“Never read the bottom half of the internet, that’s where the bad things live.”
It’s mantra repeated by many.
I’m referring of course to the comments, which as ‘bottom half’ indicates are situated a long old scroll down the page at the bottom of a post or article.
If you write, comments are a double-edged sword. I remember writing my very first post on my personal blog and the joy I felt upon receiving the email notification that I had a comment awaiting approval. Sadly of course it was someone offering to sell me some little blue pills as opposed to someone keen to engage in intellectual discourse. Them’s the breaks.
Some time past, and in addition to my friends and family (and of course the spam bots) others too read my posts. At one point Rishi found a post quite amusing and so submitted it to Reddit. And so spewed forth a new wave of comments.
Different to the ones before.
No longer was debate the order of the day, instead dear reader, most were decidedly personal and entirely uncomplimentary.
People behave differently behind technological barriers like keyboards. I imagine some of the most violent haters online are likely very nice people in real life. They probably do things like help little old ladies across the road.
But I digress, let’s get to the point.
It troubles me when I see journalists deride ‘the bottom half of the internet’.
Yes, some of those people commenting have been mean to you. Lots of those comments are ill-informed and make little or no sense. Worse, some of those people commenting have posted hateful bile. However, much the same criticism could be levelled at the top half of the internet too:
I have a rule which I try to observe while browsing news sites online: to try and keep my sanity intact.
I rarely succeed, it must be said. The temptation to peek is just too strong.
I know I will be annoyed, upset and occasionally disturbed by some of the ugly and stupid things written by ill-informed, ignorant, bigoted souls with an over-inflated sense of their own worth and importance.
I know I am sometimes suckered by provocative trolling, attention-seeking idiocy or corrupt promotion of vested interests, but next time it will be different.
But one day, I will manage to obey my own golden rule: never read the top half of the internet.
Eloquently put, I think.
Journalists are equally guilty of spewing forth ugly, stupid, ill-informed or ignorant crap. The major difference being that thanks to those hard working editors their content is (typically at least) mercifully free of spelling and grammatical errors.
They’re also guilty of writing deliberately provocatively in order to garner attention, shamelessly self-promote, push their own agenda – I could go on, but I’m assuming you understand where I’m coming from. The top of the internet is not that different to the bottom.
Hypocrisy aside, there’s something really rather distasteful about those journalists who write for major news outlets decrying those who comment. It smacks of entitlement.
These journalists unlike many of us other mere mortals are actually paid to write. It’s something of a privileged position to be in. The size and reach of the sites that they write for mean that their content has the ability to reach far more eyeballs than your average blogger.
When they bemoan the ‘bottom half of the internet’ they are in fact bemoaning their readers.
And they aren’t just bemoaning *some* readers. They are bemoaning all of them. Without readers where would they be?
I find ‘the bottom half of the internet’ as a turn of phrase spectacularly offensive. This might be down to my over-active imagination, but bear with me. What does ‘the bottom half of the internet’ evoke for you?
To me it evokes an Orwellian dystopia…
There’s a new kind of class divide. At the top are those who ‘count’, and beneath the proles squabble pettily about things which are of no consequence to those whose content lives above the fold.
Have I gone too far? Probably.
I wonder what some of these journalists would prefer. Perhaps they’d advocate turning comments off?
But if the news outlets did that readers’ comments would once again be relegated to ‘readers letters’ sections. Hand-picked and often heavily edited. It would be cleaner, more sanitised for sure, but I can’t help but feel like it’s a step backwards.
I feel strongly that whilst on the ‘bottom half of the internet’ there may well be ‘bad things’ living; there’s also an awful lot of good things too.
Today I tweeted this:
If you choose never to read the ‘bottom half of the internet’ you’ll miss gems like this: amazon.co.uk/gp/cdp/member-…
— Hannah Smith (@hannah_bo_banna) May 29, 2013
There’s gold down here.