Everyone’s turned to the Internet for advice, but there’s a difference between looking up tips on building a birdhouse and tips on dealing with suicidal thoughts. Sure, it’s sad to have problems like that—but as the following how-to guides prove, turning to the Internet to help you through them is even sadder.
1. How to Mourn a Hamster’s Death
Best Advice: “Make a tombstone and burn their name into it, and then burn a heart in the middle.”
It’s always tough to lose a pet, but if you need the Internet’s help to get over the loss of a hamster you’re living the most sheltered life since Rapunzel. WikiHow bravely attempts to help mourners ease the pain, but only manages to turn a minor tragedy into a furry little melodrama.
Suggestions like “talk about it with another pet” and “make a letter to your pet, recalling the good and funny moments” tell you far more about the mental stability of the how-to’s writer than the topic at hand. If you follow the guide’s advice to make a tombstone out of your hamster’s water bottle, you’re only a step away from digging the corpse up again and crying yourself to sleep as you cuddle it. Hamsters are nice, but so is having a sense of proportion. God help you if you ever need to deal with the death of a loved one.
2. How to Prepare for the Death of a Loved One
Best Advice: “If you have regrets, or need to let him/her know something that you’ve kept in for years, use this time to let them know. Remember though, if it is something huge (you’ve been cheating on them for 15 years) it might be best to let it go.”
We don’t know what’s more depressing—the fact that WikiHow thought there were people out there who needed help expressing the basic human emotions associated with the slow and tragic loss of a family member, or the idea that someone might actually say to themselves, “Uh-oh, grandma’s about to kick the bucket and I don’t feel a thing. I know, the Internet will help!”
We’re not saying that dealing with the death of a family member is easy and you won’t need help—just don’t look for that help on freaking WikiHow. This how-to reads like a guide for an alien invader that wants to blend in by replicating human emotions. Tips like “tell your loved one that you will miss them” and “let children in the family visit” should be obvious to even the most hardened sociopaths. And if you need the Internet to tell you that it’s a bad idea to “make light of death” and that you shouldn’t try to “cheer people up by making fun of them,” you’re probably the person who put your loved one on their deathbed in the first place.
3. How to Function in Life as an Alcoholic
Best Advice: “Acknowledge you have a problem which you are not willing to solve.”
So the death of both Fluffy-Wuffy and grandma hit you hard, and when the Internet didn’t help you turned to alcohol. But you soon discovered that alcoholism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and now you need a guide to living with the consequences of addiction. Note that this is a guide on how to function as an alcoholic, not how to go sober. WikiHow assumes you’re beyond that.
Therefore, their first piece of advice is to “acknowledge you have a problem you are not willing to solve,” and it only gets more defeatist from there. If an alcoholic needs to be reminded to “make sure you are sober when you go to work” and “apply fresh deodorant and brush your teeth” they’ve already exchanged their Internet connection for beer money. But the saddest tip is “practice your speaking while drunk,” so your friends and family won’t notice that you slur your words. Because if they notice they might try to help you fight your addiction, and that would be terrible.
4. How to Live in Your Car
Best Advice: “You can only live in your car successfully if your car works.”
You tried your best to follow the alcoholism guide to the letter, but one slipup and a drunken tirade at Susan from Accounting later and you’re out of a job. You can’t pay the rent, so it’s just you and your vehicle—luckily, WikiHow has some tips for turning your car into your castle. Tips that you hopefully printed off in advance, since your Chevy Corvair probably doesn’t have an Internet connection.
The guide begins with some common sense advice, but soon drifts into serial killer territory by suggesting that you never stay in one location too often, and also that you wear a mask. Ostensibly, it’s for privacy, saving you both the embarrassment of being recognised and the attention of police officers. Hey WikiHow, you know what might draw the attention of police officers? The guy who wears a goddamn mask while sitting in his car all day.
Then, just after you’re told that Gatorade bottles are the best kind for peeing in, the guide says you should stay positive. Then it warns you that you’ll be a target for criminals, and you risk being labeled a vagrant and having your car impounded. Well crap, where will you get the money for a replacement pee bottle?
5. How to Beg for Money
Best Advice: “Tell a good story. In most cases, you can convince people with a good yarn. If you simply demand money, most people are put off.”
E-How’s guide to begging is sad on several levels—the fact that anyone would turn to it for advice is pathetic enough, but if you can’t figure out the basics of begging you’re going to eat the first quarter you’re tossed and choke to death.
Step one, “be shameless,” should be obvious to anyone who’s looking up panhandling tips on the Internet. The rest of the guide is just advice on how to emotionally manipulate people—making yourself look down on your luck and coming up with a good story for why you need money will help you rake in the nickels.
E-How has three begging guides, including an oddly specific one for begging in Austin, Texas. And there’s apparently a schism in the panhandling world, as they offer a few contradictory tips. Yeah, that’s just what people who have resorted to begging need—confusion over which Internet guide to follow.
6. How to be Happy When Sad
Best Advice: “To be happy, you have to make happiness a priority in your life.”
You may be living in your car and begging in the streets, but you haven’t officially hit rock bottom until you turn to eHow for tips on how to be happy. There’s nothing quite as depressing as the image of a lonely man sitting at a computer and typing “How do I be happy?” into Google. Except maybe the thought of his disappointed face after he reads the results.
Advice like “talk to someone” may seem helpful, but do you think the people consulting the Internet for happiness tips have anyone to talk to? They might as well say, “be less of a loser, loser.” And the “be content” step is even worse. That’s eHow’s sage advice—if you’re sad, try to be happy about it. Their advice for how to deal with a broken leg is probably “walk it off, crybaby.”
In what is either a massive oversight or a subtly cruel jest, the how-to has a difficulty rating of “easy.” Yeah, that’s just want depressed people want to hear, eHow—how it’s so easy to get over being sad that they must really suck if they can’t manage it. Next stop: How to Tie a Noose.