Bong Baby: How the Internet Works


A few days back, nerd culture blog Geekosystem thoughtfully outlined the flow of “news” cycle on the internet — news often being photos of cats, babies or fails — and traced much of it back to social news website Reddit. In “How Reddit Controls the Internet News Cycle,” Robert Quigley credits the site’s users with being early to every meme party, and therefore feeding less exclusive (Reddit can be confusing, alienating) blogs and websites like this one stories which may become popular posts. This new photograph circulating of a baby holding a bong is Quigley’s case in a point.

Here’s the Reddit page for the search “bong baby,” including links to sites running the gamut from niche blogs (Jezebel) to tabloids (The Sun) to online (AOL) and mainstream news (CBS).

And yet, the earliest Reddit link — likely the source of this story’s outbreak — points to a local news site from Jacksonville, Florida, where the photo originates, dating back to Thursday. The rest of the stories were published the following day.

Quigley writes:

But this is all inside baseball, and may not interest nonbloggers or non-Redditors all that much. What should interest the lay Internet citizen is that by serving as such a dominant go-to guide for the Web — in which capacity it does a fine job — Reddit actually narrows the lens of discovery. If the Internet has one defining property, it’s that there’s so much of it, but the ease of a go-to guide means that so much of what’s new and noteworthy will die unheralded, and so much of what’s old and interesting will never be excavated. But if you read any blog, even if you never read Reddit yourself, you’re probably reading Reddit runoff on a fairly frequent basis.

Internet, meet your sausage.