Reports of a California high school pole vaulter who was unwillingly nominated for Web sex object status got me thinking on this topic yet again.
The best story on the Allison Stokke situation I found was, of course, yesterday's interview piece at The Washington Post. The Chicago Tribune has a nice blog post -- sans photo -- today. I'm also glad to report that the "unofficial fan site" that got a link from the Post article is now shut down, with a facile apology note to Stokkes.
Instead of a verbal lament about how the potential of the Internet is being squandered on narcissism, lewdness and general nonsense, I thought I'd try to quantify it a little via Alexa, Amazon's often-reviled but close-enough Web traffic survey service.
You get the picture. However, all is not lost. I threw in CNN.com here, just to help you maintain some hope for the species. Of course, for every CNN.com, there are at least 100 smaller sites devoted to celebrity gossip and leering at teenagers.
People who really like the Internet seem to be getting the hint that things may be turning a little sour. Infoworld this week has a list of 10 bylaws for civil participation in blogs and wikis. Most of the pointers -- don't wrestle with trolls, don't create fake IDs to agree with yourself in contentious threads -- seem so self-evident to me as to be, well, self-evident.
Of course, we also now have extraordinarily expensive laws with the gist, "Don't Shaft Your Investors." So maybe self-evident is necessary.
Why do people misuse this enormous resource? My only "deep" thought on that score is that people -- at least many people -- have always misused whatever technology has been presented to them. Dr. Guillotine thought his invention was a humanitarian option to contemporary forms of execution; 24-hour news channels pollute the cable-ways with dissembling garbage like Tucker and Countdown.
I can honestly think of no technology that has ever changed human nature. It tends to simply facilitate or, in the case of the Internet, amplify it. That's why we've always had agreed-upon standards on how most decent folks use technology, and laws to keep the rest of us in line.
The general umbrage over the Stokke situation may be at least a positive sign that many people -- perhaps not most yet, but many -- are getting clued in that there's a lot of bad, pointless stuff happening on the Web. That's a start.