I'm especially appalled at how readily they lap up every trope-filled consumer app and defend the state of the internet, while the companies behind those apps hide comfortably under the garb of nice-sounding words like engagement and experience, happily counting their never-ending stacks of dollars.
How brainwashed does one have to be to trade freedom for engagement and experience? The truth is there is no place on earth more boring than the internet today. But this is not how it used to be.
Just last week, I was trying to explain my thoughts on the matter to my nephew, who thinks I'm missing out on all the fun because I'm not on Instagram, TikTok, and now Clubhouse - sigh.
In their book "A Thousand Plateaus" authors Deleuze & Guattari borrow a concept from botany called Rhizome. Rhizomes are the antithesis to arborescent tree-like structures (hierarchy & categorization). Trees are arborescent, whereas ginger is a rhizome. It has no center, top, or bottom and can grow into wildly diverging configurations.
The underlying fabric of the internet is rhizomatic too. Nonetheless, it has begun to look & feel extremely predictable and tree-like. Why? Because the way we use the internet has been hijacked, and it is in the best interests of some people to keep us on well-planned arborescent tracks.
Take virality as an example. Viral spread on a free and open distributed network like the internet is supposed to feel haphazard. But websites hardly ever go viral these days. Why? Because the underlying structures on all internet platforms are arborescent and operate in a rigid, orchestrated fashion.
Want to go viral? Sure. Just pay for it - you don't even need to be funny, different, or original. You only need a credit card.
Web search is another example. The world's biggest search engine was once about random discoveries that would lead you to unexpected places on the web. Now it is just a fancy walled garden with ads. Sadly, Wikipedia is the only name that comes to mind as a surviving example of a popular rhizomatic website.
Disorder is the essence of a rhizome. The internet was designed to be orderless, yet today, it is full of order imposed by the big names. Perhaps, this is why some of us miss the early internet so much.
While we sat and watched, the big names turned the web into a bland oligopolistic soup for profits. And as much as it may hurt watching the gen Z enjoy it, the boomers, the gen X, and the millennials are far too insignificant and powerless to do anything about it.
Will the internet ever return to its original zesty flavor then? I honestly can't tell.
To me, the sight of the big names asserting influence and control on the minds of our young is nothing less than a scary Orwellian image, which I wish was not real.
Nonetheless, I walk around with a bleak undying hope and a propensity to educate anyone who may want to know what the original DNA of the world-wide-web is like and what the internet was designed to be.