Monday, February 25, 2013

Arguing on the Internet

Where's there's people, there's arguments.

An artist's interpretation of YouTube comments.

The subject of arguing on the internet is a joke among those who spend their time online. It is generally accepted as a futile practice: if it's already difficult to convince people of anything in traditional arguments, then you probably aren't going to convince anyone of anything online. Yet, despite this, there's still a high level of zeal behind the opinions of any fool who's found themselves thinking, "Yes, I disagree, and I have to say something."

Like all things, there's a little more to it than that. It's hard to use the criteria of effectiveness on an online argument, because what is 'effective' online is very different from what is 'effective' in real life. The rules of engagement are very different.

What, then, is the anatomy and worth of an online spar? And does it have any higher implications about the way we communicate?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Online Dating

The dating scene is intimidating. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of setting up appointments with near-strangers so they can desperately search for something in common. Not everyone likes dealing with the silent expectations of intimacy that can be present when going out under the label of 'date'. Not everyone is good at working the bar scene, the club scene, or any other scene that's supposed to soothe your anxieties with loud music and overpriced beer.

To be fair, one alternative hypothesis is that I'm just bad at this, and totally not bitter about it.

So, in our digital age, we have the invention of online dating. Proving once again that the internet has penetrated itself into our daily lives, online dating sites now comprise a billion-dollar industry, with most single people in the United States having tried online dating at least once.

On the one hand, it's a pretty convenient setup. You could say that online dating helps organize and structure the dating process for some people, making it easier to explore your dating options (more than half of people saying they have dated more than one person simultaneously) and making it easier to find people with the same romantic interest (be it some fling or a committed relationship). Plus, if you're really busy with your work and life in general, it's nice to put yourself out there, even if it's just through an online essay with your face on it.

Seems ideal. Except it's not.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The New Nerd

Nerds are cool now. This isn't really a statement of controversy. Once upon a time, movies like "Revenge of the Nerds" painted nerds as outcasts, and computers were so arcane that you needed to pursue a very specific - and alienating - skill set to be well-versed with them. Nerds had unpopular interests, were skilled in unpopular hobbies, and were represented in an unflattering way.

Pictured: The '80s.

This is not so anymore. Technology pervades every facet of our society, and computers are no longer the inaccessible tool that they once were. What was once considered a nerdy skill set is now essential knowledge if you want to be a functional worker and consumer. Overall, the things that nerds used to "do" have pushed society's capabilities so far forward that nerdy skills and hobbies have become self-evidently beneficial.

This is a good thing, but it poses a minor problem as to how the term "nerd" should be used. After all, if everybody's a nerd, then nobody's a nerd. The term has lost a lot of its original weight over the past twenty years, but it's still a word that frequently gets tossed around. So what does it even mean anymore?

In some sense, I think that this subject is pretty well-discussed already. Would you like an assessment on what 'nerd' actually means - the criteria behind qualifying for the label? Look at this blog post. You want a rant on how modern nerds aren't really nerds - that the term has not only mutated, but bastardized and misused? Look at this blog post, instead. There are enough people eager to call themselves nerdy - and enough people eager to tell that first category of people that they're not so nerdy - that this subject's been discussed many times over.

I'll spare you that discussion. It's old and it's boring. Let's talk about nerds and consumer culture, and how they've become nearly synonymous with one another.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cyberbullying, and an Old Internet War

The term 'cyberbullying' is defined as using the Internet "to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner." As the internet has gained mainstream popularity, many organizations have risen to educate people on cyberbullying, and to discourage people from it.

This makes sense. By 2013, we've seen a number of instances where online social behavior has led to the harm of others. The 2006 suicide of Megan Meier is an often cited example. General character defamation can cause victims to lose money. This also makes sense, given that a lot of online revenue relies on page clicks, which relies on the desire of consumers to indulge in the website owner's content.

I started making a habit out of browsing the internet in my teenage years, and the term cyberbullying still sticks out to me as fairly new. In fact, I didn't really start reading about organized anti-cyberbullying movements until a couple years ago. In the years before that, I've read about some online movements as they've come and gone. I think that, by modern standards, some of these online movements would be classified as cyberbullying, but it makes me wonder if cyberbullying needs to be better defined.

This post aims to re-examine one of those old online movements. This one happened when I was around 15,  and I'll try to recapture how the (far, far nerdier) 15-year-old version of me was interpreting these events. Hopefully I can make a completely mundane story about kids on the internet seem far more entertaining than it actually is.

In January of 2006, a couple of online communities - YTMND, Newgrounds, etc - did something funny: They declared "war" on the website Ebaumsworld.