Monday, February 26, 2024

The "enjunkification" of our online lives

I want to pass on two articles I've poured over several times, that describe the increasing "complexification" or "enjunkification" of our online lives. The first is "The Year Millennials Aged Out of the Internet" by Millenial writer Max Reed. Here are some clips from the article. 

Something is changing about the internet, and I am not the only person to have noticed. Everywhere I turned online this year, someone was mourning: Amazon is “making itself worse” (as New York magazine moaned); Google Search is a “bloated and overmonetized” tragedy (as The Atlantic lamented); “social media is doomed to die,” (as the tech news website The Verge proclaimed); even TikTok is becoming enjunkified (to bowdlerize an inventive coinage of the sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow, republished in Wired). But the main complaint I have heard was put best, and most bluntly, in The New Yorker: “The Internet Isn’t Fun Anymore.”

The heaviest users and most engaged American audience on the internet are no longer millennials but our successors in Generation Z. If the internet is no longer fun for millennials, it may simply be because it’s not our internet anymore. It belongs to zoomers now...zoomers, and the adolescents in Generation Alpha nipping at their generational heels, still seem to be having plenty of fun online. Even if I find it all inscrutable and a bit irritating, the creative expression and exuberant sociality that made the internet so fun to me a decade ago are booming among 20-somethings on TikTok, Instagram, Discord, Twitch and even X.

...even if you’re jealous of zoomers and their Discord chats and TikTok memes, consider that the combined inevitability of enjunkification and cognitive decline means that their internet will die, too, and Generation Alpha will have its own era of inscrutable memes and alienating influencers. And then the zoomers can join millennials in feeling what boomers have felt for decades: annoyed and uncomfortable at the computer.

The second article I mention is Jon Caramanica's:  "Have We Reached the End of TikTok’s Infinite Scroll?" Again, a few clips:

The app once offered seemingly endless chances to be charmed by music, dances, personalities and products. But in only a few short years, its promise of kismet is evaporating...increasingly in recent months, scrolling the feed has come to resemble fumbling in the junk drawer: navigating a collection of abandoned desires, who-put-that-here fluff and things that take up awkward space in a way that blocks access to what you’re actually looking for.
This has happened before, of course — the moment when Twitter turned from good-faith salon to sinister outrage derby, or when Instagram, and its army of influencers, learned to homogenize joy and beauty...the malaise that has begun to suffuse TikTok feels systemic, market-driven and also potentially existential, suggesting the end of a flourishing era and the precipice of a wasteland period.
It’s an unfortunate result of the confluence of a few crucial factors. Most glaring is the arrival of TikTok’s shopping platform, which has turned even small creators into spokespeople and the for-you page of recommendations into an unruly bazaar...The effect of seeing all of these quasi-ads — QVC in your pocket — is soul-deadening...The speed and volume of the shift has been startling. Over time, Instagram became glutted with sponsored content and buy links, but its shopping interface never derailed the overall experience of the app. TikTok Shop has done that in just a few months, spoiling a tremendous amount of good will in the process.



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