Returning to a Slower Web
As a fast moving series of tubes, the World Wide Web hasn’t showed any sign of slowing down since I came online back in 1996. As a result, the Internet now moves at a pace that is widely out of step with the rhythms of my daily life.
These days, much of the Web is controlled by a small vocal and powerful few, yet it is used by the large many of us. I see the relationship between these two groups similar to that of fisherman and fish—the former dangling a new lure in front of the latter, hoping to catch a bite so they can be reeled in. The results of such an arrangement are a set of purposes and goals for the Web which are incongruent with my personal values. For the most part, the way the Web functions today is directly at odds with how I prefer to engage and communicate with others.
After years of trying to keep up, I’m tired.
I miss a simpler Web that once was. A version of the Internet that was representative of the better parts of each of us. In 2002, when I started blogging, I enjoyed the feelings which would arise when I read something penned by others who were taking the time to invest in establishing a similar creation practice online. I did not always agree with others’ views but I respected their efforts and welcomed any ongoing dialog that would result from exchanging opinions online. I want to return to enjoying the “feeling we get when we consume certain web-enabled things, be it products or content”.
Unfortunately, now it is more difficult to discover the types of people, and their creations, which evoke such feelings. With so many people involved with the online production of content for the sole purpose of making money, and given that many of the most valuable voices are drowned out by the paid advertising which is irrelevant most of the time, finding the content and opinions which generate such emotions is more of a chore than an enjoyment these days.
In his recently thoughts on an inbox of newsletters, Sameer hits on the value that RSS provided in it’s heyday for consuming, exploring, and connecting with voices online; a process which seems to be replaced by newsletters these days. While platforms and mediums to distribute and consume content may change over time, my main concern continues to be that the dominate motivation for most on the web is the creation and distribution of quantity over quality. Shifting platforms—without shifting the underlying motivation of content creation and its dissemination—simply leads to more of the same (issues) as we have now.
Somewhere in the past two decades the Internet lost it’s way. Certainly the personal Web has. Unsettled by the current state of the Internet and the lack of meaning it generates in my life, I’m looking to rebuild a version of the web that works for me which more closely aligns with the values I deem important. This may be a noble cause not worth pursuing. I’m willing to find out, one way or another.
So, here in my 25th year of publishing content online I have decided to return to a slower version of the Web that I once thoroughly enjoyed.
“We need a Slow Internet Movement along the lines of Slow Food and Slow Cinema, if we’re really going to take advantage of the archival nature of the web. It’s not just about being first and fast and superficial; it’s an opportunity to consider a spectrum of arguments and evidence.” - Roger Ebert
I’m looking to experience a slower Web—one where there’s greater friction to sharing pieces of our lives with others, friction which forces us to be more intentional in our actions, both what we choose to share and what we select to consume. When we’re fast and loose with what we share online, what we share ultimately lacks the depth. The result of such actions is that the value and impact our work could have is exchanged with short dopamine bursts for both the creator and consumer. I’m looking to be more purposeful in how I invest my time and efforts. I hope that those I share the fruits of my labours with will in turn appreciate such actions and will be as committed to the process in return. I can be hopeful, if nothing more, that there are others out there who might be looking for something more from the Internet.
I want to return to a version of the Web which places friendships before networking—a Web which recognizes that “relationships based on friendship take time to build”, much like the time is needed to transform coal into diamonds. Perhaps not the same length of time, but you likely understand what I am getting at. I want to establish and nurture relationships with a group of engaged individuals who are looking to give as much as they receive. I’m looking to rebuild one-to-one-to-one connections—the hard and intentional way—for the purpose of generating some type of shared meaning together.
My first order of business is to build, and re-build, connections with others who choose to be connected with me. As I’ve given up on most social media—finding that their content and use lacks any type of meaningful depth, that their operators do not respect their end users, and that they are no longer representative of the best of what people have to give—I find myself in search of a different, if not better, way.
Email may be that better way. If it is, I’m scared for us all.