Community Internet Culture

Day 1082 and Local Maxima

It’s not an original sentiment but one aspect of Internet culture that has been most challenging is seeing how much less special you are when compared to the entirety of the species. Rather than choosing to find this humbling or inspiring some find it threatening and destabilizing.

There has been a video going around of a teenage boy, who seems to be a fine young man with a variety of interests with above average marks and test results, who didn’t get into Cornell. The internet has theories which I hope the young man doesn’t read.

Now looking at it with somewhat objective perspective I’d say his scores wouldn’t have got him into a top decile university twenty years ago let alone a top ten one. It’s even more competitive now as we send so many more students to university now. Arguably more than we can afford as a nation but we still do it.

So being rejected from a very selective school isn’t that unlikely with those metrics. Being above average is good. It doesn’t make you the best though. Being above average means you go to an above average university. Traditionally this has meant your local state land grant university. Perhaps you’d study something socially useful like civil engineering. These are good things that we should celebrate.

If you are a bit better than your local geographic average congratulations your life will be better access to a wider world. It will also teach you quickly that you are not all that special. That’s fine too.

This teenager will do fine. He shouldn’t be wrapped in social anxiety. He is at a successful local maxima but is not yet prepared for even softest of global minima. He’s going to have to get better for that. No one should be ashamed of this outcome. It’s actually quite hard to be in the global ten percent of anything. This young man might have a shot at it if he continues to improve. I’m rooting for him.