The Internet Is Broken
This was first posted on my website back on May 31, 2022, and I've added some new thoughts.
Anyone else noticed that today’s WWW is insufferable? I don’t specifically know when it turned, or why most users became jerks, but I’ll go ahead and guess about 2010. Making money off of content became more important than the content itself. This is a long post, but in short, the best way to fix it is to write good stuff and to be nice to other people. As the WWW was intended.
In the past, enjoyed content-rich websites created by people from all walks of life. They built and hosted their websites and networked with others to share their stuff, and it worked. Internet = interconnected. We learned from others, and we benefitted from other’s unique knowledge. Nowadays, there are advertisements everywhere, clickbait headlines as well as the tracking and selling of your private data and browsing habits. Where did all that good stuff go? To Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. etc.
Content creators, webmasters, and anyone with a hobby blog generally gave up and went the easy route of 180 character tweets and generic posts about what they ate and where on Facebook. Boring. People used to write, or photograph, or paint stuff that others would want to read. People used to write blogs, whether they were read or not, no one knew. Aficionados of every imaginable topic would research and post their findings for all to see.
When the tech conglomerates started to gather and consolidate web properties, the content was squeezed out. These platforms were nicknamed Web 2.0 as if version 1 needed upgrading. Version 2 was not an upgrade in my mind, in fact, it made the internet worse. Ad-driven content became a thing. You had to pay to play. The more eyeballs and attention on your stuff can be monetized to the widest possible audience. The internet became deceptive and, oddly, less social. Users became mean and divisive because now there was perceived competition.
It is almost impossible to find good content on the WWW now. Type a topic of interest on a conglomerate-ran browser, and you’ll have to sort through at least two pages of the search to get to anything that isn’t ad-driven and would be relevant to your search. When you do come across an interesting link, you are bombarded with sneaky and not so sneaky tactics to get your attention and your data. Web windows will pop up blocking the content, asking you to submit your personal info and subscribe. Pleas to purchase something that is offered. Advertisements litter the site with most, overwhelming the content you want to see. “Like me on Facebook”, Comment! Subscribe! Retweet! That is just what we see, but goes unseen is the amount of personal data that is collected and distributed to the tech conglomerates. Did you do a search on a medical symptom? Well now, the next website you visit will have a pop-up advertisement on a specific cream to help remedy that. It’s disgusting, invasive, and intolerable.
Where are people writing now instead of their own homegrown webpage? Social media. If you write on Facebook or post images to Instagram, the only people who can see it our the users on the platform. Have a business and your “website” is only a Facebook business page? Half of your potential customers cannot see it unless they are a Facebook user. No, thanks. Instead, people are writing out their limited thoughts on a limited platform that does nothing to further a conversation. That is, if you can actually see it on the FB platform. Facebook’s algorithm guarantees your content will be buried in favor of something they claim is more interesting (read that as attention-getting and therefore more potential ad revenue for them.)
I won’t continue on about how the political and social media outlets combined are divisive and spiteful. I stopped both after the 2016 election, and I am blissfully ignorant. All this wasted time, effort, content, and energy spent on these proprietary platforms do nothing for the individual except to make themselves money.
So, what’s the fix?
Create your own website. There are a few free (with ads) hosting options as a start. Or you can use WordPress on your own hosted site. Web hosting and your own domain name will make it yours and on the cheap.
Network. Reach out to other like-minded people and build each other up. If you must use social media, put your content on your site first, then distribute to those outlets. Add a link back to your website and point potential followers there instead. We call it POSSE: “Post On Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.”
Send the website owner an encouraging email.
Comment on a post of theirs.
Subscribe to their RSS feed and don’t miss a thing.
Use ad-blockers, browsers that promote privacy and mean it, and a VPN.
One of the pillars of the internet , next to e-mail, is the personal, humble blog. This is defined as the social internet, not social media. Creators, writers, photographers, video hosts, and podcasters all need to put their works on a site that they own and fully control as opposed to posting on restrictive social media outlets. These personal websites will then generate what is called a feed for syndicating their works out to the internet (RSS or Really Simple Syndication). That is step one.
Step two is reminding their followers, their fans and their audience to embrace RSS aggregators, or feed readers so they can continue to enjoy the creator’s content. Sounds simple, yeah?
These RSS readers pull the website owner/creator’s latest articles into an easily readable format that the individual controls. Think of it as a podcatcher...but for reading! Not some algorithms that are driven by social media control or advertising. RSS has no advertising unless the creator mentions their sponsors, that is. You are in charge of what you want to read, who you want to read it from and to save it later for reference- or discard. You are in charge of your intake.
Start by adding sources you know and trust. A source is a place where information comes from. When you add sources to your feed reader, you’ll be able to monitor them all in one place. By sources, I don’t just mean news sites. Sources can include:
Subscribe to the RSS feed of any source or publication. Get new posts from industry thought leaders, medium authors, or personal interest blogs like this one.
Follow everything from major industry publications to niche magazines.
Follow major news publications or local news sources.
Keep up with the newest literature in your area of study.
Pull content from Twitter accounts, hashtags, Lists, and searches into your feed reader. No ads!
Get email newsletters delivered to your reader so you can declutter your e-mail inbox and read without distractions.
Get posts from subreddits and searches in your feeds.
Subscribe to YouTube channels or playlists and get new videos in your feeds. No Ads!
Follow podcasts and never miss out on new episodes of your favorite programs.
Which feed reader should you use?
Start simple and free- try Feedly ( no, this is not a paid endorsement) In fact, I started to use Feedly a long time ago but opted for a cleaner, more personal aggregate called Reeder and FeedBin. These are one time purchases for me. Feedly has iOS, Android and web apps so you can access your feeds. Your news, your way.
It is way past time to delete your social media accounts and rejoin the social internet, like we used to do. The World Wide Web is a much better place and it starts with all of us taking control of our websites and consuming them our way.
And of course I would appreciate being one of the first web sources you add to your new RSS feed reader. When you do, drop me an email to let me know. It is the social internet after all. If you have a website, I’d be happy to subscribe to it in my feed too.
Finally, make good content to share for anyone who may take an interest and be nice to others.