The Internet is a magical place. It’s where everyone, no matter his or her background, essentially has equal opportunity to spread all of his or her opinions to millions of people. The only requirement for entry is a having computer and an opinion people want to listen to. Sometimes that opinion is valid and entertaining, sometimes it’s shallow and annoying. No matter what, all that ultimately matters is whether you get clicks. Here are a few of the interesting types of folks who get clicks these days.
1. The Advice Columnist
I love a lot of people who give advice online. There are sex columnists, lifestyle gurus, specialists in different types of therapy, and even the fitness experts. Many of them are very funny and actually have a pretty decent perspective on things. I mean, that’s why they’re hired. Advice-givers tend to be more level-headed and less editorialized in their delivery, but I always wonder what’s behind the Oz curtain of their advice. Are they just perfect human beings who have the cheat codes to the game of life already typed in? I’d like to think so. In all reality, of course not. They’re probably fucking up in their day-to-day just as much as the rest of us. So who are the advice-givers to the advice-givers? That’s a deep fucking question, man.
2. The Social Media-Driven Sports Writer
There are essentially three generations of sports writers currently working. There are the old-school guys who’ve been around for decades and are mostly thoughtful observers on the game. They draw on their immense memories of the past to color their reportage. There’s the middle-aged group, which thrives on the storylines and the “off the field” stuff. Then, there’s the group coming up now, which is the group I’m really talking about. The first two groups write online, sure, but that’s more out of necessity. They grew up in the newspaper and magazine age. The younger crew has had the Internet for the entirety of their brief writing careers. This means a few things. This generation is super into analytics. They have a handle on social media. They don’t just use it as an outlet to talk about sports, as they often color it with general humor and observations about life. They also tend to have grown up casually attending the Bill Simmons University of sports writing, in that most of them work in pop culture connections and observations to their interpretation of sports.
That’s all well and good, but there are a few downsides to this. Constant social media interaction can lead to a bit of an echo chamber. All the sports guys follow each other and interact with the same circles of fans. A storyline like “James Harden doesn’t put in effort on defense” quickly turns into “James Harden is basketball’s Hitler.” Sure, they could take the opportunity to point out that Harden’s high level of responsibility and isolation-driven play in Kevin McHale’s no-offense offense means that he has less energy to devote to defense, but that doesn’t fit with the mob’s mentality. Some guys manage to rise above the circle jerk of the sports-literate masses, but many don’t. We’ll see where it all goes once this crop of writers becomes the middle-aged group, with more experience under their belt.
3. The Pop Culture Diva
If there’s anything more vapid and unimportant than “E! News,” it’s a small-time entertainment web publication that fashions itself a written version of “E! News.” At least E! has a budget and actual access to the subjects it covers. When you’re writing an opinion piece on a rumor sent out by a big-time tabloid that was planted by the publicist of the nothing-to-offer-the-world starlet, all for the purpose of keeping her client relevant, you aren’t contributing to the cultural conversation, you’re a cog in the machine. And perhaps even more sadly, you’re a cog so small and easily manufacturable that the larger pieces of the gear don’t even realize you exist, and if you go away, you’ll simply be replaced by a total lookalike in terms of sardonic writing style, whose profile picture is of her sassily sipping a colorful drink through a straw.
4. The Dick Joke Abuser
I’m sure you can guess which of these I fall into (hint: I always save my category for last in lists like these). This category includes myself and many of my colleagues. We’re a pretty predictable group, in that most of us are overeducated and are putting our hard-loaned school dollars to work, crafting a whole host of variations on a theme–that theme being drinking a lot and joking about penises. That’s all well and good, but we’re certainly underachieving. While the other members of this group may have their flaws in trying too hard or thinking that they’re something they’re not, we insulate ourselves by simply not trying. It’s a foolproof plan. If you hide behind a wall of sarcasm and flippancy, no one can ever assail you. Everyone who gets mad at what you write “doesn’t understand humor,” which is mostly true. But the vast majority of us aren’t stretching ourselves to say anything of note. It’s partly because the subjects that interest us most happen to be funny pop culture references and genital puns, but also because we secretly worry that if we ever stray into the realm of more serious writing, we might put our creative dicks out in the wind to be severed. And that’s just scary.