What I Want Out of the Internet in 2018…

November 19, 2018 3:19pm
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Sometimes it’s both fascinating and a little sad to see how the Internet has evolved in the last 25 years since I first logged on as a teenager.

Lately I’ve found myself doing a lot of soul searching because while there are parts that I absolutely love, I also recognize that there are parts which have grown to be a bit unhealthy and I need to find better ways to deal with them going forward.

Social media is obviously one of the biggest ones. I love staying connected to friends and family, and I still maintain friendships online with people who I’ve never met before in real life. That said, social media has some unsettling qualities as well…

  • It’s addictive.
  • Sometimes it leads to senseless arguing with complete strangers via comments.

Frankly, I’m kind of done even arguing with non-strangers simply because at 38 years old, you’re not going to change my mind about most of the political beliefs that I hold. I may be open to better understanding some of the nuances around them, but let’s be honest – that kind of discussion is much more likely to happen in person than it is on Facebook.

On top of that, I hate coming to realize just how much time I’ve been sinking into social media!

The latest iOS release has screen time tracking to help measure how you’re using your device. The first week I used it, it said I’d been on my phone an average of 92 minutes a day, with a whopping 65% of that time using social media!!!

Now I’m ok with some of that time – the parts when I’m sharing photos of the kids or making new connections on LinkedIn (something I did a lot of last week because I finally updated my profile for the first time in years), but when I’m just aimlessly scrolling to see if anything new is going on … and I’m seeing the same posts over and over again?

That’s time that I’d rather be spending creating new content, or promoting my work, or lately even putting my phone down altogether and actually spending time with my kids!!!

😯

Bad content is also becoming a sore subject for me online because although in theory it’s great how more people are publishing content online than ever, a growing percentage of it is either misleading or false information, or barely useful information created merely to promote something else or snag low-hanging ad dollars.

If I look back to when I first started using the Internet, circa 1994-ish, it was still vast, but also much more limited. Now there are a lot more trade-offs…

  • 1994 – Niche content was limited at best … you maybe had a few hacked together sites for specialty content, but mainstream got the focus.
  • 2018 – Niche content is becoming popular, but to the point where it’s also super easy to exploit it by farming out micro articles for pennies that rise to the top of search engines.
  • Also 2018 – Wikipedia has pretty good articles for almost everything – something the old, 26-volume encyclopedias could never touch!
  • 1994 – Online gaming was new and hip, and technologically it was amazing that it worked at all. I spent most of my time exploring text-only worlds.
  • 2018 – The options are vast, but technology has made it very easy for kids to learn terrible etiquette while they play. Also, micro-transactions have made lots of games that are more about spending 99 cents at a time than actually playing a full-fledged game.
  • 1994 – Online shopping was just getting started! I remember buying my first DVDs and books from online vendors, and it was incredible!
  • 2018 – With more choices than ever, buyers need to be ever-vigilant about scammers and people selling counterfeit merchandise … even if we’re talking about toy cars for your kids.

On more than one occasion lately, I’ve definitely found myself realizing all too clear when I use certain websites that users are often the products of these innovative sites, which is frustrating when I’m trying to use a site like LinkedIn and it has painfully obvious UI issues, yet there are opportunities for them to mine my data and promote things to me at every turn.

And to some extent I’m ok with that, but I want a balance.

The other day I ordered something for Christmas from ThinkGeek, and two days later I found that they’d subscribed me to their mailing list without asking me first.

I’m currently browsing a lot of job sites and my inbox is inundated with emails generated by random searches and profiles I’ve read with no intention of triggering a subscription.

Facebook sends me notifications several times a day about promoting the various pages I’ve created for my projects over the years, even when they’ve denied my advertising in the past for one reason or another.

The company that I’ve used for my home phone for several years keeps sending emails about increasing their rates, but encouraging me to lock in my existing rate now … a message they’ve sent more than half a dozen times just trying to get people to renew over the last couple of years.

Tying back to a post that I wrote about greed earlier this summer, I know that people need to pay their bills and keep the lights on, but I hate seeing the Internet become just another place where profit takes priority over quality. And no, not every website would be able to make an honest living – that’s absolutely why some of these places stoop so low … but I don’t want to waste my time with those sites, either.

Is it ironic that despite loathing the earliest iterations of “The Mobile Web” where ISPs like Sprint and Verizon would give users dumbed down versions of only certain websites and not full access – mostly because devices couldn’t yet support them, today I kind of want a curated Internet where I can search for something and get reliable results that have been selected based on the quality of each site and not those that I’m most likely to click through on to drive ad revenue???

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