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Ads ruin everything
Except free newspapers, they’re cool

10/21/10
By John Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com



The Internet has let me down.

Specifically, Facebook. More specifically, a group I joined several months ago. A group called, “MY SISTER SAID IF I GET ONE MILLION FANS SHE WILL NAME HER BABY MEGATRON.” Yes, all in capital letters.

Megatron is a Transformer. In the recent Michael Bay movies he transforms from a robot into some alien jet nonsense, but in the 1980s cartoon series he transformed into a gun. A badass laser blaster gun that, unlike apparently every other gun in that show, had at least a remote chance of actually killing an enemy Transformer. He was the leader of the evil Decepticons and he ruled.

One can only imagine the conversation leading to one sister agreeing to name her child after an evil cartoon robot, but only if a bunch of people on the Internet think she should. Which came first, the brag that someone could amass a million fans, or the insistence upon the name? Were they in a movie theater, obnoxiously browsing on their cell phones during the show? Do they totally ? Shia LeBeouf? Most importantly, what kind of mother would do that to her kid?

As it turns out, no kind of mother. The baby was supposedly born Aug. 9 and, despite more than 1.6 million fans, was given the name Dylan. Meh.

That’s not really what got me upset. It was a longshot to begin with, and Facebook groups are a notch or two below Internet petitions on the “binding agreement” scale.

What irks me is the state of the group today. There were never a ton of updates — the original poster’s publishing rights were allegedly taken away after only five days — and what content does exist now has been taken over by spammers.

It truly is the curse of any open system. Spam infected e-mail, message boards, instant messengers and every other online communication system that got big enough to attract the attention of advertisers, so it’s no surprise that it’s gotten its hooks into Web 2.0.

There’s just so many ways for it to spread now. Just on that Facebook group page, there are comments on each post, a Reviews tab, a Discussions tab and, this one’s the worst, a Photos tab. That’s where the most spotlight-hungry ads go because they can attract the most attention.

At first, the pictures that members contributed were vaguely appropriate: Transformers logos, Megatron illustrations, non-sequitur silly cat photos. Then some website selling fake Rolexes discovered the group and decided any demographic with 1.6 million people was worth selling to and posted pictures of its fake watches. Then scammers pretending to give away free iPads got in the game, along with folks selling makeup.

But it really got rolling with the jailbait pics. Young, lonely girls just looking for some companionship from studly Transformers-loving nerds on the Internet. I’m sure not one of them was a model, and all the links they posted were personal ads, not paid porn sites. Right.

Any Facebook group with enough fans eventually degenerates into automated bots posting ads. It didn’t start out this way, but the critical mass necessary for spammers to take notice was reached ages ago. Does it mean the end of social networking sites? Hardly. They’re just less cool now that the Man knows about them.






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