Just like with the printing press and television, we knew that the Internet was going to change the way the world works. And by change, we meant destroy the very fabric of society, leaving those unfortunate souls who remain shambling around alone into signposts, staring into their pamphlet/portable TV/iPhone.
And, for the most, part, yeah, that’s the way things turned out. In fact, I’m writing this very post while I’m driving. (Calm down, I’m dictating it to my secretary. I can’t write, steer and hold this wine glass. That would be irresponsible — everyone knows how easily Chateau Lafite bruises.)
But, here’s the thing: while, yes, the Internet is a distraction at best and providing a platform to the worst people at worst, it’s also changed some of the old ways we do things for the better.
So, let’s ignore that I am, in fact, one of those worst people from the previous sentence and give thanks for what the Information Superhighway (remember that shit?) has done for us lately.
Settled bets/shut up assholes
Some of you readers may not be old enough to have gone to a bar without the Internet in your pocket. If this was the case, then might I suggest queuing up Cheers on your Netflix account? I’ll wait.
OK, so you know how everyone rolls their eyes whenever John Ratzenberger opens his mouth the way we do when John Ratzenberger opens his mouth on Fox News?
That was every bar. In fact, the producers of Cheers weren’t even going to cast Ratzenberger until he suggested that the show was missing a know-it-all jackass.
The reason why he was able to turn what was probably a decent enough audition (he’s not a bad person or unfunny actor, just, c’mon, he’s not gonna beat out George Wendt for Norm) is because that guy exists, often in multiples, in every bar. And until you could pull out a newspaper, dictionary, IMDB page or Wikipedia or Snopes entry from your pocket, they could steamroll you into agreeing to disagree because they sounded authoritative enough.
That’s not to say that you’re going to convince a drunk, terminally- and chronically-factually deficient person that they were wrong. Just that you can have the satisfaction of saying, “Shut the hell up, Kevin,” and not wondering if you maybe fell asleep in civics class when they covered Reagan’s stated tax policies and what he really did.
Simplified giving away private information that no one cares about
Chances are that, if you still receive a Christmas letter, it’s from someone old enough to have considered switching to fax in the ’80s and then deciding that the grainy photo results meant that no technology could ever replace the U.S. Postal Service.
Thanks to the Internet — Facebook, in particular — you may still get the Christmas letter, but it’s already old news. You’ve already cried into a homemade mojito that you’re still childless and a career barista whereas the Komeski’s kid has a doctorate, twins and negotiates mergers in Japan — all in one year after graduating from Harvard. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit and the usual holiday depression around Christmas.
And now that we know that the government is already collecting and storing that info for you, whether it’s your tweets in the Library of Congress or your Tumblr posts expressing terrorist sympathies in the Utah Data Center, your trivial personal bullshit is already being examined by top men (top. men.) and being disseminated to people who actually give a shit.
Shortened your time in purgatory
When the Catholic Church isn’t inventing new ways to keep poor people up to their eyes in babies — and then molesting them when they get a little older — it’s also cranking out favors for the few people who lack the intellectual curiosity to ask why men who vowed never to marry are worried about gay people ruining it.
They did it for Irish Americans, allowing them to eat corned beef if St. Patrick’s Day occurs on a Friday during Lent. Or the Spanish on any Friday. And now they’re granting indulgences to Internet Catholics for following the pope on Twitter.
So, if you’re Bill Donohue, and your choices are to either leave your chat forum argument over Piss Christ or go to mass, now you can do both. This is the Internet that Jesus wanted. And it raises Pope Frank’s Klout score, making him more influential than McBournie, which is the ultimate Catholic good work.
And you thought the Internet was no good. For shame.