A popular quotation, usually attributed (whether correctly or not) to Mahatma Gandhi, goes like this:
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Whoever said it, I like the message, which I interpret as, “If there’s something you don’t like in the world, be something else.” Which isn’t to say that you can change the world by simply not participating in things you disagree with (if only!)… but the value of starting with yourself, and of living your own life in a way that’s consistent with what you want of everyone else, can’t be overstated.
Which brings me to my point for today. Stop clicking on stupid shit online. Now before I finish that thought, I just want to say that, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t typically include swear words in my language choices. That is, not unless a swear word is the only word that fits. I do not say “stupid shit” lightly here.
So back to why you should stop clicking on it. Ask some random people on the street what they think the internet needs more of. What do you think they’d say? Do you think they’d say it needs more information about celebrities? More advertisements featuring women dressed like strippers? Maybe more 20-second-long videos of people falling on their faces? Probably not. For one thing, content like that is already all over the internet. And for another thing, I (optimistically) believe… or at least hope that most people know that those things do not reflect the wonderful potential of the internet. Potential to do good things of actual value. Right?
The internet has the power to connect people, to educate, to inspire, to challenge the aspects of society that aren’t working, to shine light on injustice. It can encourage people to know better, to do better, to be better. Or it can devolve into a sea of boobs and guys getting kicked in the balls.
Now, some reading this might think the latter option sounds just great. I’m not talking to those people right now. (Though I did include that special video clip just for them, courtesy of the movie, Idiocracy.) I’m talking to those of you who would agree that the internet needs more real content of actual value and less trash catering to our ids.
If that’s you, I have a request. Stop clicking on the stupid shit. If you think it’s ridiculous that some pop star teenager gets so much attention, stop clicking on articles about whether or not he’ll get sent to prison for TPing his neighbor’s house. If you think that women should be valued for their intelligence or skills or ideas, stop clicking on every picture of a girl in a thong you that comes across your news feed. Want the news to start covering actual, significant events of our time, through honest, responsible journalism? Stop clicking on headlines that say things like, “How to enlarge your penis/breasts overnight,” or “Hot socialite caught pantiless at sporting event.”
See, this isn’t like when you were little and found your dad’s playboy under the mattress, and you could read it any time you wanted with no one knowing a thing. What you look at online is precious information, so you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re the only one who knows. Every time you click on something on the internet, that information is recorded. And it’s not just used if you get caught planning a terrorist attack. It’s used all the time. Ever notice how a few hours after you type in “how to fix a toaster” as a search term online, your social media news feed is showing you ads for shiny new toasters? Do you think that’s a coincidence? And do you think it stops there?
The stuff you click on matters, because clicks make money. What do people want when they put something on the internet? Clicks. So what are they going to put more of on the internet? The stuff you click on. See how this works? Consider the internet a restaurant, and the things that show up on your screen are a menu. Every time you click on something, you’re ordering more things like that. Consider each click a vote for what you want more of online. For what you care about and value. You don’t care about or value stupid shit. So don’t click on it.
In closing, I’ll leave you with this quote. I think it was Nelson Mandela who said it. Maybe Einstein. No, wait! It was ME!
“Be the change you want to see on the internet.” -me