An amazing thing happened while I was working two jobs: I stopped watching TV. Well, not entirely. But I no longer go to the TV and turn it on to mindlessly tune out. If it’s on, and someone is watching, I may watch; it becomes a social activity. I may also watch something on DVD. (Recently, this has been the Avatar TV series.)
I had always been the one who loved commercials and asked people if they had seen them. Now, someone may reference a commercial, and I have no idea what they’re talking about. This feels good.
I feel as if I’ve broken some entrapping bond. I feel freer. I still love TV, but I don’t need it as a solo time-wasting activity. When I eat, I read or I just eat, instead of watching the TV. It’s amazing. When I get my own place, I don’t think I’ll even need cable TV. (This may depend on the roommate, but I’d now even prefer not having it.)
I’ve also broken another bond. I stopped obsessively reading political blogs. I was tired of the noise (as opposed to signal). Tired of obsessing over every minor kerfuffle that didn’t matter a week later. Although I have wanted to try this out for a while, I made no conscious decision to do this. It just kind of happened. I was working two jobs and didn’t have the energy for it. Again, this feels good. There’s a lot of garbage out there, and the bloggers I was reading didn’t help me filter the information. I was just stuck on the information treadmill. Too much noise.
I still look at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, and Glenn Greenwald’s blog, but not obsessively. I like them as writers. I like what they cover, but I don’t get as sucked into everything.
This doesn’t mean that I’ll ignore everything, but if something becomes important, I’m sure it’ll filter up to me.
Along the way, I also stopped reading the New York Times. After reading Fooled by Randomness, I’m suspicious of most journalism. If you can even call it that. I suppose it’s just noise too.
I’m currently reading Say Everything (thank you Lloyd!), and I find it interesting that a lot of the early bloggers considered themselves filters. The internet, even in its infancy, had so much, and they found the good stuff.
What strikes me is how the web has evolved. The web today is the thing you use to check facebook 20 times a day. It’s an addiction machine. Pull the lever, get rewarded with variable amounts of information. In fact, facebook is a good example of how the web has evolved. Do you remember life before The Stream?
Let’s look at facebook now: My homepage is a list of constant updates. Just tiny bits of text. Maybe people will like it or comment on it. It updates in realtime.
Before that, they gave me updates, but not in realtime. I wasn’t bombarded by everybody’s posts. The algorithm wasn’t great, but facebook showed me what it thought was most relevant. Can you fucking imagine that? It filtered by importance, rather than time.
Before that, I had a profile. I had a page devoted to displaying my personality. I had my own Wall, and to communicate, people had to post on my Wall. To talk back, I had to post on their Wall. Now, we don’t have to interact with each other; our comments kiss in the Stream. If you don’t want to comment, you can “like” something. You don’t have to make any effort to fucking find me. You just have to type something in the Stream.
This is all territory I’ve been over, but I’ll stop myself before I repeat my rants. I just want you to note that facebook evolved. It changed into what it is now. Now, it’s an addiction machine. The more addicted you are, the more pageviews facebook gets, and the more revenue flows into their pockets. Before, it was a clean alternative to MySpace.
One more thing: Everyone sees everything. Everything I say has shifted from being merely public to being broadcasted to everyone. Stevie told me she always feels as if she is performing when posting something on facebook. What happened to social networking? What happened to relationships? It’s just this mix of update soup. It doesn’t even taste good; none of the ingredients are filtered.
Goddamn, I used to be excited about the web. Web 2.0 is just noise and bloat.
Luckily, the web has evolved into what it is today. That means it can evolve into something else, right?
What creates the incentives for this kind of crap that creates noise is the metric of pageviews. So, I suppose releasing myself from this metric can partially release me from the dictates of noise.
I’m partially skeptical though. To extend this analogy to the breaking point: Evolution is adaptation to an environment. Part of this environment is the human mind. We get addicted to what the web dishes out. We’ve designed something to exploit our cognitive capabilities. Perhaps there’s no way out?
I’m even tired of e-mailing. But I suppose that’s partially how I use it. I’m tired of seeing everything all mashed in there. Subscriptions. Personal e-mails. Automated backups. I can’t really find what’s important.
As much as I’ve been hating on links, they’re still fucking amazing. Which is what makes me sad about reblogging. I feel like the web loses some of its conversational quality.
Anyway, I’m losing steam with what I’m saying. I want to end on a more positive note. That the web evolved into this shit-mess it is today (I’m over-generalizing), and I think it can be better. We can change the medium. It used to be exciting, and I’m working on projects that will make me excited about it again.