I hate bars. I think it’s because I spent too much time in bars when I was young, doing and saying stupid things. To me, a bar means cigarette smoke, over-priced liquor, and annoying people who like bars. I consider vomiting a deferred benefit. It’s not unheard of for me to wake up the next day with wounds I can’t explain. I once woke up on the floor with some serious back pain, only to find I’d spent the night sleeping on the telephone. It was one of those chunky black phones like you see in old movies. This should give you an idea of how much I hate bars.
I never behaved as stupidly in a bar as I now do on the internet. The parallels between a bar and the internet shocked me when I realized them. I now understand why people become addicted to the internet the same way alcoholics become addicted to whiskey sours. A bar and the internet both contain a core of nice things to appreciate. But they’re encased in a quagmire of life-sucking garbage.
For example, people hang out in bars, and some of those people know that they know everything. They’ll tell you how to incorporate your business for $15. They’ll explain how superconductors work and why Finland is trying to steal our technology. They’ll reveal how the Illuminati have now become Netflix and the company that makes Red Bull. Some people call these guys blowhards. But no one knows whether these people are right about anything, and the only ones who care to correct them are other blowhards. In bars they’re blowhards, but on the internet they’re called Wikipedia.
Occasionally you’ll see a fight in a bar. People lose a little control after the seventh maitai, and they were probably sad or angry when they came into the bar anyway. Usually they argue. Sometimes they yell. Once in a while they shove, kick, or throw things. Everyone who has had a relative killed in a bar fight, raise your hand. I know my hand is up. In a bar, when you see a guy haul off with a beer mug, it’s easy to know you should stay out of that. But on the internet when I see someone post an odd thing, such as how President Obama has lowered cholesterol for people over 55, I may resist saying anything. When another guy argues back that Obama sacrifices chickens in the White House basement, I get sucked in to responding. Then I realize I was a moron, as I sit in the middle of an electronic free range butt-kicking for the next 24 hours.
When I went to bars I generally went to hang out with my friends and drink. Friends and booze made up the content of the experience, as far as I had it planned. My friends were fun, at least until they got drunk. Then they annoyed me. The drinking was fun, at least until I had knocked back a few. Then people annoyed me because they said I was annoying. I just stayed at the bar too long. If I’d had a couple of drinks, told a few dirty jokes, and went home, the bar would have provided me a charming evening. And that’s how I am with the internet. If I would check out a blog or two, chat with my friends, buy battery-powered socks, and then shut the thing off I’d be fine. But no, three hours later I’m watching a video of a bunny rabbit and a kitten riding a tricycle. My IQ has dropped so far I’m drooling and eating paste off my toes.
You know your life has gone to a bad place when you’ve become a regular at a bar. I don’t give a damn about Cheers. When you walk into a dingy, smoke-filled room where people puke on the stools and the sprinklers don’t meet code, it is not good for everybody to know your name. If the bar patrons just assume that you will be there every night, you have gone astray. It’s the same with the internet. My friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, some of whom I despise, absolutely assume that I will visit the internet every day. They expect I will insert an Ethernet cable into one of my veins multiple times a day, so I may appreciate their emails and posts about new recipes, photos from 1988, and obscure political causes. On the internet everybody really does know my name. I’m thinking of creating a new online identity named SlopeBrowVerminLovesYourSister666. Maybe that will bring me some peace.
I recognize the irony of writing this piece, posting it on the internet, and wanting you to read it on the internet. In my defense, I did say that the internet made me stupid. But I didn’t blast internet content any more than I blasted a gin martini. Overdoing it is where I get really stupid. That may be a big rationalization on my part, but in the end I admit there are advantages to the internet. My breath smells better, and I’ve never woken up after a hard night of web surfing to find I’ve been sleeping on my router.