The Internet: Part II

This piece is the second piece submitted by guest blogger Asher Lovy. It is part of a four part series about the internet.


Why the Internet?

As described in part I there is a curious phenomenon that occurs in cyberspace: The Internet Person. But why the internet? What is it about the internet that would draw a person out of mainstream society and its structure into another world altogether? Simply put, the internet is the perfect escape; the perfect retreat for those who, for one reason or another, feel that they cannot function properly in mainstream society. The internet offers an infinite number of possibilities to those who feel limited by their real world community. Society has always had its outcasts; the internet provides a place for these people to be accepted as mainstream in a new community.

There are several reasons why a person would seek out a retreat. Common among them are people who have tense family relationships, people who feel that they are too intellectual to identify with those in their real life community who could never understand them, people who feel as though they have never met a peer in their lives, people looking for support, and people looking for companionship. On the flip side you also have people who feel total disdain for those in their real life communities and therefore seek out a situation where they can be recognized as the superiors they believe they should be. These include your hackers, certain types of scammers, and internet bullies. Still others are in it just for the “lulz.” These people live off the misfortune of others but can’t express that feeling in real life for fear of backlash. Included in this category are your 4chan types and various other subcultures where epicaricacy is the very lifeblood of the community. 4chan is of particular interest, but that topic will be covered in part III.

Everyone needs a support system and a source of strength and steadiness on which to rely, not only as they develop into adults, but all through their lives. For most people this takes the form of family; a group of people on whom you can rely for support, advice, and love. This is all well and good for people who have loving families, but what about those who don’t? Such people usually seek out other “families” which can take the form of gangs, clubs, or in our case, the internet. This type of person will seek out a community where they feel accepted and loved; a place where they can pour out their hearts to their new family and receive the empathy and advice they need, or just have a laugh. To an outsider looking in it may seem an illusion, a fallacy constructed by some pathetic individual to deal with their life; however it is no such thing. The internet becomes their actual family, not merely a pale shadow of what a real family is, but much more than it ever could be.

Some people are jocks, some are musicians, some are artists, and some are intellectuals. Everyone can identify with jocks, as almost everyone can understand and appreciate sports and athleticism. Everyonecan appreciate music in one form or another. Everyone can appreciate art, in one form or another. Not everyone can appreciate the intellectual. To many, the intellectual is simply an idealistic idiot with his head in the clouds, spouting nonsense that is of absolutely no consequence. Who cares why things work? Who cares how things work? What qualifies you to make grandiose pronouncements about what you think needs to be done to improve the world? And the all too popular “well look at Mr. Genius here.” Intellectuals, for the most part, are unappreciated. True, there are places for intellectualism, particularly in academia, however not every intellectual can afford, for one reason or another, to devote their life to academia. There is a massive subculture across the globe of unappreciated intellectualism. Sometimes it’s because industry is valued above intellect in that particular community, sometimes it’s because intellectuals make the general populace feel inferior. Whatever the reason may be, many intellectuals feel disenfranchised by the rest of their communities and seek out alternatives.

For such intellectuals the internet provides the perfect outlet; a place where they can congregate and share their ideas and observations unburdened by the closed mindedness of the masses. Their minds can be set free to pursue whichever cerebral interests tickle their intellectual fancies. This allows them to function among the commoners in their real life communities as they have a catharsis for their minds on the internet. Many such intellectuals have never met a peer in their entire lives and the experience can be quite stimulating and rather addictive. They spend more and more time online among their peers, reveling in the utopia of like mindedness heretofore unknown to them.

Others have everything they need from the real world in terms of family and intellectual appreciation. What they lack however, is companionship. Often times it is difficult for some people, for whatever reason, to find companionship. It may be hard to find a companion within one’s own community. It may be because the person is overweight or otherwise aesthetically displeasing. The internet offers a wider pool from which to choose. While one’s real world may offer, let’s say, two to five thousand choices, the internet offers choices limited only by the population of the world, which considerably improves the probability of finding a companion.

Some people have feelings or traits which are seen as abhorrent and repugnant by mainstream society, but which they cannot help feeling. These may include the inability to be serious no matter the situation, extreme epicaricacy, and delusions of grandeur. Hackers fall both into this category and the category of the unappreciated. To the average person a hacker is either scum or irrelevant, which to a professional hacker is extremely irksome. The hacker feels the need to show his worth and ability and joins a community of similarly motivated individuals. But hackers are a different story, back to trolls, schadenfreude enthusiasts, and the delusional.

Suppose you were walking down the street and a piano fell out of a 30th story window killing a homeless man sitting on the pavement below. In all likelihood your reaction would be one of shock and horror as well it should be. Suppose out of the corner of your eye you noticed a man rolling on the floor laughing his fat ass off, you would probably feel a strong urge to break his face into tiny pieces. You would probably even get away with it. Now think back to the last Failblog video you saw, are you beginning to see the point? In real life the misfortune of others is something to be lamented; on the internet, the more unfortunate the “lulzier.” The internet provides a place for people who, in real life, would get their faces bashed in for laughing at such misfortune. These people see misfortune every day in the real world, but cannot express their mirth for fear of reprisal. Surrounded by likeminded and twisted individuals such as themselves they feel at home, and see no reason to suppress their inner epicaricacy.

And now the deluded. The deluded believe that they are greater and more qualified than anyone for anything. No matter the calling they are up to the challenge, and can accomplish it better than anyone on the face of the planet. They are master engineers, culinary connoisseurs, strategists extraordinaire, great philosophers, the best doctors in the world, peerless political leaders, and most of all, they are never wrong. Usually deprived of the leadership positions they so desire, they seek out online communities where they can reign supreme. It can be a children’s forum about Barney, it wouldn’t matter to them as long as they are in charge. While these people can be extremely annoying pains in the asses, as long as they don’t cause too much damage we’ll let them hold on to their delusions. Everyone needs their niche.

So there you have it, the allure of the internet. Simple human desire to fit in. it used to be, long ago, that an outcast would have to uproot himself from his city or town and move far away to a place where they would be accepted for who they are. Now it’s as simple as hitting a few keys and pressing enter. The internet has something for everyone yet not everyone realizes it or needs it. Those people are content in the real world where things work out as they want them to. For internet people however, the real world is not enough. They need the infinite possibilities offered to them only by the internet.

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