There seems to be a trend going on where people are starting to seek out ways to find the content they actually want instead of letting algorithms and machine learning decide what is good for you.
I have deleted all my social network accounts. Many times actually.
At the beginning of Facebook it was an exciting place to connect with your friends and family but that is a thing of the past.
Social networks have become, like many other mediums of the past, commercialised and monetised by pretty much everyone.
User attention has become an asset, which everyone who is using these platforms is fighting for.
On top of that, every social network platform has their own algorithm and machine learning or whatever, that gets to decide what to show you.
These algorithms apparently try to think for you along the lines of “Because you like THIS, we think you also like THIS”.
The last social network I quit was Youtube. Youtube used to have content and content creators that I genuinely liked to follow, but every time I would make the mistake of letting my guard down for even a second and I would click a totally random video, I would suffer from this mistake for the rest of my life.
As an example, I used to only go to Youtube to watch hockey and golf highlights.
If I found none, and the algorithm would throw a curveball at me with some clickbait titled video I would instead use the time I would have used to watch my sports highlights to check out the clickbait video. Now I would get bombarded with more of these click bait videos for the rest of my life.
I still go to Youtube every now and then to watch my sports highlights, but I always go there with full blown defence. I always take a lot of hits in form of ads and popups and things a like, but I am getting quite good at only going there for what I came for.
Internet has become an advertisement
What I hate the most about internet these days is the fact that there is advertisement everywhere in some form or another. Google results are full of advertisement, YouTube is full of advertisement, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even almost all of the websites online are full of advertisement.
I still remember like it was yesterday how I used to watch TV and how commercial breaks would cut the show I was watching right from the middle. I haven’t watched cable TV for a very long time now so I don’t know if they still do this but at least whenever there was a commercial break you could go to bathroom, kitchen or somewhere else while the commercials were on.
This isn’t really possible in internet these days. Sure, there are AdBlockers and you can impact your Ad-settings in social networks but regardless, you will be fed with some sort of advertisement pretty much all the time.
Why does it have to be this way?
The networks we use today are businesses, such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Instagram etc. and they need people and users so run their businesses and platforms.
They need users who keep adding content to their platforms, so people who are not adding content have something to find from these platforms.
To keep these content creators adding content to platforms, they are being paid if people are consuming their content. So, where does this money come from? Yes, usually from advertisement.
So, as users are using these platforms that are filled with content created by content creators, users are bombarded with ads so these platforms can pay content creators.
I don’t know about you, but this model has driven me away from pretty much all platforms and I just think that it is not worth getting bombarded with irrelevant advertisement every single second I am using these platforms.
Creators are waking up
More and more content creators are starting to realise that they are not in charge of how much money they make with their content and are solely relying on the algorithms of online platforms to share their content for users of these platforms.
Any day, a new algorithm update could come and destroy the entire distribution channel of a content creator and take away their main source of income, which relies on their content being distributed by these algorithms.
These online platforms are trying to automate everything, because it is nearly impossible to watch out what content creators and users are adding to their platforms. They are trying to automate distribution of content, guarding of content, securing of content and flagging of every breaking of terms and conditions regarding user-generated content or uploads.
Content creators might get flagged for wrong reasons and it might take months to un-flag their accounts. This could mean long periods of time without proper distribution of their content inside these platforms which directly impacts their income from advertisement.
Not only are content creators relying on the advertisement revenue on these platforms for their income, they are also trusting these platforms to manage their content which they have put a lot of time and effort to craft.
There is a lot that can go wrong by being a content creator in one of these platforms.
We need more serendipity
Algorithms are not getting smarter, people are getting dumber. I am also a victim of this phenomenon and I do not realise it too often, but when I do, I feel quite dumb.
It is hard to see it, but consuming content through internet has become more and more manipulative. It is hard to consume content online the way you would actually like to consume it.
Everywhere you go online, there is a high certainty that there is some sort of algorithm deciding what kind of content you should see or not see.
We let algorithms think for ourselves like they know what we want.
Some time ago I tried to find information about Crocodiles, the animals. Instead, I got results about Crocs shoes and zero information about the actual crocodiles.
The worst part is that at first, I didn’t even realise I was looking at Crocs shoes and in what different colours they are available. Only after a while I remembered that I was looking for information about crocodiles and I didn’t even need new Crocs shoes. Again, I had fell a victim of algorithm and advertisement.
It is as if I always have to have a full guard up when consuming information online and have a clear plan on what I am going to be looking for and block everything else around that plan.
It is very easy to complain about the current state of the internet, but I still think that having the internet, even at its current bad state, is a thing worth seeing in our lifetime.
There needs to be a change on the lower levels of the OSI that would make the web something worthwhile in my opinion. Can this kind of change happen so everyone would agree on? Unlikely, but the internet began from somewhere as well, didn’t it?
What we need more is serendipity, and not in such way that is driven by commercial interest, advertisement, algorithms, manipulation and third party interest.
What is the future of information and networks?
Short answer is, nobody knows.
As far as I can tell, internet and the network is growing at an exponential rate every single day but the fact is that the internet is still building on top of the underlying mechanics that have been there since the beginning of the internet in the early 1990’s.
Everything from new blockchains to new social networks and news medias are just new smaller networks on top of the existing ones.
Recently, I have been reading and learning about plants and how plants communicate and grow from author, Stefano Mancuso. What I have learned so far is that plants are basically connected through a much more advanced network than our online network.
Actually, our network, the internet, was hugely inspired by the way plants work and connect with each other.
I am not smart enough to tell what are the limitations of the current network of internet and if it is even capable to manage a smart enough distribution of content and data that would make every participant happy. Whatever that would even mean?
Internet is an interesting phenomenon, which provides me my standard of living and employment. It allows me to store my thoughts and ideas in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before my lifetime.
Internet provides me the option to find pieces of information I otherwise wouldn’t be able to access elsewhere with such ease.
Even as we are in my opinion side tracking a little bit in building the internet, I still think that eventually, we will find the right track as it is the only natural way for things to shape up as the time goes on.
I would like to give credit to Li Jin whose article “The creator economy is in crisis. Now let’s fix it.” inspired me to think about the internet on a broader level and specifically social networks and medias.
I had already started a draft version of my article when I read Li’s article about the topic, which gave me some extra motivation to keep writing about this topic.
As an interesting side note, I asked Li for a self-hosted link to her article so she would get the credit, backlink and the traffic I would direct her and she replied to me with this link to mirror.xyz.
I hadn’t heard about mirror.xyz before, but it doesn’t seem like a self-hosted solution where users, such as Li would be in total control of their content. Even her, as a thought leader in this matter seems to have fallen victim to not realising what it means to own her content. Of course, there could be something I am not seeing in this matter but as far as I know, not your domain, not your content.
Nothing has changed from the fact that publishing your own work, under your own domain name, through a CDN, self-hosted or a cloud provider is the best way to maintain the ownership of your work.