What if the central question of the Internet was not whether it is making us smarter or dumber, but rather, how the Internet reflects us? Rob Walker suggests that “ROFL” (Roll on the floor laughing) culture tells us a lot about how we are using the Internet in real time. All of the memes, funny cat videos, and other social media fads take up a significant amount of our online lives. Looking at what we are posting, laughing at, sharing and engaging with can help us gain a better understanding of ourselves.
[Big] thinkers [are] engaged in the popular debate over whether the Internet makes us smarter or dumber. And that question is interesting, but let’s face it: it’s not awesome. What Tim Hwang and his cohorts basically hit upon was the conclusion that, while that debate drags on, funny cat pictures and so on are really, really popular. And maybe another question to consider is what that means — to consider the Web not in terms of how it might affect who we become but rather in terms of how it reflects who we are. ROFL, after all, is not a seductive theory about what enlightened things democratized culture may one day produce; it is a pervasive fact on the ground. This is how sizable chunks of our cognitive resources are actually being deployed,