Lest I remind you, the internet is a strange frontier. It’s the fabric that weaves together an impossible range of human thought. Want to learn what color Kahlil Gibran’s hair was? You ask the internet (black). Want to self-diagnose a freckle on your hand as malicious skin cancer? You go to the internet (you don’t have it). Want to watch a video of an unclothed woman rolling around on a gigantic pizza and pleasuring herself or learn more about the Bismarck chapter of M.A.D.D.? Internet (probably exists, and they meet every first Thursday of the month, 7:30pm, town hall)! The horizon is boundless. And some look at that boundless horizon as one of the most significant human advancements of all time — a means to share opinion, to educate, to entertain and to help millions of people. Others shake a fist at it and consider it society’s hydrogen bomb, a dire wolf teething away at the art of healthy communication. It’s probably both. And either way, I’m mad at it.
Last week, I had a discussion with our new Managing Editor — an affable fellow who goes by Leo Maxam. Leo, who’d just moved back from Bali, was sharing tales from the Indonesian floret when he somehow stumbled upon the topic of Russians. He recounted how Bali had become a surf mecca for the prettiest of Putin’s children and how one time, they surfed in high heels. There was a video of it, Leo said. I thought it sounded funny so I found the video (which was over a year old) and posted it — hiding it from our homepage, because we pride ourselves in featuring the best high performance surfing and this, as stated, was a video of Russian women in surfing in designer shoes. Then I posted it on Facebook. Thing went super-fucking-nova and became one of the most viewed pieces in the history of surfingmagzine.com. It drove an offensive amount of traffic, all for a thoughtless two minutes of half-work by moi. Here’s why that matters.
A few weeks back, we released our 2014 J-Bay Open flipbook. Allow me to enlighten you on what it took produce that. Photographers DJ Struntz, Steve Sherman and I flew for over 10,000 miles to get to South Africa. We spent 40 hours traveling each way. DJ and Sherm spent two weeks apart from their gorgeous families and manned up behind lenses from sunup till wine:15 (approximately ten minutes after dusk). Our photography and art department spent days going through the galaxy of photos, then chopped ‘em down, laid ‘em out and designed ‘em up. I worked late nights and through a weekend to ensure that the words were jolly and insightful. Internally, we agreed that it was one of the best flipbooks we’ve ever done. Yet somehow, it didn’t get nearly as many views as our buds from the Cold War.
That is why I’m mad at the Internet. This land is your land, people, and this land is my land too. From Russian women to the perfect J-Bay, this land was made for you and me. So let’s treat it with respect. And let’s think about the signals you’re sending me here, general public. You’ve got Google Analytics whispering in my ear, cooing Hey Bren — don’t try today. Just find a video of a rooster surfing at Malibu and crack a beer while views skyrocket. But we all complain about the shit we see on the Internet — the clickbait headlines, the ice bucket challenge for narcissism or for ALS or for whatever, the buzzfeed fucklists — and we all click into it. Truth is, I’m more guilty than anyone. When Leo told me about that video, I felt compelled to watch it, searched for it and then posted it. Maybe the hydrogen bomb has already exploded. Maybe the dire wolf is knocking at our door and society is hereby over. But maybe not.
I firmly believe in personal change. In intentional change. With a focused effort, we can correct travesties like the one surfingmagazine.com recently experienced. I promise to change, today. No more clicking mindless lists. No more viewing stories about dogs reacting to the ending of Homeward Bound. Let’s walk, you and I, into a brazen new world of internet. Let’s check international news instead of Instagram and let’s consume our recreational content wisely — clicking the pieces the come from the heart, and not from whatever dull part of the brain submits to 54 seconds of thought-paralyzing contentment. Here are two links. One is to the J-Bay flipbook and another to the Ruskies in heels. Do the right thing. And start today. —Brendan Buckley