Op-Ed - DON’T SPOIL THE RESULTS IN THE TITLE

I’m not here to point fingers, so I’m gonna just call him “Peter.” Actually, I am here to point fingers, but because I don’t want my finger-pointing to be legally classified as libelous, any similarities to any real Peters, alive or dead, shall be considered purely coincidental even though this piece was triggered by true events. The e-mail title read something like “DON’T SPOIL THE RESULTS IN THE TITLE”, and yes, it was written in all-caps, the universally recognized standard for shouting in text. The message body carried on with the all-caps shouting, and although it contained more words and variations of the title theme, it failed to shine any additional light on the author’s reasons, or indeed justification, for unleashing such missives — beyond pure self-centeredness and an astonishing lack of humility, that is.

To put the incendiary inbox incident in context, I had just published an article announcing the results of the qualifying session at Red Bull Hardline, a very high-profile downhill mountain bike race that takes place at the end of the season. Whilst it’s no World Cup, it is certainly a major event on the gravity cycling calendar and as such, easily comparable to say a regular season major league baseball game or an ATP World Tour event. Announcing the winner of the Hardline qualifying round in a Vital MTB homepage post is akin to sharing who just won a semi-final at Queen’s on Eurosport.com. Or, to broaden the perspective a bit, publishing a news article headline that calls out the subject of the actual news item on an actual news site. This doesn’t sound all that contentious, but that is only before we account for the specific demands of Peter, a very entitled and opinionated person who lives on the internet.

“Man, did you see Bernard Kerr’s run at Hardline? BEST EVER!!” sounds harmless enough but now Peter’s elaborate entertainment plans are ruined forever, and his frustration builds as he stares another evening of Netflix-and-no-chill in the face.

You see, Peter wants to consume news on his terms. If, for example, Peter happens to be busy at the time of the live broadcast of the Red Bull Hardline qualifying round, Peter wants to be able to watch the replay without knowing how the race ends. Of course, we no longer live in 1998, so rather than wait for the end of the year to pick up a VHS copy of the season recap on video, Peter can just click a button and watch the race replay whenever he wants to. However, Peter also wants to peruse websites and social media platforms that talk about things pertaining to his subject matter(s) of interest – in this case mountain biking. He wants to use social media to participate in further exchange of information and perhaps even discussions about some of his favorite topics (not to mention share funny cat videos). Of course, many of those websites also happen to be news outlets, which means that Peter is now treading in deep waters. There are so many screens that could get in the way of his perfect replay-watching session. One of those pesky news sites could spoil the fun for Peter by *gasp* announcing the results on their homepage. Some idiot on social media could trample all over Peter’s carefully planned evening by mindlessly blurting out the results to all his friends. “Man, did you see Bernard Kerr’s run at Hardline? BEST EVER!!” sounds harmless enough but now Peter’s elaborate entertainment plans are ruined forever, and his frustration builds as he stares another evening of Netflix-and-no-chill in the face. By having a 24/7 news and media machine plugged straight into his daily life, Peter has put himself at the mercy of others, and he is furious.

“STOP POSTING RESULTS ON THE HOME PAGE!!!!”

Going back a few years, I can remember messages from friends to the effect of “wow, I turned off my phone and I made it home without accidentally catching a headline in some TV shop window. Now I’m going to watch the replay of the F1 Grand Prix with a crate of beer and some chips.” A personal victory obtained thanks to a minor amount of thinking ahead combined with a little bit of effort. To Peter, however, the world is an unfair place, and he is out to set things right, one all-caps e-mail at a time. Why should Peter have to make any efforts? Why should Peter have to work for it? If everything is available on demand, it is only logical that Peter should demand that his favorite websites cooperate with his plans.

Should Peter have to refrain from clicking on the homepage of one of the world’s leading gravity mountain biking news sites just because he wants to be able to watch an unspoiled replay of a race a few hours later? Outrageous. What if he also wants to read about that new MegaBoostSuperPlus solar-powered dropper post on the bus as he commutes home from work? That’s not too much to ask, is it? So what does Peter do? All-caps, engage.

The first email from Peter at 10:18 a.m. was a good laugh, worthy of a forward to peers. Critiques invade the inbox regularly and we're used to them. The good ones get passed on for giggles. The real op-ed-inspiring event followed 10 minutes later at 10:28 a.m. Maybe Peter felt entitled to an immediate response and didn't receive it, so, to make sure we would be left with absolutely no doubt as to just how full of himself Peter really is, he followed up that first e-mail with a second, even more pompous message. It starts off by suggesting that we “stop putting results in the click-bait”, which should still “get good clicks and won’t ruin the replay for me!” (graciously allowing us lowly paparazzi a little professional wiggle-room whilst not losing sight of what’s truly at stake here: Peter). The friendly note concluded with an emphatic, if by now repetitive, “STOP POSTING RESULTS ON THE HOME PAGE!!!!” The only thing missing from the one-sided correspondence was an invitation to Peter’s shared calendar where we could consult his planning to figure out when would be a good time to post various upcoming news items.

The uncle of a more frequently publicized Peter, aka Peter Parker or Spiderman, once famously said that “with great power comes great responsibility." I would postulate that in this on-demand world, the true sense of this phrase has gone lost. Is it up to all the news outlets (and social media acquaintances) of the world to acquiesce to the fickle demands of every Peter, Paul and Mary, or is it time that some of us took a good look in the mirror to make sure we haven’t completely lost touch with reality? When you send angry messages asking a news site to stop headlining the news, it is entirely possible that your entitlement meter is defective and needs a reset. There may be no “i” in “team”, but there sure is a “ME” in “entitlement”.

PEACE OUT (all-caps fully intentional)

by Johan Hjord

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