A friend of mine asked me to write about Fark.com, the famously shocking news aggregator that has even more loyal followers now that they don’t include porn links. I usually avoid the site, not because of the shock value, but because I don’t want to burn up an hour learning about the so-called Obama race war, violent crime rates in Detroit, and the abysmal US economy. And those are the more serious links. Usually, headlines are more like “Ike survivors may have to wait weeks for baths. France shrugs” which is just cheeky enough to get you to click on it, even though the actual report has nothing to do with France (a pet topic for the site owner). It’s what I call a force-pull headline, one that you just can’t help clicking on.
So, we’re all wasting a lot of time clicking on links. Maybe you arrived here because of a link. (Or, I should say: I’m sure you did arrive here because of a link.) The question is: what are we all going to do now that we know everything? I have a few suggestions to think about.
1. What if we acted on every new piece of information we found? This could be world-changing, when you think about it. Just found out about a race war? Get involved and fight for the rights of every person, regardless of their ethnicity. Did you learn about hurricane damage? Jump on a plane and start throwing junk into dumpsters. Did a celebrity do something really stupid? Well, there’s not much we can do about that, I agree. Still, many of the Fark links can inspire action.
2. Every link on Fark can also give us an opportunity to engage in more dialog. This is more possible with the serious links, which can equip us with the knowledge to educate others. I think one of the main reasons Fark is so popular is because we all want to share what we know, we’re all trivia hounds who want to be well-armed with juicy information at the next family reunion. (I also hold this same theory about the most popular magazines, such as Wired – we read them because we want to be able to share our knowledge with others. I’m not saying it’s bad, but I think magazines cater to this idea.)
3. Some links are just for fun – so have a good laugh. If you think the one about France and bathing is funny, let it out – we’re all hiding behind computer screens and internalizing everything these days. Go ahead and repeat the joke in person at the water cooler – it means you can get up and move around (even if the water cooler is more of a concept than a reality).
4. Go ahead and be offended – no, really. Too many of us are just putting up with a lot of abuse on the Internet and in real life. It’s okay to post in the comments of a blog post when you don’t like the opinion of the writer, that’s where the community aspect of the Web shines brightest. In the early days of the Web, all we had was HTML pages and really bad Times Roman headlines. There was very little feedback (although some of you may remember those archaic BBS systems that served as the precursor to Usenet and blog comments.) If enough people complain about an offensive site, maybe the owner of the site will finally realize it’s time to take the link down.
5. And try this: stop clicking for a few days. Find out if you think about finding new links, and if you crave that information fix again. If you just have to click, well…