Reclaiming the web

How did it happen?

How is it that when I open up my web browser I automatically open up Facebook?

And how come there’s so little there any more written by the people I know?

How come there is so little there I care about?

Once upon a time the first place I would go on opening up a web browser was my feed reader which aggregated all the blogs I read. I stopped reading it daily a while ago – I can’t even remember quite when. And I stopped reading it because it was no longer filled with things written by people I either know or people whose opinion I cared about.

Today I open Facebook and find one post actually written by someone I know cowering amongst, ten, twenty or thirty links that others have shared. Facebook is well on the way to becoming simply an aggretator of links people other than me are interested in. Although I sometimes read things there that I’m interested in and am far from ready to stop reading it yet, it is holding my attention far less than it used to.

It all feels a lot more corporate than it did. And there’s that cynicism of the internet age – corporate masquerading as your amateur friend.

How are we to reclaim the web? The interconnection between social networks and blogging is incredibly complicated. The truth is, most of my readers come from people retweeting and sharing links pointing to the blog. Do I not want those? More to the point, do I have to put up with everyone else’s links as a price for getting the internet traffic that everyone who creates online craves?

I have to admit to some sadness that quite so many people who once kept blogs have ceased to do so. Blogs are like gardens – they need constant attention or they go to seed. It is probably not that surprising that many people don’t have the patience or the staying power to keep at it. I suspect that the social networks now fulfil the need to share something. The trouble is, the somethings that keep getting shared are more often than not someone else’s somethings.

The internet is still the greatest global experiment in self-expression. Every day we should be asking what we are going to do with it – and not just for our own good but for everyone’s good.

Here’s some cranky ideas that no-one is going to take much notice of that would help in reclaiming the web.

  • Start a blog
  • Keep going on a blog
  • Go back to your blog.
  • Make one post. Then maybe another. Etc.
  • Make it a discipline to answer posts online at source. If you see a blog post then answer on that blog post. Build the conversation then and there. Don’t throw your bread upon the waters of social media.
  • Write without expecting reward. Write without expecting payment. Write without expecting followers. Write for the joy of writing.
  • Be thankful for social media pointing you to where the action actually is rather than thinking your social media stream is the action itself. It isn’t you know, really it isn’t.
  • Stop posting things that you were doing exactly a year ago today. Or two years ago. Or three.  Just stop it.
  • Whenever you post a link – say why it matters to you. Don’t just post it, improve it by a recommendation, a comment or dissent. Say something. Say anything.

I know in my heart this is useless. It feels as though I’m hankering for something that is long past. I might as well suggest we all return to writing with a quill. I am shouting into the whirlwind.

We probably need to see new networks arise where we can effect greater quality control. At the moment, the linkfest on the major networks is starting to feel really depressing. After all, if I wanted to watch random pseudo-corporate stuff streaming past my eyes I’d turn on the television.

The internet promised something more. How sad if it just becomes another dreary stream of what we can’t quite be bothered to concentrate on.

Comments

  1. Paul Hutchinson says

    Thank you for making me think in a different direction just before pausing for lunch. I have never had a blog, so came quite late to Internet social discourse, and have engaged more since joining one major network in 2010 and another in early 2014 – normally using those networks rather than a comment box such as this. Not all of us are natural creators of substantial original content, but like to be thoughtful in brief exchange, and so both those major networks, though cursed with many difficulties, serve those brief exchanges quite well. I do agree that the endless recycling of links (on both of them) can be wearying, and I do wish that some old friends would be a little more self-critical. But the price of any kind of social discourse is that one is vulnerable to the otherness of the other.
    I feel I ought to be writing a more substantial comment here, but hope that this is enough. The time is not always there to offer deeper reflection: but sometimes a blogger needs to hear at least a small splash from the stone thrown down the well!

    • Thanks for the comment, Paul. I’m aware that not everyone is a content creator, but perhaps what I miss is the sense of discovering different communities online and keeping the comments more or less in one place helps with that.

      The glory days of 50 or more comments on a post are probably over. I suspect I mourn the sense of community being created even more than I miss the interesting reflections of others. Retweets and shares are always welcome – but they are the means of amplification. Becoming loud isn’t the same as becoming wise, nor the same as becoming connected.

  2. It’s a damnable shame—and mostly the fault of Facebook. Twitter at least has an etiquette of sorts, wherein it is considered impolite not to respond to the original tweet, which is usually made by the blogger in question.

    Facebook, in short, is the scourge of the Internet. I have often been in groups which have decided to do all of their organizing on Facebook, despite my protests that I’m not on Facebook and don’t want to be, and really an e-mail list would be just as easy, and would they like me to set one up. This inevitably leads to my marginalization within the group, as no-one bothers to keep me abreast of the discussions to which I am not party.

    Can you tell I’m upset about this?

  3. Daniel Lamont says

    I am only an occasional user of Facebook but I know what you mean, Kelvin. And indeed, I never read the comments ‘below the line’ on newspapers like ‘The Guardian’. You offer some useful advice. I read yours and one or two other blogs on a regular basis but don’t always comment. However, I can see that the author of a blog would like some feedback. I would be sad not to have the blogs that I do read because they do give me a sense of what people are thinking and an odd sense of community.

  4. Father Ron Smith says

    My own contribution to the blogopshere is, I’m afraid, Father Kelvin, limited to comments I make on other people’s blogs (such as ‘Thinking Anglicans’ and ‘Anglican Down Under’ – a local NZ forum; plus my own blog ‘kiwianglo’, where i pluck articles that interest me personally from the web and provide my own commentary. This still interests me, personally, and provides my few readers with information they might not otherwise be bothered to glean for themselves. Like you, I am no longer an avid Facebook fan.

  5. Hi Kelvin – thoughtful as ever – and yours is invariably the first blog I turn to each day. That you bring pressing issues to a wider audience and to people who know, or used to know, the church you serve is a great thing. I’m still blogging relatively strongly, but it’s certainly a different blogging experience when work is set in a very different context and especially community from previously, writing these days mainly for myself about things that interest me, although not quite at the address you have in your Blog Roll. http://www.limpingtowardsthesunrise.com is where it’s “all” happening.

    • Thanks David – nice to hear from you. I’ve amended the link.

      I don’t think many people use blogrolls to find blogs these days but whenever I remove it my mother complains…

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