I recently read Hossein Derakhshan’s post on Medium, “The Web We Have to Save“, and had several thoughts about his timely article. Derakhshan focuses on how blogging and the internet has changed since 2008. He makes several points that are relevant to anyone that is sharing content on the internet as well as those consuming media from the web.
How the “Publisher” is impacted
Avenues that worked successfully in the past (blogs and websites) appear to be loosing their effectiveness as more time is spent by the audience on social networks. Derakhshan uses a phrase that is very descriptive – “cul de sacs of social media”.
“Lots of people start their daily online routine in these cul de sacs of social media, and their journeys end there.”
It limits creativity
Social media networks are very effective at retaining their users, because it’s in their interest to do so. The problem for independents, whether they be bloggers, photographers, musicians, etc is that fewer and fewer minutes are being spent discovering other parts of the internet outside these networks. Creatives have to participate in these social media worlds to get the exposure they seek. So what’s the big deal? These people by their very nature are wired to express themselves. There is no place better to do this than their own personal website or blog where they have total control over the look and feel of every aspect of the presentation. Social media has its on set of rules and standards. And while that is nothing new (think WSJ and NYTimes print format), it is still a shift from a highly personalized and custom experience to a more sterile, monotone one.
It limits sharing
One of the wonderful things about blogging is that it creates a gateway to discovery through hyperlinks. Derakhshan goes into this in some detail:
“The hyperlink was my currency six years ago. Stemming from the idea of the hypertext, the hyperlink provided a diversity and decentralisation that the real world lacked. The hyperlink represented the open, interconnected spirit of the world wide web — a vision that started with its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee. The hyperlink was a way to abandon centralization — all the links, lines and hierarchies — and replace them with something more distributed, a system of nodes and networks.
Blogs gave form to that spirit of decentralization: They were windows into lives you’d rarely know much about; bridges that connected different lives to each other and thereby changed them. Blogs were cafes where people exchanged diverse ideas on any and every topic you could possibly be interested in.”
On this point I could not agree more. The amazing thing about the web is where it can take you. I have learned so much by following hyperlinks that have been carefully curated by authors, so as to enhance the readers experience as opposed to distract from it (I’m looking at you, clickbait). Again, it is not in a social network’s interest to have you off roaming the wild west of the internet.
How the “Consumer” is impacted
It limits exposure
Consumers face a problem of being shown only what they want to see – even if they don’t know it. “Like” something and the network will show you more of it – until you only see what you want or think you want. This algorithmic filtration shrinks our world and ultimately stunts growth. Its like never traveling out of your home town, or off your own city block for that matter.
It limits choice
If the world wide web represents the universe of choice, what does one social network represent? Who knows? But definitely a mere fraction of the whole.
Having been around long enough to witness the same evolution Derakhshan has, I can’t help but share his sentiment about a simpler, more engaging time:
“I miss when people took time to be exposed to different opinions, and bothered to read more than a paragraph or 140 characters. I miss the days when I could write something on my own blog, publish on my own domain, without taking an equal time to promote it on numerous social networks; when nobody cared about likes and reshares.
That’s the web I remember… That’s the web we have to save.”