Philosophy: How to Have Fun on the Internet: Embrace the Arbitrary, and Don’t (Over) Optimize

Remember when the Internet was fun?

It was designed to be. The nerds of the internet of the 90s were as innocent as they were socially-inept, and got value from the sheer delight at recognizing the amazing feat that a global network is. It is amazing… a thing to behold, even today.

It was designed to be a playground, and it should be.

But, unless you are lucky enough to be far more well-adjusted than myself, you may have fallen prey to something that has crept into Internet culture… something I will call the disease of optimization.

Don’t A/B Test Your Happiness

Talk to anyone who works at an internet-scale tech company, and they will say that any optimization, on any scale or measurable metric, even if infinitesimally small, can pay massive dividends. It is therefore, neither upsetting nor surprising, that many of these white collar (white deep V-neck?) jobs are devoted to optimization of some sort.

Unfortunately, this ethos has somehow leapt from the developer community to the community of users.

If someone has ever told you how to use Twitter the “right” way, then you have experienced what I am talking about. It is the embarrassment that may prevent you from uploading a video to YouTube in the face of the endless deluge of videos that content creators upload as their sole source of income. “How do I make the best video thumbnail? Do I capitalize the video title or not? How do I make sure that my title is clickbait-y enough?”

Internet culture is obsessed with optimization. For instance, you’re a fool if you simply buy a coffeemaker on Amazon without first searching Wirecutter, a site that I admittedly used to love, for the best coffeemaker, as if there is a best coffeemaker, which is obviously a really subjective question. Recently, I saw a post on Wirecutter for the best drinking glasses, and the sad thing is that I wasn’t immediately upset that such a silly article a) exists and b) will be seen as “helpful” for many concerned with optimizing their drinking glass experience.

Optimization might be good for helping Google decide which blue is best for their logo (yes… Google A/B tested shades of blue), but when it comes to getting the most out of the internet, especially for leisure, forget about optimizing and just do it.

Embracing Arbitrariness

It is hard, admittedly, for someone like me to just “play around” on the internet without thinking about the consequences, or the opportunity cost of how that time has been spent, but this analysis paralysis has held me back from doing stuff on the internet that I have wanted to do for too long, and I bet I am not alone.

That’s why I am going to spend an hour each day for the next month trying to do something online that I’ve wanted to do, without worrying about the effectiveness. If  a service is free, what do I have to lose? The internet is great because it is for all of us, and if we leave participation to “other people”, we do ourselves a great disservice.

Thing a day things

Here’s a list that I may or may not update!

  1. Blog on the go from my phone (from 9/11/19)
  2. Upload a video to YouTube explaining a philosophy of mine
  3. Write a post on Medium
  4. Sell something on eBay
  5. Sell something on Etsy
  6. Do a livestream
  7. Get into analytics

 

How to Create a Liveblog on WordPress

From time to time I plan on posting information about plugins that I find useful on WordPress. This is primarily so that I can use my site as a resource for keeping track of all the different plugins I am using, but if you find it helpful as a source of information, well, that’s a double win!

  1. Sign up for Arena.IM
  2. Install Arena’s plugin
  3. Also, be sure to install the Classic Editor plugin, if you haven’t already

The liveblog is created from the Arena.IM dashboard, and you add the shortcode generated by the Arena button above the editor.