Why the Internet Makes Me Feel Like an Idiot and Why I’m Not

The internet is a great tool to learn and experience quite literally every single human endeavor. You name the topic and there most likely exists – at least – a single Wikipedia entry. With a few YouTube video tutorials, some blog posts starting with “How To…” you can become knowledgeable in a myriad of technical and non-technical professions.

I work on the web every day. My job title is “Web Project Coordinator” and while this implies that I’m focused on the web I find myself both professionally and personally doing so much more.

On some days I shoot and edit video, others have me designing a layout for a site or coding some JavaScript. I even manage a few servers and help edit objective-c for an iPhone app! Not to mention my past IT support role has perpetuated my title as ‘computer guy’ around the office and at home.

I freely admit this is a 1st world problem and there are far greater difficulties facing the universe, but on an individual level I find the feeling of not being proficient in one particular area to be a serious mental drain. Why do I feel like a jack of all trades and a master of none?

Some days I feel like a fraud, that everyone I work with (and for) have been duped by smoke and mirrors. That if they ever found out how little I actually know I’d be branded as a fluke, a huckster. Part of me knows this isn’t true. That I’m smart and well received by those I work with, but man because of the Internet I feel like such a moron. Why is this?

It’s because I read. I read a lot.

I pursue Twitter and Google Reader to find out what’s going on all over the world. I read about Adam Lisagor and his awesome video work or Neven Mrgan and his splendid design chops. Boing Boing fills me with oddities to delight the senses and bizarre people I would love to meet.

Guys like Merlin Mann and Jeffery Zeldman make me feel like a sloth with their intelligent and witty writing. Don’t even get me started on Mike Matas‘ photography or Brent Simmons‘ helpful articles on coding. How about Michael Lopp’s awesome guide to being a better geek?

I digress, but you can see how after daily observances of a plethora of cool things one can start comparing themselves and asking, “Why am I not that successful? Why are these people so awesome?”

But I think I’ve figured it out.

I was having a discussion bitching to my wife on the ride home from work. I was withering in fake pain about how I don’t feel like I’m strong in any particular area and how I worry about my future. My wife, as smart as always, pointed out an obvious fact.

I’m comparing myself to 5 different people – of course I’m not going to be as good in each profession as these folks have chosen. I’ve been trying to stretch myself in so many different ways because I’m excited! I want to do everything I read about because it all sounds so interesting.

I realize now that I can’t try to do what 5 separate people have accomplished. I can dabble here, and try something over here, but at the end of the day I need to relax.

My wife reminded me that what is important is that the people I work with enjoy what I can do for them and that I continue to develop as an individual without the pressure to be as good as everyone on the Internet. I often forget that these folks are great at what they do and that what each one of them does is diverse and specific. People rarely blog about their shortcomings – about topics that they’re not proficient in. They talk about their successes, their passions and what cool things they’re doing.

So anytime I’m down in a funk, that I feel like no one would hire me and that I’m some sort of goober, I just need to remember that even thought the Internet can bring so much information to my fingertips that it does nothing to filter – to remind me that I need to take things in one at a time. Admire these things I see and hear, enjoy them, but ultimately be at peace with who I am and where I’m going.



I didn’t know my cousin well. The only memory I have of him was the first time I met him. Which also happened to be the time I broke his arm.

Toward the end of my Mom’s second marriage she decided we should all visit her family back in Washington. We all flew up to spend a week with my Grandparents and visiting my cousins – Latisha, Vanessa and Jeremy. He was the youngest of the three.

We visited the local city of Richland, went on a RV trip along the border of Oregon and Washington, visited the Pacific Ocean and other family-related things.

On the final day of our visit, Jeremy and I were rough housing on the front porch. It wasn’t a very impressive porch. It rose from the gravel driveway all of two feet. Just three steps up off the ground.

I was holding him in a bear hug/hold with his back against my chest, swinging him around. I stepped a bit too close to the edge of the porch and started to loose my footing.  Fearing that I would fall on top of him I let go and he fell the two foot distance to the ground. Right on his arm, breaking it.

At that point in my life I had never felt as bad as I did. He was screaming, the adults swarmed around him and I ran into the guest bedroom and started crying. I had no idea what happend, but I knew it was all my fault.

He survived the fall and returned home very drugged up and with a new bright purple cast. Somewhere exists a video of his return, wherein he tries to talk to us about what happened and we all laughed at how silly his responses were.

The next day we said our goodbye’s and left to head back to St. Louis. I haven’t seen Jeremy since then.

Last October I went and visited my grandparents while on a business trip to Portland. I drove four hours across the same highway we had all traveled on while camping in Grandpa’s RV. I had dinner with my Grandparents and they talked about Jeremy. He was in his early twenties and was having difficulties with the recent death of his father. Additionally his parent’s divorce nearly a decade earlier wasn’t much help with a young man trying to find his place in this world.

Grandma mentioned that he was due to go to jail within the next few days on alcohol related charges. They sighed, like grandparents do, and said it was such a shame. They hoped that he would turn himself around and find direction.

Unfortunately he was unable to deal with whatever demons that had entered his life. I found out today that Jeremy took his own life as a permeant solution for what I’m sure was something temporary that could have been helped.

It’s sad to hear of a young person taking their own life. Even more so when it’s someone you know. I’m saddened and am reminded of how difficult life can be for those who are missing something that prevents them from being a whole person.

To me, and to you I hope, let this be a reminder to us all. Be an example to young people and to try and keep them on a good path.