The internet is a game.
If you play it well, you get “internet points.”
Most of the time they are pointless, but if you collect enough of them, you can become “internet famous” and even earn some income because of them. For the most part, internet points just give us a sense of feeling good or “valued”.
How do you get internet points?
I’m glad you asked.
You get internet points for doing actions that the internet validates. It doesn’t have to be the whole internet, it can just be a small group, but the more validation you get, the more points you get.
If you put a post and no one reacts, that’s zero points for you.
But if you get 10 reactions, even if one attacks you, that’s 10 internet points.
So if you want to win the never-ending internet game, you need to start an arms war. What got you points yesterday won’t today. That controversial or “risky pick” that you made last year, you need to go far crazier this year.
Even if no one else is competing with you, you need to compete with your past self because just as the addict gets less of a kick from subsequent hits, so the internet machine needs greater and crazier content to doll out its points.
Just look at Mr Beasts.
As you can guess, this is a problem.
The internet game is changing what we think and how we act. A nuanced opinion or debate is “boring” (even if it’s accurate) but a snappy comeback is pure gold (even if obviously wrong). Getting in a quick reply for your side will win you far more internet points than reflecting, waiting and offering a true critique.
Some versions of the internet are worse for internet points. Platforms with likes, hearts and algorithmic suggestions will always promote the game. But there are slower forms of the internet where we can play a different game.