Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

I don’t know if the problem is with us, or with them.
Every day, I’m at my computer writing. And every day, I need to go on-line. There’s mail to check, and readers to contact. I try to work in a methodical way, so as to make the most of the time that I have. I try to limit my time on line because the Internet is many things to many people but to us all it is a huge time-suck. 
I’m wondering if the problem is that it’s so big, and so vast with so many users that the people who create those “home pages” need so much stuff to fill them with, that they’ll grab anything.
Anything at all.
Here is one recent headline from AOL. I have changed the name of the person in the headline, to prevent “hits” to increase their popularity: Jane Doe Eats French Fries In A Bikini.
At first, I thought, whoa, french fries in bikinis? What’s that all about? (Yes I am a total and unrepentant smart ass). I’ll confess. I clicked. I wanted to know about this new fast food trend.
Of course, it was Jane Doe who was in the bikini and she was eating fries. And, not only was there a photo that depicted this earth-shattering event; there was a little write-up about it, too, as if this truly was a newsworthy item—or we were too dumb to get the gist of things from the picture. Allow me to regurgitate the first paragraph of that write up: “Jane Doe is taking a much needed break in the Bahamas. Clad in a strapless black bikini, the former (blank blank) model was spotted with her kids on the beach Sunday, March 23, munching on some golden fries.”
I’m wondering about something and would be delighted if any of you could help me with it. In what plane of existence is this news? Are there actually people out there who care about this? Really? If the answer is yes, my only reaction is: those poor, poor, people. Imagine being so bereft of purpose and activities in life, that stories like this are important.
My broader question is, are these ridiculous stories there because there are so many people to whom this is news and they want to read them? Or are they there to appeal to the basest parts of our personalities, so that we click on these that the publishers of these pages can report “views” to their advertisers?
Yeah, that’s what I thought. Am I the only one sick of all the blatant, byte-consuming advertising on the Internet these days? AOL seems to be the worst for this. One time their advertising on their “sign in” page was so bad and took up so much space that my stored sign-in details wouldn’t come up, and I had to key them in. No, I’m not lazy but my memory isn’t always what it once was. After that incident, I had to make a file that contains all of my passwords—just in case.
I’m not naive. I understand that in these modern times, advertising dollars pay for many of the entertainment and informational resources available to us. I’m nearly 60 and I grew up in the age of black and white television that was “free” – all you needed was the TV, an antenna, and electricity. There were commercials, yes, but most of them weren’t stupid—and there were no commercials whatsoever during the evening news. Networks were expected to provide that public service without commercial interruption—and thereby without using that time to garner ratings.
So I understand the need for some ads. But does there have to be so many of them? On home pages and chat groups and even on Face Book itself. They are everywhere, clogging up cyber-space, and adding not only to our frustration, but providing more senseless drivel for minds that are already overloaded with completely useless information.
And actually, I’m afraid that isn’t the worst of it.
If ET is out there, and he’s receiving a chunk of our cyber space, what in the name of all that’s Holy does he think about us?


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