The Internet is Boring
As I'm poking around the internet looking for things to learn about or write about, I came across this interview on The Atlantic Live. The guest is Choire Sicha, a guy that's far more interesting and has been involved with projects that are far more engaging than this interview suggests, and he's talking about the state of the internet. The interview got me thinking about a few things.
1. Email is Dead?
I've talked before about the idea of email marketing being dead (Don't worry; it's not. It's better than ever), but Sicha talks about email as a communication form between colleagues, family, and friends slowly dying. He states that there is "more and more email, but there's less and less friends, it's less and less personal."
What do you think? I used to write long emails to my mom, but that was when I lived far away and when phone companies charged by the minute for long-distance. I, personally, do business primarily on the web and 99% of that communication is via email. Plus, my husband's iPhone irritates us all during dinner and around 4:00 a.m. with persistent email notifications so I'm thinking email in the office is still a go.
As far as personal communication, I still get a bunch of stuff from friends and family, but it's usually in the form of an evite, a forwarded document or something for me to look at, or something from my dad. Now that I think about it, there's only one friend I communicate with primarily through email and I'm not sure why we don't just text or call. I might have to agree with him that email, along with the handwritten letter, is not front-and-center in the personal communication realm anymore.
I think email has evolved over the years and remains a really, really useful communication tool. I absolutely love it as a customer. I love getting coupons and sales pitches in my email, especially when they're well crafted and targeted. I don't suffer the illusion that someone wrote it for me, but I do like when something comes in that I might be interested in or a coupon shows up for a place that I frequent. I also love it as a marketer as crafting these offers for others to enjoy is equally rewarding.
2. Are Internet Readers Lazy and Passive?
Sicha makes the comment that "people are coming to news and entertainment content by lazy phone clicking. So we're bored, we're looking at our phones. We're lonely, we're looking at our phones... so news consumption is actually really passive."
I definitely consume content like this, especially while waiting. Waiting in the doc's office, waiting for a kid to get out of school, waiting for the water to boil, waiting on hold. However, it's not the only time I'm on the web and looking for things to read and learn about. Why just a short time ago I was actively looking for something interesting to read while sitting at my laptop.
I think there are plenty of internet readers that are lazy and passive, but it's kind of crappy to make the statement that internet readers at large are lazy and passive. Lots of us find ourselves sucked into a succession of Buzzfeed articles and Tasty videos while waiting in line at the DMV, but most of us still actively seek out things that are interesting and relevant to what we're doing either personally or professionally.
3. All New Things Go to the Young
When asked how his website, The Awl, tries to expand its reach and seeks to engage with an audience, Sicha says, "I feel like I have aged out of this a little bit, which is weird. All new things go to the young, which is true and not true."
This statement seems kind of sad. Like all the shiny and exciting things should be designed with the twenty-something crowd in mind and that the rest of us are irrelevant. While pop culture typically hangs out with that demographic, there's still a lot of people that like new things and are capable of "handling" new technology and new ways of thinking about things.
I don't know that Sicha was making a blanket statement like that, but it seems that I frequently encounter people that have the idea that "this internet stuff" and the social media explosion that's going along with it is for the young and I'd have to disagree with that. No, you probably won't find me on Tik-Tok, but my data usage on other apps will probably give you a run for your money.
4. Be Mindful
The overall tone of the interview was one of boredom with the internet and boredom with the people that seem to populate the internet. The thing is, it only seems that way. Much like watching one of those news magazine shows can make you think that these reality-tv people are actually important and that most people have no interest in the real things happening in the world. It's just good production, well-crafted hype, and the fact that you can be sucked into those 30 deplorable minutes is a testament only to the producers and their ability to manipulate people's perceptions and their ability to pick up viral pop culture and spread it.
The internet is the same way. Just because all of the "popular" sites are spreading viral content and useless pop culture, and just because the loudest and fastest users are sucking it all in and spitting it back out at their digital connections doesn't make it the most relevant, most important content on the web. It's just the most visible.
The web is still soaked with great things to look at; you just have to stop looking for it in the obvious places. To his credit, the bored subject of the interview has been presenting great things from around the internet for several years on a website he co-founded. It gives us art, science, important news, and some good commentary. There are swear words in it so you won't be confused into thinking it is a "business" site, but an incredible amount of insight from time to time so you won't be confused into thinking it's just a bunch of B.S. either.
The Moral of the Story Is…
Just like anywhere that has a lot of people in it, it can be easy to become disillusioned with the internet. There's just so much trash around here that you can mistake it for a garbage dump. The truth is, however, that there are great people all over the web that have cool, interesting, important, or relevant things to show you. There are businesses that are looking for customers in a respectful and honest way — after all, everyone needs stuff and everyone has to make a living. There are people over the age of 29 that love this crazy, viral, hyped-up internet space and people under the age of 29 that are brilliant, serious, and engaging that deserve to be thought of better.
Know who you're talking to and know who you are listening to. Know who you are and what you want to say. Never lose that focus and the web will be good to you. Your personal relationships will remain intact and you can ignore all of those ridiculous articles about putting down your phone, and your business relationships will soar while you separate yourself from all of the pop-ups and blinking banners and tricky SEO techniques that only irritate real people.