Goodbye Internet

the-end-03It’s 8am and I wake up (there are some benefits to living so close to work). The first thing I do is try desperately to turn my phone alarm off. Swipe to turn off? Sounds easy enough until the last millimetre and then it seems not to register my finger. I’m sure this is an Android conspiracy to further frustrate me of a morning but that’s another story. Now vaguely alive and with my phone in my hand, I go immediately to the news – did any celebrities die in my sleep? Is Z-Day here? What has UKIP done now? I spend about 15 minutes trawling through two different news apps, then reddit, then twitter. By the time I fall out of bed, I know what’s going on in the world, and I just want to crawl back up into bed and hide for about a century.

Now I don’t want to be a pessimist, but being British comes with a certain level of cynicism that we feel is our civic duty to impart to the world. No, it can’t all be good news all the time. Yes, people are going to die, natural disasters are going to happen, taxes will be raised, people imprisoned, but lately it’s all been washing over me like a continuous version of that one wave at the beach that knocks you down when you’re a little kid. Every day as I wake up, I hold my own head down under the depressing waters of how utterly abominable humanity is being this morning, and only surface when a cute cat picture floats my way.

It’s not as if I’m suddenly realising that the ratio of bad news to good is less 50:50 and more like 99:1, it’s that over the past few months it seems as if we, as a race, have been increasingly lousy. No matter what issue it is, we seem to have reached some sort of ditch and have chosen to lie there for a little while and be gross. Politics, infrastructure, the environment, the internet, celebrities, foreign policy, wars, general death and disease have reached peak crumminess and I think I just need a break.

I think I used to be able to sniff out the happier stories each day to temper the oppressive dark cloud, but perhaps I’m just a bit out of practice. I like being positive and staying away from negativity as much as I can. I simply have better things to do than pour scorn on someone else’s likes and dislikes, revel in drone strikes, or to read the comments section of a website. I like being buoyed along by the thought that we’re improving as a race, and we are. When I think of the advances in science and medicine, the overall trend towards being nicer people, and (how could I forget) the fact that there are new Star Wars films coming out, I get so incredibly happy that everything seems to be great. It seems that people just want to hear about all the garbage going on instead of the great things. And so, when we’re told every day that we’re all doomed we just sort of go with it, and choose to believe that things truly are shit. They’re not – it just sells more newspapers.

But perhaps I just need a little break. A hiatus from the media deluge of depressive depravity. And I know that the title of this post is Goodbye Internet, but I’m not quitting the internet altogether. I mean, how on earth would I survive? Netflix is here! But for just one month, I’m quitting news. I’m leaving all sites that pepper me with pessimism, and I’m going to sit here, eat pizza, watch Netflix, and count down the days till Star Wars (as of today there are 407). Feel free to join me. For those of you who don’t join, feel free to spend these next 30 days tidying everything up on the planet so it’s good for when I get back.

Facebook: A Love Story

heart-facebookWhen this most social of all the social networks came out and we all piled on the bandwagon, we adored Facebook. 2007-8 were Facebook’s golden years of unbridled and unabashed fanboy love. Here was the thing we’d all not known that we’d been waiting for – the answer to days of boredom and the perfect excuse to put off essays. Long live the internet!

As the years went on, our marriage to Facebook deteriorated and now many of us are barely holding on and keeping up a pretence at affection. We openly cheat on the side with Twitter and Tumblr (they really know know to make us feel good) and spend the rest of our time resenting all the quirky little things that made us fall in love in the first place. Some have even divorced Facebook and gone to live in happier parts of the internet, like BuzzFeed.

I frequently see blog posts (not dissimilar to many of my own I might add) in which the blogger outlines the many ways to be insufferable on Facebook (that article truly is quite insightful) and we’re constantly reminded just how annoying people whose online “friendship” (that word is always in quotes) that we accepted of our own volition can be on this free internet service that we are in no way obliged to continue using. It’s torture, really, it is! It’s getting to the point that if I saw a Facebook status that read “Grrrr! I’m so ANNOYED at cryptic Facebook statuses!” I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not it was intentionally ironic or if it was an actual thing that somebody wrote in all seriousness.

But let’s just slow this hate-mobile down a tad shall we? Why do we still use Facebook if it’s just so gosh-darn shite? Yes, it’s useful for inviting people to events that they will passive-agressively click “Maybe Attending” to. It’s sometimes fun to revel in just how good your life is compared to that of that person you always despised back in school. And sometimes people post funny things (I mean, where else on the internet can we find such delights…). No, the truth is that we use Facebook because we like it. If you’re on Facebook right now, you actually like it. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be on it or it will have been seven days since your last login (bless them Father, for they have sinned). I do have friends who hate Facebook, and you know how I know they hate Facebook? Because they’re not on it. They’ve bitten the bullet, cut the cord, eaten the cake, and all other manner of bizarre idioms. The rest of us who are still here actually and actively enjoy the experience, it’s just that we’ve been told that we don’t or that we shouldn’t.

