OPINION

Our parents are ruining the Internet

Stephen Markley's dad's poodle (not pictured) doesn't like watching videos of itself.

Stephen Markley's dad's poodle (not pictured) doesn't like watching videos of itself. (August 26, 2014)

I was visiting my dad and his wife this summer, and it led me to a rather stunning revelation with major implications for the future of communications technology: The Internet is going to fail.

Sell all your Google stock, divest from Twitter, run screaming from LinkedIn. Mark my words: The Internet is going bust.

I came to this realization because I was thinking about how Facebook began as a receptacle for photographs of my friends and me bonging beers, dancing to Wu-Tang and humping each other’s faces while inebriated. I dare not post those images now—and not because I’m a 30-year-old man (or, I mean, “man”)—but because my parents, aunts, uncles and various other actual old people can’t let a post go by without hitting Like. Do you think the generation after mine is going to want to join the forum their parents and grandparents use to post photos of their breakfast pancakes? Of course not.

My dad put up a picture of me and my sister, and spent the next day counting the Likes as though he were hoarding diamonds.

“We’re up to 36 Likes!” he’d proudly announce. “Hold on, I’ll text my friend Rogeny. She’ll Like this.”

Of course, my mother was online 10 minutes after the picture went up to comment, “I hardly recognize Stephen with all that facial hair!”

It’s only a short leap from the horror of latter day Facebook to understand that this logic of terminal, mortifying uncool extends to the rest of the Web.

“Hey, have you guys seen this Chatroulette video with this guy singing ‘Wrecking Ball?’” asked my dad, snatching up his laptop. “It’s hilarious. All these people are trying to masturbate and then this guy comes on singing ‘Wrecking Ball.’”

I’d say that 37 percent of my visit was my dad and his wife explaining various YouTube videos and social media networks they’d discovered.

“Do you know about this AshleyMadison.com?” they’d ask me and my sister as we sat in the backseat of the car with our heads in our hands. “It’s this dating website people go on to have affairs. It’s hilarious. You gotta check it out.”

It’s not difficult to extrapolate the developments I’m describing into the future. Any reasonable young person must conclude that, eventually, the entire Internet is going to be the parking lot at the skating rink where you’re trying to hold Katie Highnam’s hand but your mom is beeping the minivan’s horn and yelling at you to hustle because in the morning she’s taking you shopping for underwear at the Gap.

Where will all the latent energy of the Internet move once our parents have occupied its every crevice? Where will we plot our social schemes, hook up with strangers and debate the troublesome vicissitudes of the Israel-Gaza conflict? I admit, I don’t yet know.

But here’s what I do know: My father spent 20 minutes posting a video of his dog, Marcel, carrying a stick in its mouth, and then trying to convince Marcel, a poodle, to watch it.

“Marcel, get over here! Look! It’s you, Marcel. Look, it’s you with a stick. Wow. You already have 12 Likes.”

Stephen Markley is a RedEye special contributor.

CHICAGO

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