It Used to be More Fun

Not sure when it happened, and I am pretty sure that a prime minister wouldn’t be the fix, but it used to be way more fun to search the web. An adventure: you could type in something, and one thing would lead to another and you might travel all around the world learning cool stuff. Kind of like when you open the page of an encyclopedia to learn about one thing, then get intrigued by something else on the page.

Now you “google” something and everything adjusts as if the only thing you care about is the one thing you searched on. The first thing that shows up in any search is ads followed by wiki-whatever. Don’t get me wrong, I love wikipedia in many ways. It just seems like we have to work extra hard to get a broad overview of what is happening…and sometimes self-declared experts are not the best source of information.

I once made a very short facebook post: “I have decided to go to Africa” and all the ads changed to have “Africa” in them in a blink. That was a few years ago and things were a bit less sophisticated, some of the ads were obviously just plugging in a key word from the post. I can remember laughing about a couple of them and wish I had jotted them down. I think one was about African designer shoes that could be delivered next day.

My son has experienced the same thing: he teaches kindergarten aged kids and looked up an article about how they learn. He says that now all of the news articles that show up are about kids. Nothing about the economy, earthquakes, ISIS or any of the many other things going on, just things like “two year old hit by car”. It is very limiting.

It is also the opposite of how the internet used to be, and a little scary, since we seem to be leaning more and more toward getting all of our information from the internet. Living in China it is James’s main source of information.

I wonder if this does not contribute to the increased polarity that we keep hearing about: we can so easily avoid balanced and nuanced discussion and see a whole bunch of articles that encourage us to think our initial impulse is the only way to think. Why do all the work of creating consensus or compromise if you can just rationalize your opinion and call the people who don’t agree with you names?

But then who has time?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “New Internet Order.”

6 thoughts on “It Used to be More Fun”

  1. You are very right, and it had never occurred to me before that I’m missing out on so much old-skool web fun!
    As for stopping targeted pop ups and ads, the only way to stop them completely seems to be to opt out of all tracking, which then means you lose all the useful stuff your computer does, like keep you signed in to regular sites, or remember URL addresses and parts of your sign-in info. I go half-way and opt out of as much as I can before I get annoyed by having to enter and re-enter sites.


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