The Five People You Meet On The Internet*

5 People2*With apologies to Mitch Albom.

One of the inescapable facts of life these days is the internet. You go there to find leads on jobs. You go there for the news. You go there to connect with friends and family you might not otherwise hear from. It’s quickly become not just part of our world, but in some cases, it’s become our entire world.

Which means that the more time we spend cruising the information superhighway (remember when we called it that?), the more likely we are to run into certain types of people. Five types, to be exact. They cannot be avoided, no matter how hard you try; if you have so much as an email account, you’re guaranteed to run into at least one of them, and the more you expand your cyber-footprint, the more likely you are to run into all five.

Chances are, you’re one of them.

So, who are the five people you meet on the internet? Based on my extensive interactions, here they are, from least active to most:

Lurkers – this might easily be the largest category, and everyone on the internet knows a lurker. This type of person is not engaged online. They might have one email address, just to “get with the times”, but they seldom use it. A Lurker is also fond of signing on to Facebook or Twitter with someone else’s account, just to see what’s going on. Every once in a while they might drop a comment or two on a post, but it’s always under their pseudonymous ID. They also like to use Google Earth to look up people’s houses and see where they’re living. Basically, they’re someone’s grandparent, who’s just trying to understand the world their grandkids are living in.

Likers – These are the people who don’t contribute much in the way of content or information, but they will Like the crap out of every puppy picture, baby photo, eCard meme, inspirational quote, and “Click Like to Cure Cancer” post that anyone, ever, posts. They are nice people who want to belong, and have no problem filling up your Facebook feed with ten thousand of their “favorite” things. If you bombard them with enough Like-able content, they will click Like so fast and so furiously that they’d eventually Like a picture of Hitler kicking a puppy while pushing a nun down the stairs, without even realizing it.

Crusaders – There are two classes of Crusaders. The first class pops up every election cycle, or whenever there’s a hot news item about a controversial topic. They tend to post all sorts of pictures, videos, and links that not only affirm their preferred position, but also attack anyone who holds a different view. They are very nice people in real life, but online they tend to be strident-bordering-on-militant, and they won’t hesitate to hide or unfriend people who don’t agree with them. The second class has a personal cause they love to promote or talk about all the time – to the exclusion of anything else. They don’t post a picture or leave a comment that doesn’t revolve around their particular subject. It can be sports, their kids, their church, or their favorite comic book movie, but whenever they get a free moment, they’re ready to share with you all of the details you didn’t know you needed to know.

Trolls – Perhaps the most famous of all the five types of people, a Troll is a professional pot-stirrer, the kind of person who provokes a Crusader for the fun of it. Trolls love causing trouble, and are often better known by the user names on Reddit, FourChan, or other Troll-familiar websites. A Troll is the kind of person who would pop up in the middle of a discussion about the fair tax suggesting that the IRS is not only a great American institution, they should very well have the power to go after and investigate fringe political groups who skirt the tax code. After dropping that little conversational hand grenade, a Troll will then sit back and watch the Crusaders lose their minds. Trolls are very smart, and probably very tired of living in someone’s basement.

Promoters – This is the worst of all internet users because they are always online. Constantly. The kind of idiot who can rack up almost 2,000 tweets in less than six weeks. They have their Twitter feed hooked up to their Facebook, website and blog, so nothing that rolls through their “creative” little minds goes unnoticed. They are usually pushing you to check out their latest ebooks or sharing something witty they happened to think up while waiting on line at the local Publix, or asking you to go check the blog or book of a friend. They have multiple Facebook pages (personal, professional, and product-related) and are constantly asking you to check them out. They are usually pretty funny, or at the very least offer some form of entertainment, but their single biggest trait is that they are ubiquitous, almost as familiar as the other advertising flotsam you see floating around on any given page. Worst of all, they’re clueless about how much they put out there.

There are variations on each of the types, but as far as generalizations and stereotypes go, that’s a pretty complete list. But in case I’ve missed anyone, sound off below and let me know what kinds of people you’ve met on the internet.

