This is an obvious one, but I don’t hear it discussed much.  We are spending more and more time online, but our online interactions do not seem to be improving, in the general sense.  Forums aren’t much different now than they were 15 years ago – and that’s an eternity in Internet time.

There’s a very famous cartoon of a dog using a computer, captioned “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”  Very perceptive.  It’s a big part of the problem.  But examples are usually best, so here’s a great one.  I was re-watching the wonderful Andertons video where they test two guitars identical except for the wood used on the body, and clearly demonstrate that the type of wood does have an audible impact on the sound.  Guitar builders have understood this forever, but in this “modern” age of the Internet, there suddenly seems to be this “debate.”  The myth that wood doesn’t matter is being repeated over and over online – various debates in various forums with various dubious claims about tests being performed.  But the Andertons video clearly demonstrates a difference.

So why, then, are there so many comments that are… how can I phrase this… written by morons?  Here’s a small clue – lack of capitalization, proper punctuation, and overall bad grammatical choices usually means only one thing:  teenagers.

Reason 1 – Teenagers

Yup, I’m calling you out, teens.  If you were sitting in the room with these two guys when they did this test, would you have walked up and told these two guys they were stupid idiots who didn’t know anything, like you did in the comments?  Lee Anderton owns a very successful music store and has been working with musical instruments his entire life.  Rob Chapman is a professional guitarist who has toured and been paid by Orange and Marshall to demonstrate their gear, AND he invented an Internet job for himself where he gets paid to talk about and play guitars.  And together they have a guitar company.  And you?

My point is that giving “a voice to the peanut gallery” has partially devalued the Internet, because sometimes the peanut gallery does not DESERVE a voice.  This is not an elitist thing – this is about background knowledge and how society works.  If you know very little about football (American) and engage in a conversation with two guys who know a lot about it, there are social rules.  You can listen, obviously.  You can ask certain questions.  But having a strong opinion without background knowledge will usually get you either embarrassed, or will kill the conversation.  Fake Example:

Monte Kiffin:  Jim, the problem with the no huddle was that eventually people caught up with it and started rotating defensive linemen.  New things work in the NFL but not forever – coordinators eventually figure them out.

Jim Kelly:  Yeah, but if you’ve got the athletes, you can beat a defense even if they know what you’re going to do because you can exploit match-ups.  You put a linebacker on Thurman, I’m gonna throw it to him because he wins that matchup 9 times out of 10.

Teenager:  You guys are stupid.  I don’t know why you don’t just throw it on every down.

Jim Kelly:  Nice talkin’ to ya, Monte.  I gotta go.

Monte Kiffin:  I’ll see ya, Jim.

DISCLAIMER – I’m lumping teenagers together to make a point, but having worked for 7 years at a high school, I’m well aware that there are teenagers more mature than I am.  Heck, I have two of them in my own house.  But teens who are mature will be the first to tell you that a lot of teenagers are immature.

Anyway, you see how that works.  The same thing happens in guitar and music related forums every minute of every day.  And though I’m blaming teenagers, there’s another group of people who are just as bad – stupid adults.

Reason 2 – Stupid Adults

Yes, there are plenty of stupid adults out there.  You will recognize them by the same spelling errors, run-on sentences, and other examples of bad grammar.  The excuse is “It’s just the Internet” or rather “its just the internet” and phones make it a pain to type capital letters and blah blah blah excuse excuse.  If you don’t have time to type a complete sentence, why I do I care what you have to say?

Reason 3 – Lack of Everything

So why is online interaction so horrible?  Lack of respect for other people’s opinions.  Lack of empathy and sympathy.  Lack of understanding.  Lack of grammar.  Lack of dignity.  And the web creates an atmosphere where you can step into a conversation and insert your own badly-formed opinion and be insulting without risking a punch in the nose.

When we hurl insults, regardless of how witty, at people who say things like “gibson sukks why do they charge so much money your a dumbass too by one,” it makes us feel superior.  That’s why putting down someone else does – it makes you feel better about yourself.  Partially because you’ve just served up a hot cup of justice, in your own mind, but partially because in doing so, you’ve elevated yourself in stature.  Guilty as charged.  I’ve done this far too many times.  And I’m going to change.  We need to educate people in online conversations.  We need to be the actual adult, even if we’re younger, and we need to teach.  Teaching puts you on a pedestal too, but it also helps make the world a better place.

Taking the high road is often difficult but almost always correct.