Anatomy of Internet Bullshit
Here’s an oldie from two years ago that reared its ugly head on Pocket: Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain, by Srinivas Rao. The author presents his personal opinion that reading stuff online in the morning is damaging your brain. Supporting evidence? Sure: a bunch of quotes from other opinionated windbags enhabiting the interwebs.
The article is illustrated with a computer-generated doodle of some scientific-looking thingie attributed to NIH – a US government agency responsible for nothing in particular. The article is crafted to be scientific-like in appearance, with numbers and citations – none from reputable sources. Recommendations on how to make your life better immediately follow.
This particular piece of pseudo-scientific excrement has been floating around for two years now, occasionally ending up on various undiscriminating Web sites. A testament to our collective inability to tell fact from fiction. Can’t blame this on AI either: this was just a guy who woke up one day and decided to tell the world not to go on the Internet in the morning. Why? Because it is “toxic” and is “damaging your brain”. As simple as that.
To quote Simone Elkeles, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one…” But this is not the point. The point is why this garbage ends up at the top of a reasonably reputable reading list like the Pocket? Why do people read it? Why do they find it appealing? The answer is actually simple and is well-illustrated by the IQ score Bell curve: when you go to a buffet, you eat what everyone else eats.
Perhaps this is exactly what Mr. Rao meant, in which case I apologize deeply and take a couple of steps to the left of the curve. But this is not what this Saturday night rant is about. I am complaining about unscrupulous individuals presenting their personal opinions as scientific facts. Really, going out of their way to do so. And about us eating this bullshit straight up.
This is not about the author being right or wrong. It is about us being unable to distinguish between opinions and facts. So, does browsing the Internet in the morning damage your brain? No, says science. And, “yes”, says some guy on the Internet.