The internet has latched onto the small nugget of discontent for Facebook and informed us that Actually, We All Hate Facebook Now And Nobody On There Is Really Your Friend Except Maybe Your Mum (But Even She’s More Interested In Farmville). By blowing the slight grating of certain aspects on the site (and there are many little things that irk us) we are now reliably informed that although we must keep on using it, we have to hate it at the same time. Cyber-Sadomasochism at its finest.

The truth is, I rarely get that annoyed on Facebook. Even when people keep their wedding photos as their profile pictures for over a year, change them and even go back to the photos (we get it, you’re blissfully married, has nothing else developed in your life?) When people post endlessly about sport (Was anybody truly outraged by Gareth Bale’s transfer amount? Literally everybody knew that the day would come where a man would be sold for that much money). On Sundays when people Jesus the place up (seriously, it’s as if you’ve all been given God homework – “Go home and post a random verse of a hymn and you’ll get an extra acre in heaven” or something). Not to mention when people brag endlessly, complain eternally, or just wont stop posting pictures of their fugly kids. Honestly, it’s only moderately annoying. I’m a big boy, I can get over it. In fact, if you ever do something that honestly annoys me, I’ll either tell you, hide you from my newsfeed (who said Facebook updates were useless?) or just unfriend you. It’s pretty simple.

And yes, the people I have on Facebook may not be as engaged with my life as the friends I see on a regular basis but there’s a reason I added them. I to whatever extent am interested in your life and would like to know that you’re not dead yet and are in fact having a nice time. No, I probably will never see you ever again but at least we can enjoy the planet together and bitch about it on this website.

To Be Or Not To Be On The Internet

header 1I often wonder why we use social media. Well, aside from the obvious uses of keeping in touch with friends far away, organising events, and things of that nature. I mean, why tweet? Why write that status that you just know will annoy people and generate comments like bacteria swarm and multiply in a droplet of water? Why write a blog? Sometimes I think it all is simply a technological way of grabbing your friends, or indeed complete strangers from the internet, by the lapels and screaming “Love me! I’m important! Listen to my ground breaking opinions which I stole from somebody else!”

Of course, there is this side to things, and we are all guilty of such narcissistic technological sins from time to time (some more than others that’s for sure) but for the most part I think we can see why some people are like that when it really comes down to it.

But I find that the bigger question is “Why not?” Ok, so let’s all not ask why not when it comes to mind-numbingly moronic Facebook statuses; but when it comes to the question of whether or not to write something and put it out there, if you feel that you have talent as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this tweet “Be uprooted from the depths of my brain and be planted on the internet for all eternity”.

After all, how else can I fully enjoy this hilarious thought unless I share it with hundreds of other mindless internet pilgrims? That, at least, is how I choose to look at the world. I write because I can. I tweet in the vain hope that you find me as funny as I do. I blog because I have bugger all else to do with these words in my head. Yes, I appropriate phrases and sentences from other people to use in my writing (if you didn’t notice, I ripped off both H.G. Wells and Jesus in this one) but as I see it, art is made to be shared. In the words of our great and glorious king Oscar Wilde: “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” Oh, and if you ever find a typo in my writing, it’s because I’m following another maxim from a literary giant: “Write drunk, edit sober” – Ernest Hemingway

Yet, for all this, there are just some things on the internet that we simply do not understand:

AutoPlay

playbutton I love the internet. You know I do. If the internet was destroyed, I would spend all my newly found free time working on the international project called “Bring Back The Internet”. I would die for the internet. That’s odd. Mostly because I’ve only this moment realised that I would die for the internet. It’s rather disturbing to realise that you would willingly give your life for a collection of 1s and 0s. I think I need a moment, hang on.

Life shaking epiphanies aside, you need no further proof that I am an all out internet enthusiast. I mean come on, that’s even in my Twitter bio.

I stand beside the internet greats: the #Occupy movement, Annonymous,  all the glorious internet citizens who write, draw, film, sing, and create solely for the joy of sharing with everybody else. I accept the dark corners of morons who debate how right the Mayans were, scream obscenities at people thousands of miles when shot immediately after a respawn on COD, and even the pits of hell that house websites belonging to Westbro Baptist Church. Hey, the internet is for everyone – that’s what the creator of the world wide web said. That includes the crazies.

