2011-07-16 Web is TV

(This post started as a post on Google+ but I decided to copy it to my blog because I’ll have an easier time finding it again.)

Over the recent weeks and months, the web has started to fill me with slight unease.

The web, you ask? Yes. I spend a lot of my free time reading and replying to email, skimming Facebook, diligently reading Twitter news, reading blog posts in my feed reader, chatting with people, playing a silly ogame variant – all of it on a tablet computer that just lies around. I don’t read as many books as I used to, these days. I spend some time on the web catching up after I get up. I spend some time on the web before falling asleep. When I eat by myself, I spend some time on the web.

Increasingly, I feel as if the great hypno-toad of the web is wasting my time. Michael Ende’s Grey Gentlemen are smoking my time. Time wasted reminds me of TV.

When I discovered the Internet, it promised an anarchic freedom away from the corporations. When I discovered social networks, they promised one-on-one communication with real people, friends and family. I had filters. I had ad blockers. Slowly, however, things have changed. The social networking platforms are in the hands of big corporations financed by ads. They are inescapable.

What we could make for ourselves by learning how to run GNU/Linux we now have to defend in court: net neutrality, software patents. The lure is gone, the promise I imagined has been broken.

On Twitter and the blogs, I had started subscribing to people that worked for companies producing products I enjoyed. As I look at my overflowing bookshelf, I realize that their marketing promise of B2C marketing worked. Blogs and Facebook accounts filled with personal trivia and product hype had enthralled me.

In fact, my unease is the very same unease I felt when I was 20 and realized that the TV was smoking my time. I lost hours watching stuff I could barely remember after a day or two and filled me with longing for products as useless as bicycles for fish. Back then, I was at the receiving end of demand creation. And now I’m realizing that disconnecting the TV from the network is not enough. I am again at the receiving end of demand creation. The ads have been replaced by Twitter and Facebook accounts that love the products I love myself. The benevolent reviews laud the very things I love. Their comments on movie trailers reflect my own taste. And when I manage to turn the table off, I feel a vague emptiness inside.

I feel empty because I am reading stuff I will barely remember after a day or two and I am filled with longing for more products than I can use, read, watch or play until the day I die.

As a first measure, I have started unsubscribing from all the feeds and accounts that are involved in obvious demand creation.



Interesting Alex.

Since starting my blog I have read fewer books. Most of my reading time is spent instead reading blogs. I have a Facebook account I barely use, and I don’t use Twitter.

I don’t feel bad about this change, except when I think of my goal by 40. A fantasy novel ready for publication. Well 40 past, and the novel remains unwritten.

– Jovial Priest 2011-07-17 06:17 UTC

There are definitely things that make reading blogs more attractive than books. It’s interactive. Talking to real people. There is a big variety. Right now I’m not so much trying to cut down on the reading itself but things that superficially look like blog posts by ordinary people but deeper down they are marketing messages. The kind of stuff I’m talking about are the Paizo blog, the E.N. World column, the Atomic Array podcast, …

AlexSchroeder 2011-07-17 13:42 UTC

Perhaps the fact that you forget it two days later is caused by the Internet itself? There is a fresh report on that: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2011/07/13/science.1207745

RadomirDopieralski 2011-07-21 16:17 UTC

“The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.” That’s exactly how I feel about my blog some times. What movies died I recently watch? Uh, I need to look it up on my blog!

AlexSchroeder 2011-07-21 19:20 UTC

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