Alright kids, it’s time to face facts.
The internet is huge and only getting bigger. Contrary to what Kat’ll tell you, it’s not likely to go away anytime soon, so there’s a good chance that in a couple of years, more people worldwide will have access to the internet than to clean water. And I can guarantee that every last one of those thirsty bastards is going to be looking at those trashy pictures you posted on myspace when you had too much tequila at your cousin’s quinceanera.
Here’s what you need to know about the internet: nothing is anonymous and everything is archived. Every possibly embarrassing move you make will be monitored, cataloged, archived, forwarded, reversed, youtubed, indexed, remixed, discussed, debated, lol’d, and sent to your mom. That’s the way it goes. Even with the danger involved, having an online can be fun and rewarding if you use a bit of common sense and follow a few simple rules.
1. Don’t go out of your way to appear stupid
The internet moves quickly and forgives minor errors. Say a few Hail Marys and you’re absolved for mixing up lay and lie or using a you’re when a your would suffice. But unless you’re Prince or one of the laugh-out-loud cat, you can’t sub in a u for a you, a 4 for a for, or a pictogram of a human eye for I. Unless you’re a shitty metal band, you can’t pluralize with a z. It’s not cute or clever or ironic. It’s irritating. Your computer knows how to spell, even if you don’t. Put that metal brain to use, lest you wind up on lamebook and shame your whole family.
2. Don’t try to appear smarter than you are
Everybody likes to look like an expert, and sure, when you’re in the locker room, you can recite baseball stats until you’re blue in the face, rattle off thirty reasons why Kanye West is a bitch compared to 50 Cent, and make an eloquent case for the critical reevaluation of Friedberg and Seltzer, but your rhetorical skills are no match for the internet, where an army of fact-checkers and challengers are waiting day and night to pounce on any perceived weakness in your arguments and taunt, degrade, and humiliate you ceaselessly until the next meme rolls around.
3. Hide your shame
Here’s a simple guideline: if you wouldn’t brag about to your grandma, don’t brag about it to the internet, because your grandma is probably on the internet. It’s not the internet’s business how high you got, how drunk you drove, what color your puke was, what color her panties were, how dumb that cop was, or how you got away with it all and can’t wait to do it again next year. When you write something on the internet, assume your grandma’s reading it. Assume your teachers are reading it. Assume your principal’s reading it. Assume your priest, rabbi, mullah, therapist, coach, and parole officer are all reading it together. Because they probably are. And when they call you on your bullshit, don’t get all huffy and assume they’re too old to understand. They were all young once, and they all did stupid shit. It was just a lot easier for them to clean up their tracks.
Youth of the world, we’re pulling for you. Quit messing around, okay?