But what I will not stand for is auto play. This idea spawned from the depths of corporate greed and sheer senseless inanity is one of the few things that sends me into a blind rage. Ok so there are a lot more than a few things that make me see red but let’s move past this*. Autoplay, for those of you blissfully as yet unaware of this threat to freedom and decency everywhere, is when a video or a song automatically begins to play on a webpage when you didn’t ask it to. This slightly includes YouTube preroll ads but what I’m really talking about are news stories that have hidden video content at the bottom of the page that plays for no reason (Huffinton Post I’m glaring at you dammit), blogs that have very loud songs of the worst genres imaginable that blare out their crass garbage and then hide the bloody pause button. If this is the way the internet is going then the terrorists have already won ladies and gentlemen.

But one odd gem from the autoplay world is this website. (go on, click it – you know you want to) What should be a relatively innocuous visit to a sushi restaurant in downtown LA, turns into an oddly erotic background ear raping that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “food porn”. I mean, if I want dodgy Japanese pop with cringeworthy lyrics all about how good food is, I’ll just put on some anime. Unsure as whether to laugh or cry at this travesty, I did both.

*The longer list of things that send Andy off on one is as follows: Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey and other awful literature, homeopathy, people who stubbornly refuse to “get” sarcasm, the NRA, members of the Conservative Party, members of the Republican Party, Westbro Baptist Church, people who think that irregardless is a word, slow walkers, Sean Penn, unforgivably bad films that are so bad they go past the “so bad it’s good” and just head on into the “dire”, people who think that Of Mice And Men and The Catcher In The Rye are bad, horoscopes, creationists, paparazzi, football, people who think that The Beatles are objectively better than other bands (I’m ok with the opinion that they’re spectacular, just not with the idea that they are on some sort of pedastal that no other band can reach), people who can’t argue properly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, climate change nay-sayers, the Pope, people who ask me to speak French when they’ve known me for all of five minutes.
I’ll stop now I promise.

Unrelated Video Of The Day:

Facebook Is Turning Against Us

facebook_like_button_big So there I was, bumbling along the internet one evening, checking on some friends, stalking some enemies (now wouldn’t that be fun if you could add someone as your enemy?), and generally being a good internet citizen. I’d even recently paid for something on the internet which I would normally get for free (by fair means or foul) and I feel this for some reason works to up my internet karma and cancel out the fact that I stream practically all my TV from legally dubious websites. You know the type – the ones that are dead set on pawning off some Russian bride to you while at the same time giving you the one ‘strange old tip’ that will make you magically lose all your unwanted weight by smashing through the laws of physics and converting it to muscle and whitening your teeth in the process.

So there I was, Facebooking, and my eye lazily drifted to the adbar on the side. I guess whosever page it was I was on had just got a little bit yawn-worthy. My eye settled upon this advert and I was rudely jolted awake.

Picture1Thing Number One Which Felt Like A Cyber Slap To The Face:
My graduate-pride kicked in – the kind of pride which makes you feel that little bit loftier than the other members of society who don’t have letters after their name and especially envious of people who have jobs if you don’t have a job (boo-hoo me). So that was quickly quenched as a rather snotty emotion if ever there was one but then came…

Thing Number Two Which Felt Like A Cyber Poke In The Eye:
It’s a kid. A kid who is earning money. More money than I will earn in the next few years put together I’ll bet. And that smarts a little. I have a bit of a complex about kids being better than me. So much so that when I saw this story on the BBC a few weeks back of an 8 year old who passed his grade 8 on piano, I went off in a huff. But I got over this feeling pretty swiftly as well since I’m a big believer in being good at things and doing them so go you! little Johnny or whatever your name is. And then came…

Thing Number The Next One Which Felt Like A Cyber Roundhouse Kick:
The phrasing. Ok so it’s a kid who’s better and richer than me but so what. There are plenty of those. Plenty of richer, more skilled people than little me and I am fine with this because it means that I can sit back and relax while they run the world. Or something.
But it’s the way the ad is phrased: “why can’t you?” I’ll tell you why oh most sanctimonious of all the sanctimonious ads. Because I’m not a genius. If you’d said ‘why don’t you’ then I’d be fine. But why can’t you sounds rather accusatory. It sounds like mummy and daddy Facebook asking why you can’t be nice like so-and-so.

Hey Facebook, you’re my lazy place of laziness. Stop trying to guilt me into learning how to design apps that will make my coffee while playing Billy Joel’s greatest hits and driving my car or whatever it is apps do these days. I came here to relax and stalk, not to be scolded on my lack of contribution to humanity’s struggle against manual labour.