Monday, February 15, 2010

The Way of the Web

Much has been written about the anonymity of the Web. All you have to do is look at the comments section of any news site or gossip blog and you can easily see how quickly an online exchange can deteriorate into a hateful, snarky barrage of insults. I always promise myself I won't get caught up in reading them but as a student of human nature I soon find myself scanning the entries, wondering who are these people, with so much time on their hands that they feel the need to type "thank god I fixed my roof" when the weather forecast predicts rain? It's easy to assume they're all morbidly obese unemployed short-order cooks soon to have a wall of their homes removed so they can be rescued on-camera by Richard Simmons, but more than likely they're just people like me who work all day but have access to the Internet. It's true that if you look closely many of the same people post multiple comments each and every day, and that those people tend to have an agenda to promote -- hatred of Obama being a prominent thrust, though there are many other viewpoints, let's charitably call them, being represented. And as a professional writer, it still amazes me that anyone would post a comment riddled with spelling and grammatical errors -- wouldn't it seem that would only erode a person's credibility in any war of intellects?

Since I've been known to comment on various news sites in the past -- a topic has to be one I feel strongly about or I have to be very, very bored -- I thought it would be only fair to go back and check my own contribution to the online dialog. Could I be as stupid, petty, and vitriolic as the majority of posters I so easily dismiss? Let's see some examples of news stories where I bothered to weigh in with my golden prose:

New item: A 62-year-old man outfits a child's sled with a rocket and is seriously burned.

My comment:

And then George went back to Crawford.

Assessment: Okay, I guess I revealed my political agenda there. But I still think it was funny.

News item: Bristol Palin files for child support.

My comment:

That Alaskan white trash

is seeking cash

It's a shakedown to the last turd.

If only he'd worn

a thing on his horn

there'd be no little bastard.

Assessent: This time not only have I displayed my political leanings, I've also illustrated my love of poetry. I stand by it.

News item: A weather story announces that a drought-busting El Nino has arrived.

My comment:

Can the sky be "filled with thunder"?

Assessment: Just a few lines above I remarked about people who comment on weather stories, and there I am doing just that. However, my comment was about the quality of writing in the article, and while a sky filled with thunder might pass muster in a Stephen King story, I still don't think it's an accurate weather description in a news article.

News item: Love Story author Erich Segal dies at age 72.

My comment:

He really knew how to rock that sweater-over-the-shoulders look.

Assessment: Okay, that really wasn't very nice. But as I recall the photo that accompanied the obit showed him with 70s-era aviator glasses and that infernal sweater draped around his shoulders, a preppy look I always despised. Sorry for your loss, Segal family.

News item: Cybill Shepherd's son is charged with stealing from other airline passengers.

My comment:

Let this be his Last Picture Show.

Assessment: Cheap shot. I suck.

News item: Marc Christian, ex-lover of Rock Hudson, dies.

My comment:

This is the first time I've seen an obituary where the person pictured is not the person who died.

Assessment: A valid observation, since instead of the deceased there was a photo of Rock Hudson. Couldn't that be considered the final indignity for this guy?

News item: Catching up with (millionaire and Dianne Feinstein husband) Richard Blum

My comment:

Perched on his bubbling bidet

this joker reached out to Tibet.

A foul social climber

he's a sick weisenheimer

and is telling his biggest fib yet.

(p.s., I know "bidet" and "Tibet" don't really rhyme but it looks good in print.)

Assessment: I've revealed not only my distaste for Richard Blum and his supposed interest in Tibet's freedom but my love of limericks.

News item: Levi Johnston, the discarded plaything.

My comment:

A hick from Wasilla got fame

by playing the publicity game.

The dirt, it flew fastah

Now he's baked Alaska

And like the Palins he's just really lame.

Assessment: Political leanings aside, I think I should get points for managing to find a rhyme for "Baked Alaska."

News item: On the Jaycee Duggard kidnapping case.

My comment:

She wasn't "allegedly kidnapped." She was definitely kidnapped, but allegedly by the Garridos.

Assessment: A perfectly valid journalistic point. When I worked on The Boston Globe many years ago, you would have been fired for a rookie error like that.

News item: A pocket guide to tipping.

My comment:

What did the leper say to the prostitute? "That's can keep the tip."

Assessment: Childish and gross. I suck. And how bored was I that day?

News item: A real estate walk-through of a Tiburon mansion.

My comment:

The rich are different from you and me.

They need a view of hills and sea.

They care not if their homes lack charm.

They care not if they inflict harm.

That's why their homes look like hotels.

No taste, no class; this mansion smells.

Assessment: As I recall it was a very charmless, over-priced pile of rubble and I think the poem is nicely referential to Fitzgerald's famous comment about the wealthy.

News item: Actress Marsha Mason bows out of play.

My comment:

I guess she really is "The Goodbye Girl" after all.

Assessment: I still think that's funny, though slightly obvious.

News item: South Carolina man charged with having sex with a horse.

My comment:

Hey, he was just sowing his wild oats.

Assessment: Pretty obvious. I suck.

News item: Stanford tech mentor was drunk when he drowned.

My comment:

Sounds more like Gurgle than Google.

Assessment: Very childish and very stupid. Not to mention pretty nasty. I really suck.

News item: Gay male penguin couple split up by widow penguin.

My comment:

Two penguins named Larry and Harry

thought boys should be able to marry.

They feathered their nest

then along came a pest

and now Pepper is boinking with Larry.

Assessment: I still think it's funny.

News item: Mysterious tremor detected on San Andreas Fault.

My comment:

Said the scientist, "The fault is ready to blow,

though to tell you the truth I don't know

if the quake will hit soon

or ten years from next June.

I enjoy vague predictions of woe."

Assessment: A pithy observation on the readiness of science to predict disaster without any degree of accuracy that could be useful.

Okay, so I guess I've demonstrated that I usually try to add content that contributes something to the online dialog, but that I can be just as callous, on occasion, as some of my anonymous compatriots behind their keyboards. But I invite regular commentators to go back to the sites where they post most often and take a look at their comment histories -- they may reveal more than you thought about your outlook, and the degree to which you take advantage of the faceless world of the Internet poster.

1 comment:

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with you on the incredible plethora of people online who cannot construct a grammatically correct sentence, spell, or use punctuation correctly. I believe they don't know how ridiculously they come across to readers. But then, I'll bet a lot of the readers don't get it either. Sigh----