I'm surrounded by idiots

The internet – the terrible land of opportunity – Part 1

(Warning: you may find a few vast generalizations ahead)

Ahhh, the internets. It’s like a garden that has been left uncared for, where weeds are free to flourish. Ill informed personal opinion sprouts up and is left to bask in the sunlight for any and all passers-by to gaze upon.

There is some good content on the internet, but I’m not really concerned with that at this moment. Good content isn’t the problem anyway. Unfortunately, it also seems to be in the minority. Stupid people flock to the internet because here, there is no accountability. You can keep your identity hidden while saying any manner of things. You can create any persona you want. You can flame to your heart’s content. Trolls no longer need to remain hidden under bridges as they now have a vast digital landscape to spread their stench. Stupid tends to beget stupid too, so not only are they free to let the stupid spill forth, they also tend to seek it out.

I love a good debate. Even if I’m not always right, or the smartest, or even all that consistent (I try to be). I am a fan of logic and sound reasoning. I’ll argue on behalf of an opinion I don’t agree with if the side I do agree with is being reckless or illogical or prejudicial (aren’t I just wonderful?). On the other hand, since I love to argue, sometimes I end up arguing for the sake of it, which isn’t ideal. Anyway, since the internet is full of stupid people, a bad argument that is countered with sound reasoning is often met with defensiveness and usually aggressiveness – name calling, ad hominems, straw men, etc. The real worry is that there is an even bigger problem:

The vast audience.

Somehow, bad advice gets a lot of traction. It is because stupid finds comfort in other stupid that it thrives on the internet, and not-stupid also tends to seek out not-stupid. For this reason they don’t often mix (though there is more stupid per not-stupid than there is not-stupid per stupid), so while not-stupid usually engages in debate and critique when presented with something that appears to be wrong, stupid tends to be met by other stupid with either agreement, or if disagreement, with simple name-calling rather than a reasoned argument to the contrary. The caveat to the above is the middle part of the stupid/not stupid spectrum – lets call them the average. The average are a large group indeed but they don’t tend to be strongly opinionated and so they don’t tend to stand on soap boxes or appear in the comment section to contribute to the debate.

Anyway, I guess the point of this is that in the cycling world, as in others, there is all manner of bad advice given, both passively and aggressively. Weak or even wrong views delivered passively I don’t get all that excited about, as people aren’t perfect and do get things wrong. Aggressive stupidity, however, I am not a fan of. Maybe it is because cycling is a rapidly growing sport/activity and presumably new people may have little technical knowledge of what is bad advice and therefore, it may find an audience. It also happens with subjects that are hugely complicated and involve a specialized body of knowledge, yet at the same time are subjects that everybody has some level of experience with. Diet is one of the biggies, with so many “experts” sharing their personal opinion as truth.

I feel like addressing some of it. I know it will just be a drop in the ocean of opinion and will change nothing in the big picture (or even the small picture), but I think it will make me feel better, which is terribly self-indulgent, I realize. I also realize that it presents me as believing I know better or that I am smarter than these people, but you are free to present your opinion of this too, if you would like. I certainly don’t think that I posses all or even very many of the right answers, but I like to mess around with the questions anyway.

I’m not going to pick at random because that would be boring (and stupid), but now and then I come across someone presenting something quite silly that captures a huge audience of supporters. These people will become my subject matter. Advice on what to spend your money on and why some products are better than others, and what diet to follow and lifestyle to ascribe to are some of the topics that come to mind. “Don’t be stupid spending so much money on a bike!” “Don’t be stupid for spending so little!” “These tires are crap because once I got a picture in one after just two rides!” “I once road one million kilometers in a single day eating nothing but bananas, so you’d be stupid not to!” You get the idea.

I’m going to keep this clean – the arguments shall speak for themselves. This may sound a bit rich after a post that has thrown around “stupid people” so much, but can I say it was done for effect? Personal attacks have no place here, but I realize that having the arguments you are presenting being challenged as wrong can definitely feel like a personal attack. Feel free to call me out if you think I’m stepping out of line. Add your voice as long as it sounds like, “your argument falls down here for these reasons”, rather than, “you are a dummy”.

I also don’t like to let these posts get too long because most people don’t tend to finish reading long articles on the internet, so I’ll break it into easier to digest chunks as I get to them. Consider this a teaser, and stay tuned for future episodes of… The internet – the terrible land of opportunity.

Not directly related to cycling, but quite interesting to note nonetheless, John Cleese explains the inherent difficulty with being a bit dim:


Header Image: JD Hancock/Flickr