Internet savvy makes you cooler than you think

Hi, I’m Jen. I like the Internet, music and all things pop culture. I keep up with my news (think Pitchfork and Twitter, not so much CNN), and I tend to be the one my friends count on to show them YouTube’s next overnight sensation. It might sound pretentious, but I consider myself to be pretty savvy, particularly when it comes to the Wonderful Wide Web.

Having given that brief bio, I am going to admit something to you that I am very ashamed of: I started listening to Animal Collective in spring of 2009 — yes, after Merriwether Post Pavilion. I can now admit that I thought the band was weird before it was “cool.”

Today I think that they’re great (let it be known that I now have a number of their earlier albums), but I am still embarrassed to admit that I was nowhere near cutting-edge enough to jump on such a movement before it was handed to me by hipster bloggers. I was upset over my own slacking, and confused because I was so used to being at the forefront of every hot trend — particularly those concerning music. Why was my tardiness surrounding Panda Bear and Geologist so regrettable? Because it forced me to question how trendy I really was.

The new equivalent of “hip” is advanced knowledge of the alternative mainstream. Compare those who dig through Tumblr after Tumblr in 2009 to those who dug through countless underground record store crates in 1978. Being the first to know something has always been a sure way to let people know you’re cooler than they are, whether it is clip of a child post-dental anesthesia or the supposed subliminal messages in a backwards playback of “Stairway to Heaven.”

Being the first to rock a hot new link can feel like hanging out at the Factory, and if you’re a self-defined web whore, showing people something from the Internet that only you know is the most efficient source of gratification. It’s the perfect technique when attempting to show others that the way you spend all of your time isn’t completely worthless by proving to them that there’s actually something good out there.

The fact that the majority of the country understands the subtle glory of the online world actually works out favorably. The United States is full of “tweeple” who possess iPhones and personal web domains, and while everybody’s a critic, everybody’s also a listener. The competitiveness among the web-wise brings the most valuable, entertaining or hilarious links to the forefront. By its current nature, the Internet makes everything extremely accessible. Because of these truths, mainstream culture has inevitably become jumbled with alternative culture.

But is this necessarily a bad thing?

Oftentimes, the only difference between a hipster wearing plaid and a teenager wearing pink seems to be the order in which they discover the phenomenon. And yet, this time difference is not enough to truly separate those who’ve been stumbling around the Internet for a while from their naïve, unsuspecting counterparts. If it’s really so great, word will eventually get out.

One of the best things about Internet trends is that most of the time, you aren’t the one who discovers them. These trends tend to find you, either along with a friend’s excited expression or with a hyperlink and a hashmark. Essentially, you could be one of those people who digs through the web’s proverbial dumpster and define yourself by being the first person to discover, but it’s way easier to put the Internet on the backburner and let those who care filter down to the good stuff for you.

Because we are in college, these trends are integrating themselves into our social lives: YouTube videos are the perfect way to break an awkward silence when forging dorm friendships, and when there truly are no words to be said, you can always just quote TextFrom LastNight.

It has taken some time, but I am finally at terms with my personal level of savviness. I am not as hip to the Internet as I once thought, and I am admittedly not the first to know about any of its trends. However, that’s the way I like it. I can survive with my dotcom-hip image intact without spending all day on my MacBook, looking frantically for the band everyone will be into this season.

I remember when all I needed to be cool was a Furby. Today, I want to participate in each and every trend that comes my way. I’m not so much concerned with being the first to find a website, but as long as I eventually discover everything worth knowing, you will have something to read about.

Jen Winston is a junior majoring in communication. Her column, The Memeing of Life, runs Tuesdays.