by Loren Jersey
If you’ve been paying any attention to the Stupidopolis site news, you have read a few statistics that we were quite happy about, regardless of what Fred our dear editor has written. We average around 150 hits per month when there is new material. Google Analytics tells us that these hits come from any of 110 cities in 12 different countries so far. Granted 40% of those visitors are accidental and don’t read anything, but the rest are real people who are looking for something to occupy their time, and when they occasionally see something that moves them, they give us feedback. Or that is what we thought.
I have recently come across some new information, the understanding of which has changed my view of the internet forever, and it will change yours as well. You see, I was at a party yesterday chatting with a close friend of mine when he admitted to commenting on Stupidopolis under a pseudonym. That did not surprise me; many people are deeply concerned about their own anonymity. Later, he admitted to having posted on Stupidopolis under a second pseudonym, and still later a third. In total, his pseudonyms lay claim to at least 60% of the comments on Stupidopolis. I was flabbergasted, not to mention a little disappointed, and I still didn’t really believe it. He went on to say that this sort of thing is commonplace, and that he has done the same on several other websites, and knew of another guy who was doing the same thing. I still didn’t believe a word of it. When I returned home, I did some research. I pulled up the view logs at our ISP, pored over them and compared them with the data gathered by Google Analytics. I immediately noticed that although none of the IP addresses were the same, many of them were on the same subnet. Of the 27 different sources of comments on Stupidopolis, only three distinct subnets occurred! But Loren, you ask, what does this mean? Glad that you asked, I reply: What it means is that all 69 of the comments on Stupidopolis were generated by only three people, posing as 27 different people!
What implications does this have for the rest of the internet? Well, look at your favorite forums. Look at your favorite blogs. Chances are, all the comments and discussion occurring on those sites are generated by only 3 people. 3 very lonely, very bored, and very opinionated people. People who long for someone to listen to their opinions; people who long for a meaningful dialog, or a good argument, and finding none, develop alter-egos to argue with, to agree with, to validate their views.
When I grasped how deeply this affected the internet landscape, I was in shock for a good 30 minutes. The internet had transformed from the bustling interactive global network it had grown to be for me into a social desert. Had it always been this way? Was the internet merely a joke? I don’t think so. I believe, or would like to believe that forums and discussion boards were created to afford the average citizen the ability to engage in lively intellectual discussions on a global scale. Their creators had lofty goals of generating the global unity and oneness of purpose they saw as the natural evolution of mankind. But what happened instead is average Joes got on their forum, posted inane/insane rants entitled “Obama Narcissus”, “Geocaching”, “Thank God for Evolution”, etc… etc…. These articles sat in cyberspace collecting dust. Nobody knew if they were jokes, insane blather, or some idiot’s real opinion. I guess the internet responded as any experienced parent responds to a child who incessantly screams “Look at me! Look at me!”; it ignored them. That period of silence was intolerable to these early authors who demanded to be acknowledged. How dare the internet ignore them! They had important things to say!
Then as if by an evolutionary leap, they suddenly realized that the very same internet which ignored them would never notice if they generated their own replies. They posted rebuttals, praise, flames, and any number of other responses to their own material, and the more they posted, the more people flocked to read the posts. Everybody was happy; the authors could revel in their hundreds of replies, the general surfing public could read and marvel at the vast amounts of time being wasted on stupid topics, and the site creators could reap the benefits of huge traffic.
So the next time you surf to your favorite discussion or blog, pause a moment and examine who is commenting on which articles. Do they have an antagonist reviled by all the other personalities? Do they have a wise sage who seems to pop in occasionally to mediate and advise? Statistics show that all these characters are generated by no more than three people. What is even more interesting is that if you are one of the people who posts, that leaves only one or two other people who are posting on that entire site with you. It makes the internet seem bleak and empty, doesn’t it? I’m not saying there aren’t hundreds of millions of people actually surfing the internet. What I am saying is that those people do nothing but read and look at pictures. They leave no sign of their passing; they care nothing for participation. The internet is their new television, and they wish only to be informed and entertained.