Friday, November 18, 2011

Is this the Internet we wanted?

Back in the early days of the Internet (okay, I'm talking about my early days with the Internet, the mid-90s) all I heard was talk about keeping it open and free of commercials and free of regulations.  Threats to the openness and the general freedom it afforded were (and still are)  still challenged by concerned individuals.

But the Internet has evolved into something no one expected.  Back when all you had were web sites, the Internet was a patchwork of places.  Some sites let you buy things, some gave you information, and some were trash exposing views or content best ignored.

Then people began blogging.  Blogging changes the playing field because suddenly instead of straight facts on a web site, you've opinions to which people react.  Next come YouTube, which is like blogging with video.  The TV show, American's Funniest Videos works on the same premise as YouTube, sharing videos.  But YouTube is broader and more encompassing.

Finally social media arrived and we were blessed (?) with Facebook and Twitter.  Suddenly we had critical mass because by contenting Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and web site, the Internet becomes a very different place.  Now we have technology that is designed to let people connect with other people.  And that's great if they want the connection.  But what if they don't?  Is it an invasion of privacy?  Do we risk being out of the loop if you don't use the technology we have available to us?  It is a little like not having cable in 1985 and not knowing what MTV is.

And yet using the technology opens us up to all kinds of things both good and bad.  Is it worth it?

For myself I know my only reason for connecting with people like I'm running for public office (aside from just wanting to make more friends) is to gather an audience for the books I am writing.  If I were more obnoxious, I would use these technologies to sell my products to you.  But I'm not and I've not got many ready to sell.  So I've not bothered; but others do.

Social media has turned many of us into cottage industries and has turned the Internet into a huge marketplace where everyone is selling something to everyone else.  That wasn't the goal.  And perhaps this is the real reason I've not been more forceful selling my books.  I have information about the books posted in various places.  There are free samples of the book available.  Whether you purchase it is left you to decide for yourself.  I am only making the information available.

I think that's the best use of the technology.  Perhaps I'm doing myself a disservice but I don't believe that just because I can do a thing I should do it.  I think we need to step back and ask how do these technologies enrich us.  What do I want to use Twitter or Facebook for?  Otherwise, we are just mindless chattel being swept away with whatever new thing comes next.

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