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Blog: Internet Extremism

Posted on July 17, 2012 at 2:40 AM

This week, I'm taking a break from the standard schedule and doing something I haven't done in a while: Quick Blogs and thoughts on certain things that have been in the back of my mind. Here we go I guess...



The Extremism of the Internet

 

In the world of the internet, nothing is ever just "alright" anymore. Hell, it's rarely even just "good" or "mediocre." There's no more space left for the moderate when it comes to, well, anything. Something is either awful or amazing, there's no in-between. Cries from both sides have to exclaim it all in some sort of black versus white argument. It has to either be 10 or a 0. Someone either has to be Gandhi or Hitler.  


Truth is, most things aren't one or the other. Most things are in the area in between and never quite as great or as bad as someone on the internet says it is. Sure, you can have a preference over a song or movie than something else, but preferring something doesn't make the other thing "awful" - us usually people just say that to make the thing they prefer appear better and assure themselves they are right. It's a security blanket, like saying you hate green beans but only because you were hoping for corn.


I think there's no better example of this than Yelp. Now Yelp is a bit of a bad way to find a consensus on something to begin with, due to the fact that most people are inclined to write something after they had an awful (to them) experience than when they've had an uneventful one (in other words, a good experience).  But everything is either a four or five star review, or it's a flat-out one (and I'm sure some would choose zero stars if that was an option).

 

When discussing movies, where EVERYONE tires to be a critic, things are either amazing, or they're awful. Truth is…a lot of things are just kind of in that in-between zone. Look at the Twilight movies. People either absolutely love them, or they absolutely hate them. As a horror and vampire fan, I loathe them…but as a film critic all those movies are kind of just in that mid-range area. They're well made movies for the most part, but the point being they aren't the worst things in the world nor or they the greatest things in the world.

 

This extremism stems from fandom, if anything (fan = fanatic only in shorthand, so let's not forget that). Either you're a fan or something, or you aren't. Somehow that "yes or no" quality extended to perspectives as well. Either you love it, or you don't…but you can't just "kinda like" it. As a film fan, this is frustrating because trying to have a good discussion about cinema with other people gets everyone up in arms, that "fan" attribute suddenly boiling over. You'll get to something that someone doesn't like for really no reason. It's fine they have that preference, but is it really has bad or as amazing as they claim it is? No.


I think there's a loss of perspective for all these people claiming their perspectives. It's not just that most things are in between...but I don't think many people know when something is really awful or when it's really great. I can understand you become attached to one or the other and it's completely subjective, but so much of it is a knee-jerk, emotive response that I can't help but wonder if they've actually sat back and thought about it for a moment.


"Oh man...that was horrible. The worst movie ever!"


"Why?" I might ask.


"I....I don't know I just didn't like it."


Sure, you didn't like it...but the worst movie ever? Or the best movie ever? Are you really thinking about that or just thinking back to the past few movies you quickly recall before exclaiming it? There's emotive opinions, then there's informed opinions. One is that quick response, claiming something is "either/or." The other is when you think about the entire pantheon and gravity of what it is you're trying to determine. Was it really that horrible? Probably not.


I suppose this is more about the usage of words than anything, isn't it? I can understand the passion and desire to stress opinion, but it's like that bit from Louis CK where he discusses the use of the word "hilarious." Some people really don't think about what the words mean anymore. We just talk like assholes.



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Hyperbole floods the internet to a degree of saturation I can best compare to the way pop music flood radio airwaves. It's the cotton candy of the world. It comes, people really really get into it, then it goes. Nobody really has a "discussion" anymore or really gauge what it is they're saying, they just kind of thoughtlessly spew it out. Hell, most don't even say their own thoughts or options and will just regurgitate something someone else said, but to an extreme. You know, like how some redneck might call Obama "Hitler." Really? Hitler? Do you even know who Hitler was in relation to calling someone that and, worst of all, actually believing what you just said? No. You just say it without thought or consideration as though what you said actually meant something.


Well, it didn't. And that's the other issue here. People become so passionate one way or the other over how horrible or great something is then can't quite put the thought together in expressing it. All they can do is relay their emotive extremism and be done with it, so you not only have the extremism happening, you have a horrible shallow consolidation of the reasons why along with it.


Now, take all that, and give it a digital voice that can be read and heard by millions. Yes, that would be the internet. And there you have it. Emotive, un-thought-out thoughts that are either "Great" or "horrible" flowing through the ether. It works like a virus because when someone is so passionate about one thing, then it connects in a number of ways to so many other people: those that agree with it (like saying a movie his horrible, having a domino effect of others latching on to and agreeing that it's the "worst movie ever") and the contrarians that either actually have an opposing view or are just going against the norm for the sake of going against it and probably acting like assholes while doing so. (like saying "oh, you liked that movie? Nah...it sucked")


Then ON TOP of all this, I have to bring up an old blog of mind way back when I first started this site where I discussed the severe negativity and cynicism that the internet escalates to unseemly proportions: it's like a really really obese person trying to fit into a gurdle. All that negativity begins to just overwhelm the girdle of the internet, then it just starts seeming out everywhere and you can't avoid it all.


So, to put it short because I've failed thus far: Extremism is dangerous, but the internet giving everyone a voice, whether it be a short status update or a blog, is even more dangerous because there's nobody really policing how people say things. As a result, we kind of regress to our childhood emotive opinions that something can only either be "amazing" or be "the worst thing ever" when most things in this world really aren't either if you really just sit back and think about it for more than three seconds. But in this era of "must have now" information, three seconds is just too damn long.

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