The Internet is depriving us of our capacity to form our own opinions and to enjoy content purely on its own merits. If you don’t believe me, try the following experiment—once you’ve gotten to the end of this article, try not to check the comment section. It’s harder than you’d think; we thrive on validation, and it’s only natural after we evaluate an article/music video/cumshot compilation that we’d want to see that same thinking reflected in one or more of our fellow herd members. But just because an urge feels natural does not mean it is to be automatically acted upon—if that were the case, I would have punched out every oblivious dork who thought it was acceptable to sing or hum on a crowded bus.
It’s no secret that digital technology affects your cognitive faculties, shaping the way you think and in turn interact with others. Therefore, I believe that when feeling the need to see if other people agree with you, scrolling down a webpage will in turn make you more needy.
I don’t think these things are obvious to us as they happen; after all, social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook demonstrably impede our social skills in the physical world, but nobody ever stopped halfway through a real-life conversation to say, “Holy fuck, I just realized I can no longer read facial cues! What have I done to myself?” No, it just kind of builds up, and before you know it you’re staring into the eyes of your significant other and seeing nothing but a stranger, part of you silently wishing that there were a backlight embedded in their skull to illuminate the experience. Fuck the coming singularity; just stop reading comments.
Really, who gives a shit what a bunch of anonymous strangers think, anyway? I’m not suggesting that you go all adolescent and try to embrace the mindset that only your input is worth considering, mainly because you’ll turn into an insufferable twat. I’m saying that if you’ve enjoyed something you’ve read or watched online, that should be enough. Hell, send it to a friend or coworker if you have to; just don’t yield to that perfectly understandable but ultimately detrimental knee-jerk response that we all have after looking at a piece of Web content to then check what a bunch of people you’d never want to hang out with think about it. Train yourself out of this habit and you’ll be better off for it.
Web developers know that browsing the Internet can be an isolating experience and that we commonly want to be reassured that all of Michael Jackson’s promises about us not being alone weren’t simply a way to sell records. This is why they put a comment section underneath everything. You can’t blame them, either, as they’re just giving us what we want. But can you imagine the offline equivalent of a comment section? Can you imagine if, after you saw a movie, the ushers stepped in front of the screen and announced to everyone present that there was going to be a discussion group held for you and every other mope to exchange your thoughts about the very thing you just fucking saw and have not yet had time to deconstruct mentally? You’d tell them to go run into a knife, and rightly so.
Do the same online—there are hundreds of toolbars available that block YouTube comments, for example, and for every other form of comment section there’s always the age-old practice of simply clicking away from the page. Give it a shot; the worst-case scenario is that you discover you’re powerless over your own sense of vanity and are forever doomed to seek the approval of people that you don’t even like. And even that would be nothing to be ashamed of—you’d just be like everybody else.