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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Reading yet another article bemoaning the terrible state of Internet surfers today, I once again grew weary of the self-righteousness of that whole genre.

People don't read substantive articles, these scolds complain. Or books. Or the classics. They surf the Internet looking at cat pictures and their textual equivalents. Why can't they read good things that elevate their minds instead of predigested pablum. (Another variant will complain about what people watch on TV. Still another what they listen to on the radio. I don't think there's anyone griping about what people prefer to smell or touch, but I'm interested if you know of them.)

My general stance, after I roll my eyes, is "to each their own." People eat junk food, but that doesn't have any meaningful consequence to your diet. If people choose to subsist entirely on the intellectual equivalent of that, why are your knickers binding? Your nose is missing no skin. If you find value in high-brow long reads, more power to you, sir! If you like chick lit, so be it.

For this reason, I cannot lament the fact of the Internet. It is an unmitigated wonder and its net effect on the world is exceedingly positive. Never in all of human history has it been easier to learn anything, have better access to experts, or publish your writing. The audience for all of this is global and ubiquitous. The New Yorker and can peacefully co-exist, neither acknowledging the other, with their readerships overlapping to whatever degree they may.

As Gandi said, "be the change you want to see in the world." And the author of that piece, after his ironical lament of linkbait—of which he is one of the pioneers as a former editor of Gizmodo, suggests exactly that and commits to living the life he wants others to. (Though that didn't seem to last long given his author page.)

Don't worry about humanity, worry about yourself. People will read, watch, and listen to whatever they want and your chastising isn't going to change that behavior one whit. Eat your organic, healthy mental food and stow your smugness.