A good friend of mine has been talking about “leaving the Internet.” What he means by that is this: leaving Facebook. I can see where he’s coming from. Using the site as a promotional tool has become increasingly difficult for a number of reasons, with perhaps the weirdest being this new “Promoted Posts” phenomenon. The idea, technically speaking (and believe me, I write software for a living so I know what I’m talking about) is that Mark Zuckerberg is crapping his pants in the post-IPO era and has begun to wildly flail away in the effort to bring in more revenue.
The details of the promoted post are available in numerous places, but the writing is on the wall: supposed “free” Internet sites are not to be trusted. Do you hear that Facebook share holders? Think about where you’ve put your money because the foundation of that house of cards is more than a little shaky.
My friend’s (quite valid) issues with Facebook made me think about communications in the modern world, and how we’ve made tremendous strides while at the same time managing to lose a little something. Yes, there have been many electronic versions of the message subscription service, beginning with ListServs in the mid-1980s and expanding to today’s Facebook’s fan pages. All of this is very powerful stuff. A missive is composed and with a single mouse click the information is routed to many recipients. Amazing.
It’s all so easy, but it’s also very ephemeral. People are so used to this kind of thing that they’ve begun to “ignore” it, with important fragments lost in the digital sea. A few years (or even just months) from now and the day’s interactions will be gone, remembered by nobody. The past becomes a mirage.
Is this just alarmist rhetoric? Well…while reading my friend’s Internet exit strategy, I happened to have rested a cup of tea on the arm of our sofa, with the cup sitting atop a book recently pulled from the shelf. After finishing the tea, I opened to book to re-discover the inscription:
Hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. Before you read it though, I should warn you that you’ll have to quit your job when you’ve done with it! Happy Reading!
I’d received this book from a dear friend back in 1992. It’s this kind of history that, if we’re not careful, will be lost in the fully digital world.
My friend who is considering replacing the Internet with a good old-fashioned postal mailing — announcements on paper, envelopes, stamps, sealing wax (Not really. I just added that because I used to love sealing wax) — does have a point. He wants people to be more involved in his work. You might think that a high level of involvement would be easy in this new digital world, but I’m not sure that that story has been completed.
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