A strange thing happened. But it shouldn’t have been so strange.
The other day, I was surfing the web for wholesale meats (when you quit your day job to write full time, it can’t hurt to save a few bucks on proteins and stick them in the freezer). The results are what you’d assume: companies trying to convince any Googler that their meat is the best meat, and you should buy from them. It’s what the internet is these days; a glorified Yellow Pages (except the ads manipulate you into voting a crackpot into the White House, and there are literal Nazis, and they’re concerned about frogs and for some reason, ethics in game jouralism. Also, there’s porn of literally everything).
Anyway, the third item in my search showed this:
…Yeah, that’s what I thought it said. Weird. Why on earth would a website ever want to advertise that it sells AVERAGE AND MEDIOCRE QUALITY MEAT????
So I had to click. And I caught on very fast: someone, somewhere, doesn’t know how to SEO. This is the front page of their site:
It’s actually quite a clever homepage. Reverse psychology. It’s pretty well written, too. Too bad the SEO engine they are using ignored the bulleted items and only pulled the first written copy from the front page.
I felt bad for them. They worked hard on their site. It’s well designed. It’s clever. So I had to write them:
The next morning, I got a reply:
A big oops, a shared laugh, and someone is going to make massive strides to improving traffic all because I wrote a quick email. I think that’s a nice thing. I think we could all use more of that on the internet; nice things for no other reason than to be nice.
I’ve been thinking a LOT about this the past few days; what the internet used to be versus what it is now. I’m not the only one, I know. Ever since Facebook was caught with its pants down (again — it’s happened a LOT over the last 14 years) over the whole Cambridge Analytica thing, it’s all Silicon Valley can really talk about: their ethics, and how they really do have them, and uh… Yeah, um. They’re not going to give up any — ANY — of the money they’ve made doing this shit, and they’re never going to change. But they DO HAVE ETHICS they swear. They pinky swear. (If you want to know more, read my series Precursor to Dystopia, which goes into great detail about all the ways we’re, as the title says, about to be a dystopia).
The internet is so, so, so broken. It put a despot asshole charlatan racist into the White House. It broke up the European Union. It routinely festers and erupts its dark pus onto our mood, almost by the hour, just by the sheer nature of how it has been allowed to be used and abused the past, oh, I dunno — however many years since the first pop-up ad showed up. A quick Google search reveals this essay, which says it showed up between 1994 and 1999 at Tripod.com, so Let’s say between 20 and 24 years. That’s how long it’s been allowed to be treated like shit.
But at first, there weren’t as many nefarious folks doing nefarious things, I think, because the volume of the internet was so low. That meant the opportunity to squeeze a dime (or steal it) was also low. So why bother? But as people caught on and saw that the internet was cool and had tons and tons of potential, so did the money, and the advertisers were the first prospectors.
TED just occurred, and all everyone can talk about is this amazing talk by one of the smartest, most insightful people I’ve ever read or talk to, Jaron Lanier. Please, take 17 minutes and watch it:
It will wake you up.
We can do better. Old to the internet or new, avid user or occasional Googler, we can ALL do better.
I’ve discussed at great length my leaving Facebook (these days, I only use it for my book and author pages — and God, it sucks even for that. But it is far, far healthier than it used to be in my life). I think the next step is to actively try to be better, by doing the things that used to make the Internet so great: helping. Discussing. Sharing. Playing nicely. Collaborating.
So, if you want meat that is not AVERAGE AND BELOW QUALITY, check out Allen Wholesale Meats. I like sharing that with you. And I can tell you that I’m committed to sharing more and more great things with you, both in the form of stories and things I make. I want to use the Internet for what its best for, not what it’s become good at.
You saw someone who needed help, and you took the time to do it. It’s a little thing, but personally, I believe “everything” is made up of lots of little things, and if everyone took the time and the extra 2% of effort it takes to randomly help a stranger when they obviously need it, the world would be a damn sight finer than the one we have. Good on you, man.