An Ur-Theory of the Internet

The internet is not cool. There is nothing cool about it.

Facebook was cool, until it was opened to everyone, thus defeating its purpose as a graphical representation of the people college students and graduates know (ie a facebook); less cool until it allowed pictures to be tagged and thus stopped people from putting photos on Facebook;* and not at all cool as the repository for people's bumper sticker-length political musings, meme images that you would have been embarrassed to receive as attachments in an email from your dad 15 years ago, and attempts to position yourself as someone who reads the news.

Twitter was never cool, as evidenced by the ease with which "Tomorrow is [whatever day tomorrow is]" trends. It has also misguidedly convinced people that their thoughts are best expressed in 140-character bursts. Being inarticulate is not cool, especially if you are articulate.**

The rest of the internet is, more or less, television in the 1980s: wildly popular, with content ranging from boring to insulting, depending on one's preferences. 'This was a mildly amusing use of five minutes' is an argument advanced in favor of well-regarded content. What matters is advertising, and thus web publishing is based around those things that drive pageviews, and increase both the length of time spent interacting and the intensity of that interaction. Thus lists, listicles, nostalgia bait, advice columns--most of which now intentionally lead off with the most sensational questions, oral histories and interviews that are barely-edited interview transcripts, and posts that flatter or outrage the biases of that site's audience.

Mgoblog is my favorite site on the internet because it runs like a bespoke outfit: they clearly have goals about when to post new content, and attempt a set schedule week-to-week, and generally fail to do either. Brian writes his game column and publishes it when it's done. Ideally, that's at noon on Mondays, but if it's done at 11:00, it goes up at 11:00. If it's not done until 2:00, it goes up at 2:00. There's very little that feels that unforced anymore, though it certainly helps if you're already the largest single-team college sports blog.

Like tv in the 1980s, there are exceptions, both of the "things that are good considering what else is out there" and "things that are objectively good" variety, but they are rare.

*I cannot be the only one whose friends have a lot of pictures from 2006-2008 or so, and very few after. Or, at least, very few until they start having babies.

**I know many interesting people on twitter, and almost exclusively through twitter, and this is intended as no slight on them. I am just convinced that however interesting they are on twitter, they're more interesting in longer form.

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