years. I know… I know.”
Delete Your Facebook. Okay, perhaps I should be clear about this one. I don’t care, and neither does humanity at large, if you decide to up and get rid of your Facebook for good because, like, it’s just keeping you in contact with acquaintances that you, like, barely even know, or whatever. I get it, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to sever those relatively useless ties and escape the monotony and repetition of your news feed. Facebook has an affinity for changing its layout and privacy settings every ten minutes, and we all know how the internet feels about any change whatsoever. If it becomes too much for you, go ahead, delete it. But the thing is, despite how much sense that makes and how much I want to endorse you cutting your Facebook ties, I can’t. Because I know that you, like everyone else who has ever deleted their Facebook, will become a walking, talking advertisement for how much less dependent they are on technology than you, how many more irl friends they have, and how they are so much better without it clogging up their lives. There is, apparently, no living human being with the willpower or modesty required to just delete a Facebook and shut up about it. At least the people who own one but only cop to using it “just to store pictures” or “look at it once a month” are still bound to the website by an account. They can’t fully disown it like a disfigured Spartan baby and pretend they never used it. Only the people who make the full separation can become that special level of douchebag who feels the need to parade his own smug satisfaction at any and all junctures. It is for this reason that deleting your Facebook is simply not something you are allowed to do on the internet. It’s better for society, honestly.
Send Saucy Pictures of Yourself. This one goes out to you, ladies. You know those girls in the advertisements on the side of shitty websites where scantily clad girls are asking if you want to see them naked, but you think, “That girl doesn’t look like she knew she was modeling…that photo looks unprofessional.”? It looks like they farmed it off of Facebook from some unsuspecting girl’s “Trip To theBeach” album. Those girls, like you, likely one day posted a picture of themselves somewhere they thought was sacrosanct, or gave a spicy e-postcard to a boyfriend whose love would later prove not “2 last 4ever.” These pictures — though, granted, not always — are often destined for a very specific kind of hell. Think of it as clip art, as public domain images, as stock photography of non-consenting semi-pornographic photos. You just become a face attached to a body that will likely be photoshopped into a fake-tanned oblivion, forever circling around the internet, forever advertising products and services of which you are not a part. And while saucy photos are something we are all entitled to take, the discretion with which they must be placed on the internet (if at all) cannot be overstated. Imagine your father one day aimlessly browsing a humor website or, God forbid, something not PG-13 and stumbling across a photo of you with a caption asking whether or not he’d like to engage in sexual relations with you. Imagine the tawdry, garish “check yes or no” box. It’s one thing if you’re Sasha Grey and you’re gonna become best friends with Gus Van Sant because of it, but it’s quite another if you had no idea that picture would ever be made public. Let’s just spare ourselves the risk and be very, very careful with our photos.
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