There is an argument to be made that some of the people who are in favor of lowercasing the “i” in “Internet” — the New York Times announced yesterday that they were the most recent publication capitulating to the seemingly inevitable trend — are the very same ones who have an interest in making the Internet seem like everything else so that they can continue to devalue its promise and exploit its weaknesses without being called to account for the terrible things they are doing in furtherance of their amoral goals.
It is no coincidence that some of the biggest proponents of a small-i Internet are the people you so frequently see urging acceptance of the worst kind of click-hungry, semi-literate (but always relatable) “content” optimized for nothing other than traffic and reach. They aren’t interested in what they are promoting — How could they be? It is reverse-engineered garbage that they don’t care if you read so long as you share — but they do need you to buy into their cynicism of “this is what people want on the internet” and “this is how everyone does it now” so that complaining about seems like arguing against common sense. If we all are on the same side here on the uncapped Internet, no one really has to feel bad for the part they are playing in producing or promoting the kind of base-level product with which we are inundated each time we stare into a screen.
“For younger people, it’s always been there; it’s like water,” says Associated Press standards editor Thomas Kent in support of treating the Internet like any other proper noun that has become decapitalized, and that at least is an argument I understand: Kids today are idiots and they don’t realize that there was a time when we weren’t all wallowing in this giant pool of shit that is constantly topped up with newer and warmer shit so that we never stop to think about just how foul and fetid our surroundings really are. It’s almost cruel to offer them the awareness that the Internet was different at some point, because the cynics have already won: As the maxim goes, “If you think The Internet is terrible now, just wait a while.” Why taunt young people with the idea that the Internet didn’t always treat you like a tap-happy moron whose only purpose is to be another sad sucker on the lowest rung of the Ponzi sharing scheme that the Web turned out to be? It’s just cruel.
That said, I felt the same way about the hyphenectomy they performed on e-mail a few years back, and even though it still feels wrong to me when I type out “email” — TRY PRONOUNCING IT PROPERLY, YOU ARE SAYING “em-ail,” WHICH IS NOT A THING — I do it, just because when it comes right down to it everything that I have learned over the course of my existence is that language is lies, the self-interested always come out on top and in the end what does it matter? Whether or not I become the last holdout for a properly capitalized Internet or not I don’t kid myself that it will make a difference: Nothing does. Go ahead with your “internet.” It won’t make you any happier, but at least you won’t have to feel as ashamed when they pour the next pot of heated shit slurry into it.