Today’s Internet: Where’s the Beef?


There’s a sucker born every minute. Though P.T. Barnum probably never said this, the intent of the phrase continues to hold true. And the Internet has become a field white unto harvest for suckers.

Exhibit A:
PriceFixer: Geniux Anderson Cooper Stephen Hawking Fake Smart Drug Scam

Geniux: Does Geniux Work?

Smart Drug: Not. But don’t you know the orders are pouring in.

And maybe it’s just me, but it seems no matter where on the web you go–even to the big-name “reputable” sources, you’ll be assailed in the sidebar or end of the article by Pinterest-like box photos offering to show the clicker “one weird trick“ or “what folks in Floyd want to know about xxx” and substitute any one of a number of tittilating or salacious topics, the final link more than likely illustrated by a buxom female showing lots of skin.

Is the Internet become all sizzle and no steak?

Is the current trend of visual taunting the product of behavioral psychology at work amongst the lever-press mouse-click market masters I spoke about in yesterday’s post?

And I challenge you to find many paragraphs in a row without astoundingly-obvious spelling or grammar errors undetected and uncorrected. Sloppy! Is anybody at the wheel?

So I find myself doing less random browsing these days, am far less prone to follow my nose, and more inclined to stay on the paved roads than step off into the increasingly mucky margins. You?

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I love to research articles. Back in 1996, when hubby bought our first home computer, I was enchanted by the ability to research, in the wee hours of the morning in my jammies and bare feet. Something, prior to this, that could only be done to that extent in my favorite library. Those were the sweetest times on the Internet. Now discouragement is a moment by moment reality of being in cyberspace for all the reasons you mention.

  2. The day is quickly arriving, I fervently hope, when my ability to discriminate on the Internet will get substantially better. Today, I have decided to click on the upper right corner of each FB entry that has proved itself to be less than worthwhile in the past, and select the option to hide, or see less of, or whatever is offered. I hate to unfollow good folks, so I hope this will prune things.

  3. Back in the 79s, when I worked for the House Committee on Science and Technology, then chairman Don Fuqua challenged us to transfer what was then DARPA-Net to civilian availability — the forerunner of the Internet — and he may have been the first person to claim it would become “The Information Super Highway.” It was a fascination for hobbyists and techno-geeks in the late 70s and became a place to exchange information but it also become fodder for those looking for ways to make money. In some ways it has become the Misinformation Cow Path. I feel it is still a useful resource but you have to avoid the clutter and hype. I scan about 50 sites each morning for news (from The Washington Post, New York Times and such), email (of course) and connect with friends and acquaintances on social sites. It is a easy gateway into Lexis-Nexis for research and I used it for covering news for our local paper through the court databases. Those of us who also attempt to produce news sites must also find a way to pay for them through ads and — in some places — subscriptions. My political news site uses ads but goes not seek a subscription so it is technically free and we seek not to use intrusive advertising. The ads pay the bills with a little left over once in a while but it has kept the site up and running for years. Reader feedback helps but I feel that wholesale condemnation of what is happening on the ‘Net only adds to the clutter.

  4. So Doug do you approve of the sensationalist hyperbole that site promotion is taking? Or am I wrong to note that this is becoming FAR more prevalent in the past year or two than it used to be?

    Apparently we are drawn, according to the web psychology marketing folks, to the bizarre, outrageous, shocking and the world of woowoo and so that is where the ads are going on so many “reputable” websites. Should this be condoned because that’s what it takes to get clicks?

    I think it is appropriate to disapprove of what seems to me to be a wide practice of selling the sizzle without regard to taste or propriety or site mission integrity.

    This observation, admittedly, could be only my peculiar observation. Do others concur or have another experience of today’s Internet culture w regard to marketing tactics?

  5. It’s been far more prevalent than that in the in more than just past year or two. Self-promotion and the spread of conspiracy theories existed before the Internet and those who practice it found it a tool early on. Social media gave those who want to spread misinformation another platform. Anyone with a modem and a keyboard became a publisher. But that is not the totality of the medium. One has to wade through the crap to get to the meat but that crap existed back in the 80s when the ‘Net was young. The Internet has grown and the crap, along with the good things, have increased proportionately. I disagree with wholesale condemnation of the medium. The key is to learn how to use any resource with patience and caution.

  6. Doug I think you are painting with too wide a brush to say my disapproval of the prevalent method of advertising is to throw out the baby of amazing access to information with the bathwater of hype and disinformation. yes indeed, I do tire awfully of having to wade through long informative articles that are interrupted every few paragraphs by a form of marketing graffiti.

    Already over-using cliches here I reluctantly add: Chinese proverb say: Hungry man does not refuse the fish because of the bones.

    I just am not enjoying taking so long to swallow for working around those inedible bones and there seem to be more and more of them as time goes on. And this, I think, reflects on the Internet perceived as a form or media. So in that way, I admit I am less enamoured of the whole of the web than I once was. Maybe it’s just me.

    • I was making a general comment about the thread in general, not to your specific comments. I hear similar complaints. They started right after the ‘Net began. Lighten up and don’t take all this too seriously. 🙂

  7. Enjoying the diverse feedback today. Fred. That alone is a positive part of the Internet. Especially for me. I lost my hearing at 39. Now have a cochlear implant. One to one is a miracle of hearing. Social aspects not so much. The Internet gives me the ability to “read” other voices and perspectives and that challenges me to continue to think, learn, and grow. Of course, one usually has to wade through many blogs to find sustaining food versus the junk. Fred’s is high quality. Had it not been for the Internet, never would have been enchanted with a place called Floyd, VA. I read the blog, ordered the books and visited Floyd. Left a piece of my heart there as well. I am richer for having met some very charming and kind people on our visit. I still believe we will get back there again sometime. For this alone, I will not stop using the Internet any time soon.