The online world is a magic land were everyone whips out their genitals, writes every single half-assed opinion they have on them, then lovingly rubs them on the screen so you can get an eyefuckful. Politics, religion, conspiracy theories, people refusing to shut up about weed saving the world... it's enough to make you want to open a vein in the bath tub.
Not all is lost, though. There's hope online, and these ten websites can act as the vaccine against nuttery and bloody-mindedness. Try and visit them at least once a week.
Google Doodles: How many times has someone asked you, "Did you see Google today?" The customized Doodles for special holidays are one of life's most simple and wonderful joys, like a surprise cupcake your mom backs in your lunch box. My current favorite was the recent Douglas Adams one that featured an old school Marvin as an Easter Egg. The Doodles have an archive that stretches back to 1998 you can peruse for hours. Just hundreds of little shout outs to important days and people that we can all enjoy.
Cracked: Speaking of Google Doodles, did you know that they're all done by one guy, Dennis Hwang, making him one of the most viewed artists in the world? I learned that fact from Cracked, which is just chocked full of absolutely fascinating bits of trivia and did-you-knows as well as the finest intentional Internet comedy today. They even occasionally shake it up with heart-warming tributes to Fred Rogers or the most awesome marriage proposal ever.
Snopes: Really you should make all three of the big fact checking sites (Snopes, FactCheck.org, and Politifact) regular parts of your online consumption, but Snopes definitely has the most genial and accessible style and archive. It's also the least political of the bunch, with plenty of articles on all kinds of modern folklore and fakelore. The "randomizer" button is pure crack.
And before anyone drops down in the comments to go on and on about how the people at Snopes are no more trustworthy or believable than the things they debunk... scroll to the bottom of each entry. Those things are called "sources." They want to be your friends.
Not Always Right: If you want to feel better about yourself, Not Always Right is where you need to go. Users submit their horror stories of bad customers, and never has the sheer stupidity, racism, and madness of our collective species been put on trial so well. Literally everything looks better in the light of people unable to civilly conduct a damn grocery store transaction, and sometimes they get their comeuppance in the most wonderful ways.
Maru's Blog: Yes, I know that the Internet needs more cat videos like Australia needs more poisonous spiders, but there's a reason Maru has been in Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times. He is literally that adorable. It is physically impossible to be upset in his presence. He's like the Buddha of the Internet.
Found Photos: Rich Vogel started posting random pictures he found in file-sharing networks in 2004. The result is an archive of random personal imagery that is just spell-binding. It's like thousands of tiny little Rorschach tests that allow you to imagine the stories behind all these strangers portrayed on the page.
Letters of Note: Sometimes the best cure for the anger inspired by a newsfeed full of dumbasses is to see the more mature thoughts of people at their best. Letters of Note collects the best correspondences from some of the finest minds, and they show exactly how awesome the written word can be. It's inspiring watching a middle school teacher and Francis Ford Coppola talk about how much her students would appreciate a film version of The Outsiders, or Tolkien laying the softest smackdown possible on German publishers interested in Lord of the Rings but feeling the need to question his "Aryan descent."
Know Your Meme: The meme is the Internet's preferred method of communication. Basically, it's just hyper-advanced versions of cave paintings, but even with its simplistic nature you might find yourself lost as to the meaning of the latest fad. Know Your Meme does some staggering research on the birth, life, and death of popular memes that has got to be some of the strangest anthropology ever done. In a way, it's the exhaustively chronicled history of the Internet as users understand it, and that makes it brilliant.
XKCD: Though The Oatmeal tops it in terms of accessibility, Randall Munroe's XKCD is easily the smartest comic on the Internet, and possibly ever. If any comic strip artist can truly be said to be the online inheritor of the mantle worn by Gary Larson and Bill Watterson, it's Munroe. The jokes can get a bit technical on occasion, but rather than making you feel dumb they just make you want to learn more to understand them. Plus, Munroe has an admirable work ethic that results in content released like clockwork.
Ben Heck: There is no more life-affirming figure on the Internet than Ben Heck. Who is he? Just a man who takes apart electronics and puts them back together again in much better ways, but that alone makes him amazing. For instance, see him here showing you how to turn your Xbox, PS3, and Wii U into a single unit that will allow you to play games from all three on one console! Or light activated sunglasses that flip down bionically in the sun, and back up indoors. I grew up watching Mr. Wizard, Beakman's World, and Bill Nye, and I can tell you that Ben Heck makes me feel like a little kid dreaming of being a scientist again. 20 minutes with him will make you forget all the reality TV you have ever watched, and replace it with a desire to engineer the living crap out of stuff just to make it cooler.
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