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.