Image via Flickr / procsilas
The internet is not to be trusted. It's always hyping things up, begging us to click away, and, inevitably, letting us down. It does this primarily with adjectives. The internet is the worst place in the world for adjectives.
Starting with the headlines. Headlines used to appear at the top of newspapers and in magazine articles. Now they are the bridge between a search engine or a social media feed and just about all of the information we get about the world. And they are full of obnoxious and misleading adjectives. If the content they promise is described as Outrageous, Stunning, or Insane, it almost certainly won't be. Nor will it likely be the Biggest or even the Smallest. The internet has eroded the very meaning of these words—it has normalized the Insane and made pedestrian the Epic.
Otherwise, would I read about "rather typical" fails or a merely larger-than-usual galaxy? No I would not.
But headlines are just the beginning. They are the worst offenders, because most internet content creators figure once you've clicked, they can tone things down a notch. But only gradually. The lead paragraph still has to be Mind-blowing, the status update still has to be Bizarre enough to be like-worthy, the tweet still has to be Awesome enough to RT.
An informal poll of people who respond to emails reveals the following to be the internet's most overused adjectives:
Note that most of them are aggressive in their positivity. But enough fun and games. Let us get serious in our study of Internet adjective overuse. Let us examine other metrics, and turn to someone that has built an infographic. According to Linked-In, here are the adjectives people most often use to make themselves appear more employable on the internet:
There's Innovative again. But many of those are simply adjectives people overuse in real-life.
And how about the more commonly used social networks, upon which we actually talk to each other, in internet-speak?
According to Harvard research, the most-used adjective on Twitter appears to be Good. Out of 1.5 million words, it was used 44,000 times. Which is reassuring in its tedium, but for the fact that it is followed closely by Great, Better, and Best. You have to go way down to find a negative adjective.
When we use adjectives on conversational social media networks, we are overwhelmingly positive. We exclaim that something is really very good, nay, it is awesome, because we have deemed it share-worthy and thus want to encourage other people to click on it and be happy after doing so, thus raising our personal social network capital.
Most people who create content on the internet—and that is everyone—seem convinced, that they have to yell or be effusive to get anyone's attention. They are probably right. The internet is a sea of semi-anonymous pitchmen, carnival barkers that yell after you with the best adjectives they can muster as scroll down a feed. They are aggressive, they are coy, they are seductive, they are dumb, and they are full of promises. And they are all meaningless because they all cancel each other out.
Awesome just means average, we know that. I will not click on less. We know that we are not about to see the Hottest side boob pic ever, or discover the most Explosive secret kept by the Obama family. Our collective digital caffeine high is the new normal, and adjectives no longer accurately define anything. The internet has transformed the adjective itself into an instrument for exclusive use in a sales pitch. And that is totally the worst, head-explodingly obliterating news you will read all day.