Oh, and be sure to follow, like and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And if you haven’t had a chance to read my books, please check out my author page on Amazon. And if you have read my books, please leave a review and tweet the link…

Stop the Band, Kill the Noise


“Smeagol isn’t listening! Not listening! My preciousssssss…”

About every six months or so, I get awfully tempted to become a real blogger, the kind that generates thousands of daily hits and tons of followers on Twitter. I make a deal with myself to sit down and craft content that will draw eyes and ire, generate reblogs and rebukes, and just in general put my name on the minds of people who troll/scour the Internet looking for that sort of engagement. I tell myself it’ll be easy – two to three times a day, I’ll post a list of things that are wrong with the church, or I’ll attack a strawman argument on a hot political issue, or I’ll wade back into one of the denominational war zones that always draw attention and alarm from the masses.

I plan all of this, and I’ll even give it a go for a couple of posts, and inevitably, it falls by the wayside. I can’t do it. I can’t keep up. My brain simply can’t conceive of a way to keep writing about the same things in the same ways over and over again.

Apparently I’m neither creative nor outraged enough.

Regardless – whether my lack of imagination or indignation – I have recently begun to marvel at those who can crank out that kind of content on a regular basis. My Twitter feed is filled with such people; I can’t refresh my feed without someone new posting a blog about 5 Reasons the Resurrection Is Absolutely, Positively REAL or 10 Secrets to a Dynamic Church or 39 Things You Must Do To Make Jesus Happy or Else He’ll Revoke Your Salvation.

(I’m kidding about that last one. Kind of.)

There’s one particular gentleman that I follow that posts links and blogs like that non-stop everyday. I know he’s not writing all of those posts himself, but I am utterly gobsmacked at the fact that he does write an awful lot. And they’re usually good. Some quite so.

Writers like that simultaneously inspire and deflate me. Inspire, because I love the fact that they sit at their keyboard and let the ideas flow down like mercy. Deflate, because so often those ideas are either recycled or reheated. They don’t add much new to the conversation.

I know, I know – there’s nothing new under the sun. Heck, even what I attempt to do here is admittedly what another writer did to far better effect. But what I always try to do is to make whatever I write in my voice, in my honest voice. I fail sometimes; there are occasions when I get up on a high horse and either try to sound smarter than I really am, or try to write with an authority I don’t possess, and when those occasions come along, I am reminded over and over again why I don’t write like that all the time.

Because it’s not me.

So why am I bringing all of this up? Lately, it seems like I’m drowning in noise, endless, repetitive noise. The same people clanging the same gongs for the same audience. Mostly, these posts are on some political or cultural issue, and they only exist to get someone’s dander up, or undies bunched, or pick another metaphor for useless agitation. The same medium through which I find my greatest outlet of expression – blogging – is the one that allows untold others to beat our collective cultural dead horses again and again, and to present the blogs on those poor, flagellated equine corpses as fresh and new and unique, when really they are none of those things.

And this harsh rehashing of the yada-yada-yada isn’t confined to one particular spectrum of the web; it’s not just the church people who do it; it’s not just the liberal media; it’s not just the fringe wackos or reality stars or any other specific class of people. It’s all of us. All of us. Adding to the noise, transferring information because we can, not because it’s needed. Even the very words I’m typing – noise, noise, noise. For some reason, today, it’s exhausting.

It creates a sense that the world will always be irretrievably broken, but if we try just that much harder, we can fix it – yes, we can! If we can get rid of the fundies, the gays, the illegals, the GOP, the Dems, the rednecks, the hippies, the commies, the druggies, the libs, the unenlightened, and the downright socially awkward, then we can all live in the glorious utopia that Our Forefathers first envisioned when they arrived on this fair continent and poisoned the Native Americans after swindling them out of their land.

Ugh. Just make the voices stop, Brain. If you don’t, I’ll stab you with a Q-Tip.

So what’s the take away? What do we do? Personally, I’m culling my Twitter feed, starting today. I’m getting rid of all the counterfeit voices, the people who simply channel the outrage of others without contributing thought themselves. I’m going to delete the emails that merely generate sound and fury. I’m going to hide the Facebook friends who only share tiresome photos and memes from random quasi-political groups.

And I’m quite sure that there will be people who decide to delete this post – and any of my subsequent posts – from their information flow. I can live with that. My style isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine by me.

Today’s just one of those days to take a stand against the people who want to manipulate us with fear or anger or both. I’m not gonna dance to their tune anymore. I’m stopping the band, and killing the noise.

Hopefully, it will give me more time for my own voice.

Yours too.

Thou Shalt Not Send Bogus Emails

Before you hit “Send”, make sure that email’s true!

I have several different email accounts with different providers. I mainly use Google’s Gmail because I like the functionality of it, but I also have a Yahoo! account, a Rocketmail account, and I think I might even still have a Hotmail account floating around somewhere.

