The internet hasn’t raised the average IQ

Just so we’re clear, I’m not immune to hero worship. I admire many people.

The list opens with my father, who came home to his family every night for 52 years, led my Boy Scout troop until I discovered girls, and was a full-time nurse for my mother for a decade. When you talk about the qualities that define a man, start with those.

My other heroes are diverse, but share one trait: They aren’t celebrities.

Well, a few are, but they didn’t make the list for that. They rose above their celebrity to accomplish worthwhile things.

In addition to being a sucker for people who do what needs to be done, I’m vulnerable to nostalgia. I keep pictures my kids drew 25 years ago, though they might do better ones now. I once considered—God’s truth—whether, when I make a mistake typing, I should re-use as many of the errant letters as I could rather than deleting them and starting the sentence over. After all, they got there first.

Similarly, when I initially accepted the Internet, I signed on via what was then the most popular method, America Online. Friends mock me now for the “@aol.com” in my e-mail address. Even my stepmother abandoned AOL years ago, and if you’re thinking it’s pathetic to be instructed on computer matters by a woman in her 80s, you’re right. Still, I can’t bring myself to move on.

These two quirks come together here: AOL, my gateway to the cyberworld, has sunk into the realm of celebrity jocksniffers. Presumably to slow the flood of people running to other Internet Service Providers, it’s become a clearinghouse for “celeb” gossip.

Some recent samples:

“Mel Gibson Allegedly Caught Cheating. Onlookers Spill On the Steamy Hookup.”

“ ‘Harold & Maude’ Actor Was In Horrid Car Crash in ’79. See Him at Age 60.”

“Celeb’s Malibu House Causing a Stink. Neighbors Hate Putrid Odor.”

“Facebook ‘Study’ Finds Billy Joel Fans are Smarter Than Most. Says You’re Dumb if You Like …”

Ellipses hinting that shock awaits those who click on a link are constants on AOL, and the Billy Joel item sucked me in. According to the study, “fans of Lil Wayne, Beyonce and gospel music are dumber than the fans of Billy Joel, Journey and classic rock.”

OK, we knew that. But researchers proved it, more or less, by reviewing fans’ Facebook pages, average SAT scores of their colleges and “extrapolation.”

More:

“Remember Rebecca De Mornay? Photo Shows Actress at Age 49.”

“Chew on This: Proof Tiny Reality Star Actually Eats.”

“Hulk Watched, You Cringed. 69% Were Appalled Brooke Struck Pose in Front of Father: SEXY PICS.”

I checked those, too. Brooke Hogan, the spawn of wrestler Hulk Hogan, appears to be precisely the blonde you don’t want as a daughter but wouldn’t mind seeing on the next stool in a Holiday Inn bar. There’s no reference to her father’s opinion of a pole dance she did in Miami.

The “tiny reality star” link led to a “Photo Gallery” titled “Pop Stars Eating.” Among the highlights were a 6-year-old shot of Tommy Lee downing sushi and a 5-year-old image of Britney Spears “eating a sugar cookie at Starbuck’s.” That may have historic value—I think she was still a professional virgin then—but if the gallery featured a tiny reality star, I missed her.

And thus we come to my dilemma: Stick with AOL out of sentiment, or bolt to avoid giving even tacit approval to a world in which a Brooke Hogan is worth noticing?

Unless, of course, she’s on that next stool.