The guiltiest pleasure of all.

Alright, alright. It’s time to come clean. The truth is, I’m addicted to lulz.

Which is to say, I can’t get enough of Encyclopedia Dramatica.

WARNING!! If you’re about to click that link without knowing what’s on the other side, be aware that it’s only a matter of time before you’re assaulted with feces-covered penises. See, ED is the very bottom of the internet. It’s the place all the bile, muck and offal eventually filters down to. It’s a place where ethics, morals, etiquette and reason simply do not apply. It’s the place where people with nothing to lose gather to poke fun at all the foibles of online existence. Absolutely nothing is off-limits. Everything is fair.

I don’t think ED was around in 2001, but if it were, you can bet that September 12th would have seen someone splicing lolcats into the breaking 9/11 news footage and adapting it to an article about how all Jews are fags. (And now that I think about it, lolcats weren’t around in 2001 either. Oh well.)

But that’s the very reason ED is so compelling; it is the internet’s great equalizer. If ED can’t find the humor in a situation — any situation — it’s going to by-gods paste a ninja turtle head onto it and put it up for everyone to see. No matter your race, gender, religion, nationality, political agenda, sexual preference or favorite ice cream flavor, there is an ED article mocking it. Often creully. Often far, far beyond the point most reasonable people would think is acceptable. It goes so far past the line that it’s not even offensive. It’s holding a mirror to yourself and seeing all the worst parts of you, and all you can do is laugh about it.

And if you do get offended, well, that’s part of the joke.

The internet has created some unique social structures that haven’t been seen before in human culture. Only in the past 10-15 years have people associated with each other instantly, across vast distances, with complete and total anonymity. You can be anyone, so you can’t trust anyone. No matter how radical your beliefs or how bizarre your kinks, you can find like-minded people with virtually zero effort. Things that were once underground are now mainstream. Things that once were shackled with editors, publishers and censors are now laid bare for all to see. For the first time ever, you can choose whether or not you want to associate with the real world.

That last part is what’s really interesting. People now have the option of reducing their entire worldview to, say, a Harry Potter fanfiction forum if that’s their desire. Or a furry art website. Or a fantasy football league. Or, hell, a blog about retro gaming and its attached forum.When your exposure to humanity gets that narrow, it starts to warp your perceptions. Twenty years ago you probably couldn’t associate with 100 different people on a daily basis even if you were to add up all your friends, family, classmates and co-workers. Now we live in a world where you can wall yourself into a position where the number of people you know and talk to about your mutual obsession with amputee porn far outnumbers the people you know and talk to in the real world.

We all know what this leads to: unbelievable amounts of drama. Crazy entitlement. Delusions of grandeur. Over-bloated sense of self-importance. Etc. etc. etc. We’ve all seen it, we’ve all been there and, yes, we’ve all done it.

That’s where ED comes in. It takes all that drama, all that pain and anguish that exists only in the minds of the people on the fringes of the internet, and puts a lampshade on it. It’s like how Jerry Springer has made a career of showing us the dregs of humanity for no reason other than our own horror and amusement, except ED doesn’t need to get anyone to sign a waiver. It’s the train wreck you can’t look away from.

It’s a vicious, childish website that boils down to people picking on other people, sometimes undeservedly. But it needs to exist. The internet needs a release valve or it will explode under its own pressure. And if I have to wince in agony and rush to close a browser window once in a while because a picture of a woman projectile-menstruating across a day care suddenly popped onto the screen, well, that’s a small price to pay.

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