But despite the many different accounts, one thing remains constant between them all: the amount of bogus emails I get.

Now, we all have Spam folders in our email accounts, the place where the truly obvious junk mail goes to die. Letters from “friends” stranded in Europe (Jon Acuff has a great blog on this type of email), notes from Kenyan bankers looking to shelter money, or even the classic distant relative leaving you a sizable fortune are all familiar scams. Hopefully, even the most reluctant email user has long-ago learned to just delete and move on.

But there is another form of bogus mail with which I am inundated, and it’s got nothing to do with someones unclaimed millions in a Swiss bank account. It’s the hyper-reactionary political email that, with a couple minutes of Googling, proves to be boldly, wildly untrue.

Now, these types of things have been around forever – and we have Snopes to prove it. But with the 2008 presidential election and the Birther movement, the age of high-paranoia political assassinations arrived in style. Once upon a time, I used to get missives from the GOP; now, as I’ve expanded my reading base considerably, I get paranoid emails from all over the place.

And, me being me, I do the same thing every time: I delete them. Without reading.

Every once in a while, someone will send me something that has a clever subject line that throws me off the scent, and I’m four lines in before I realize I’ve been Rope-a-Doped. But once I realize that it’s just another blown-up lie, I delete it.

And shake my head.

Because that’s what these emails are – lies. False stories. Half-truths. And when I receive them from my fellow Christians, they make me shake my head all the more because I’m quite sure that “not bearing false witness” is mentioned in the Bible a couple of times. And that seemed to be one of God’s big no-no’s, a top-ten lister for sure.

Yet those things rocket around the Interwebs like a sugared-up toddler, passing from one account to the next without so much as a pause.

Granted, some of those emails come with pretty dire admonitions not to break the chain of senders. Some even suggest that Jesus will be very disappointed with you if you don’t pass the message along.

Yeah – Jesus would be real tore up because you didn’t disseminate a lie. Just like he’d be disappointed if you didn’t secretly envy your neighbor’s new car.

And for the record, prefacing your email with “I don’t know if this is true or not, but I don’t want to be the one to stop the chain if it is!” doesn’t earn you a get-out-of-jail-free card. Ignorance is not a viable defense. Not when we have Googleat our fingertips.

I get that the political stakes are high. (Believe me, I get it.) I understand that we have reached critical mass in terms of the polarization of the electorate, and that each side tends to see the other as the enemy. I know that people often need motivation to do their civic duty come an election year, but really – do we need to make up flat-out lies?

So let’s call a truce on the whole defamatory emails, okay? No more Obama-is-a-Muslim-plant or Romney-family-accidentally-misspells-their-name-RMONEYhoaxes. Let’s instead concentrate on channeling our inner Joe Friday’s, and stick to just the facts.

I mean, it seems like the candidates give us enough ammunition on their own that we don’t need to waste time making junk up.

The Kindergarten Round-Up

Skittles - they're a lot like Xanax, only fruitier.

This morning I volunteered to serve as a registration helper in Ella’s kindergarten classroom. It was the annual school registration day, when all of the kids and their parents parade through the school and fill out more paperwork than a standard home mortgage application, while simultaneously being recruited for 10,000 different clubs and volunteer programs as they are also trying to find out what bus their kids will ride.

In short, it’s chaos.

But it was lovely. Ella’s teacher, a lovely woman I shall henceforth call Mrs. M, was a joy to work for and seemed wonderfully interested in being the best teacher ever. She was easy to talk with, and was interested in hearing about my daughter, just as she was interested in hearing about each of her 18 students. I think Ella will love her class and do well under her instruction.

The kids in Ella’s class were sweet, but they all are at that age, at least at first. I’m sure that once the school year gets underway, they’ll be seven different kinds of crazy, but for today they mostly came in and played on the floor while the parents filled out the endless forms. I didn’t spot any kids that made me nervous – if you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about: there are some kids that just give you that vibe and you just know that the little turd is going to somehow, someway do something to your flesh and blood so you prepare to dismantle the child in your mind. It sounds cruel and mean, but if you have a little one and ever run across one of those kids on the playground, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Overall the day went well. The smallness of the school struck me again, despite the fact that the classrooms are large and spacious, and the school is not even close to being at capacity numbers-wise. I guess when you stand in a room scaled to the smaller world of children, you find yourself feeling positively Gulliverian – waiting for the wee ones to rope you and haul you to the ground in mutiny. Tiny chairs, tiny pencils, tiny everything just reinforced for me the fact that my tiny daughter is growing up.

But I didn’t cry. Not once. I kept it together, at least until a very sweet woman at my church, Jenny Strozer, gave me a gift bag as I was leaving the office. Inside the bag was a note that read:

Dear Jason –

I know Monday will be a BIG day for you…so I got you some things to help you make it through the day: tissues (to use while crying), Xanax (to relax), and a paper bag (to hyperventilate).

You can do it!


And lo and behold, the bag did contain tissues and something to help me relax – two bags of Skittles, one of my all-time favorite candies. The sweetness and thoughtfulness of the gesture brought tears to my eyes on the ride home, not just because she was thinking about me, but because she knew how much I love my daughter.

Gotta love a woman who reads the blog and knows me that well.

And Jenny’s gesture reminds me just how powerful of a platform this blog really is, not in terms of readership or public awareness, but in terms of keeping track of history. I know Ella may not appreciate me writing about her so often, but I’m glad that whatever else I put on this electronic page, the love I have for her shows through. She may never read a word of what I write, but the timelessness of the Internet will always hold a record of my love. And that, in and of itself, is a neat thing to have as a father.

I’m feeling good about Monday now. I know I’ll probably blubber up as soon as she steps on the bus (and if you think I’m not videotaping that, you’re hysterically insane), but overall I’m not worried about how she’ll do once she gets to school. I know she’ll do just fine.

And from my lips to God’s ears: may that be a trait she carries with her the rest of her life, wherever she may find herself.

Now, here’s to one last weekend with my little girl. On Monday, she’ll well and truly be my big girl forever more.

Insomniac’s Internet Report

Welcome back, Dave. Hal has upgraded to wifi and is waiting to show you some new tricks...

I couldn’t sleep last night, a fact you might have guessed given the blog’s suddenly new appearance (Side Note: can I help it if WordPress finally produced a free theme almost exactly like I’ve been wanting? I saw this last night and got giddy). To pass the time, and to prevent my insomnia from infecting my beloved wife, I opted to hit the couch with the old laptop and see what the internet has to offer once the midnight oil is lit.

The quick summation: Jack Squat.

In a world of supposedly 24-hour information, I just so happened to pick the world’s most boring 24-hours in which to be wide awake. Baseball is on a break until the All-Star sham starts, the NFL and NBA are both locked out and moving at pace that makes glaciers seem impatient, and Facebook offers no one with whom to banter once the clock strikes one in the morning. CNN’s lead story was about Prince William and Duchess Kate wearing cowboy gear to commemorate their historic opening of the Calgary Stampeded (Brits in boots and bolos – there’s some stunning reading!), and the folks at Fox weren’t much better (I think it was all about nine ways to bring Casey Anthony to justice, “Old West” style).

Even TMZ was DOA, and I couldn’t even bring myself to Google the words “Perez Hilton”, just out of fear that my computer would catch a digital STD. I tried reading some online books, but without the tactile sensation of a page to turn, Wuthering Heights is even more dreadful than previously imagined. I tried to keep up with Twitter, but even their feed was pathetically slow – two tweets in twenty minutes…it’s like all of the smart alecks in the world fell into a coma at the exact same time.

Hulu was hopeless (I just can’t bring myself to watch anything other than Law & Order from NBC) and YouTube gets boring after the 254,302 video of some poor father being “accidentally” hit in the groin. I tried reading some of the classier content aggregators but all I got was aggravation.

So in the end I turned on a small lamp, grabbed a Raymond Chandler story collection, and read some tales about my favorite fictional detective of all time, Philip Marlowe. My brain slowed down, I got to read some great writing, and eventually I was able to close my eyes and drift off to sleep…for ten minutes. I woke up to the sounds of my wife making coffee and my daughter flitting around the house, upset because daddy was taking up the whole couch and she wanted her seat.

Now, I’m too tired to really post anything insightful or truly hilarious, my head kind of hurts, and I have the vague sensation of needing to keel over at any moment. I can already hear my bed calling my name.

Unless aliens land or Casey Anthony suddenly elopes with OJ, I doubt there’ll be anything happening online tonight that I’ll really want to be part of. And even if aliens land, that can wait til morning.

OJ and Casey…well, who cares?