As I type, an article titled ‘Murdered for Being an Atheist’ is at the top of Digg‘s popularity list, currently with 2392 diggs (approvals from Digg users). This morning, when I first checked my Digg feed, the article had a mere 200 diggs–barely enough for the front page–featuring a dozen or so comments from outraged atheists condemning religion. I gave the comments page another glance just a few minutes ago, and the sheer volume of them actually froze my browser. (From what I could read before it collapsed on me–about a hundred or so comments in–most of the discussion was strongly bigoted on both sides.)
And, lo and behold, just as I was starting to think, “Gee, there have certainly been a lot of pro-atheist articles on Digg these last few months,” an article called ‘Digg and YouTube Powering Atheism 2.o’ clawed its way to the front page. Since I opened a new tab to begin writing this post, it has gone from 300 to 608 diggs. This, folks, is just in the last ten minutes. By the time I finish writing, I bet it’ll break 800. The article stated that there have been seven articles about Richard Dawkins on the front page in the last 2-3 months, and 10-12 other atheism-related articles. I disagree with these numbers. At the very least, I’d guess that I see at least one Dawkins- and/or atheism-related article every other day.
It’s not just atheism, either. A lot of trends–ideologies, software, politics–are being vastly spread through, and accepted by, the internet community. This isn’t a new thing, but it’s interesting to see which ideas are catching on and which are completely floundering in the era of Web 2.0. Going by Digg stats and my own observation, these are the biggest trends that are spreading via the web at the moment:
1. Atheism/Richard Dawkins.
As I mentioned before, atheism is gaining huge popularity among Digg users in particular. So much is being said about it right now that even the Los Angeles Times has jumped on the bandwagon with their recent article ’10 Myths–and 10 Truths–about Atheism’ (strangely, less than a week after reading this article on the web, I saw it reproduced in my local newspaper, The Vancouver Sun; it’s that popular.) Richard Dawkins, atheism’s front man, gets his own mention in this trend, and not just because he may have encouraged it with his recent bestseller, ‘The God Delusion.’ Dawkins himself is gaining a huge amount of internet popularity, with his articles and video lectures constantly appearing on the front page of Digg and making headlines in print newspapers, as well.
Though it could definitely be argued, I think it’s a trend apart from atheism. In fact, I have a hunch–though perhaps not a correct one–that this trend may have encouraged the atheism trend, because I was seeing a heck of a lot more anti-Christianity than atheism a few years back. It’s not just bashing fundamentalists, because even more liberal Christians are really getting it on the ‘net nowadays. I wish I could say it was a fair turnaround, but a lot of the outspoken Christian-bashers on the web are just as bigoted as the fundamentalists they condemn.
Bush had the misfortune of coming into office at the time when the internet was just starting to really tear down barriers between civilians and authority. Certain things could just be expected to fade away in the past, or never reach the public eye in the first place. Not in Web 2.0. In Web 2.0, any sort of incompetency in authority can and will be spread through the masses. And indeed, it was–his current 30% approval rating is proof enough of that. I think the anti-Bush trend was probably the most widely internet-circulated of all.
This one is soft of a no-brainer, because why wouldn’t the opensource movement be popular? Getting spectacular, better-than-Microsoft software for free–plus constant and similarly free upgrades–was bound to catch on among Web 2.0 users. The only users who wouldn’t be quite as thrilled would be the programmers who depend on software companies for their paychecks. That’s why the huge popularity of the opensource movement is so important as an internet trend; it encourages more programmers to participate for the international recognition. Certain aspects of opensource have really taken off in the last year, particularly Ubuntu Linux, which probably wouldn’t have become so popular without forums and tech blogs to spread the news. For these reasons, I think it should still be considered an internet trend, even if its popularity among users was for obvious reasons.
I’ll end with this: the article I mentioned above about the spread of atheism through Digg and YouTube has reached exactly 850 diggs at this moment. How’s that for internet popularity?