Earnest Creativity

“One of the biggest sins on the modern internet is trying too hard to be funny. It has caused the internet’s sense of humor to turn cruel in the last decade and our knee-jerk response to earnest humor to be negative. Putting oneself out there creates a risk of ending up in a cringe compilation or as the subject of a devastating quote tweet. Strong Bad is representative of a time in the internet’s past when there was something new every day, and there was room for simple jokes. The world of Homestar Runner sprung from a place of passion and caring. It’s possible that nostalgia for the character is rooted in a desire to go back to a time when we embraced that type of enthusiasm. And who wouldn’t want to? At the end of the day, like Strong Bad himself, none of us are truly as cool (or as mean) as we pretend to be online.” - Dan Sheehan

Dan Sheehan’s article is a wonderful summation of the Homestar Runner phenomenon during the early Internet. A site that my friends and I still quote from regularly. Much like the original Muppet Show, those toons and sketches the Brothers Chaps created had an outsized influence on a generation of people.

I’m sharing this article because I’ve grown nostalgic for this kind of creativity. Dan articulates an Internet era where earnest creativity stood a chance of surviving and programatic attention hacks hadn’t infected everything. A little naiveté wasn’t just allowed, it was expected, and creativity wasn’t the baited hook at the end of somebody’s hustle. I’m thankful to have experienced that time and to know the difference between the small town Internet and the mega-city we wade through today.

I wish there was a way for others to experience the open frontier of the early Internet but no effort can remake it any more than Tokyo can remake itself into an agrarian village. The changes we’ve made are permanent. Still, I’m hopeful because I know the human creativity that made the early Internet so special in the first place is just as permanent. Machines didn’t make this place, people did, and much like we do in our physical cities, we’re learning to create pockets of relative safety where earnest creativity can thrive.

Conversation:

Greg Moore @gregmoore