Thursday, September 07, 2017

Feed and History

Modern communication platforms are all about the there and now.

Reading on the internet these days is to browse through the latest.  The past is uninteresting, and it is invisible.

Modern platforms like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and online news sites make it difficult and cumbersome to read anything but what is happening today.  Updates happen, and then slide down and vanish into nothingness.  The latest is what matters.  Who wants to scroll down?

When we talk about attention deficit in modern societies, we must also ponder about how technology is dictating our interests and interactions.  The "feed" is interesting because it is new, and there is always more of this new.  Who will read a book or study something in depth when there is a barrage of newness always on tap?

The "notifications" are all about what happened recently, within the last hour or day.  There is so much coming in the "feed".  There is always something new to check.  When the new is so far unread, the old remains unreadable.  Who has the time or mental space to read old emails, old updates, old articles?  Are those old emails and articles still relevant?  If they contain reflections and insights and cherished memories, they would stand the test of time.  But modern platforms are about the latest trivia, the latest events and the latest reactions to those events.  A reflection on an idea requires, and is helped by, context, but an event or a personal detail can be entertaining without any mental movement in time.

Internet is junk food for the brain.

Entertainment and a quick satisfaction of knowing something new is what is driving human interaction today.  Because the newness dictates a pattern of behavior: clicking on an app or a website again and again to check what's new.  This behavior is good news for the providers of these internet platforms, who make their money by making it tempting for you to visit their estate, stay for a few seconds or a few minutes, and then go away, bored, and then come again.  The more times you come, the more ads they can print for your eyes.

If you stay on an article or an essay for an hour, that time does not generate any new revenue for the platform.  It is in their interest to have you keep clicking like a monkey, and not ponder like a human being.

Facebook posts longer than a few sentences require an extra click on "More" to read.  It is impossible to filter your FB feed for original content instead of external links, and for long content.  Twitter is meant only to offer short bursts.  Newer platforms like Snapchat are explicitly designed to expire messages older than an hour.  It is all about how many times you come to that platform, and not how long you stay.  The design of internet markup is to offer you, via hyperlinks, an opportunity in every other sentence to jump to something else.  Staying, linear and in-depth comprehension and reflection is passe.

Movement, and not stillness, is the paradigm of the internet.

Reading a book or a long essay on paper is fundamentally different from reading something online.  Though you can shuffle pages, you are physically restricted from effortlessly jumping from one content to another.  You have to put down this book, and pick up another.

This fascination and addiction to the latest trivia is the hallmark of how most people are using the internet.  Who will read a book when the payoff and insight is far away, and the gratification of seeing something new on the social platforms is instant.

The book is you interacting with an idea.  Internet is about you navigating other personas.  While on the internet, you may be up-to-date with what someone did or what their reaction is to something that happened today, a book, even if fiction, is about you taking a deep dive into an idea or a personality.

We are moving away from a sense of history, to a constant immersion in the present.  The latest is important, all else is out of date.  This is good news for the elites, as a stupefied, satiated, scrambling population is always a compliant one.  You cannot expect a rebellion or a revolution from those who are refreshing their twitter feed and checking for likes.

To repeat, the platforms are designed for ad-revenue.  What they do to you, and what you become as you spend most of your day on these platforms, is not their concern.  They say it is up to you how you use the internet, but as more and more the internet is these platforms, the design of these platforms is dictatorial about how your mind should work.  Once your mind is hooked on this heroin of little rushes and quick fixes, you and the platform become one.

The shallow pools of the internet are numerous, but a shallow pool can only hold little creatures and can only reflect a little of the sky.  The ocean of life is being barricaded with this minefield of shallow potholes.  It is entirely possible these days for a reflective individual to start walking to the ocean, and never make it.  He doesn't get swallowed by the shallow pools, and he thereby retains an illusion of selfhood, but he also never gets anywhere.  As he wanders from one shallow pool to another, he might think he is progressing toward the ocean, but he will never reach it.  The shallow pools are numerous, easy to get in and get out of, and safe.  There is no risk in shallowness.

The danger is of course, that you would have never started your journey to the other shore.

No comments: