Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Thirty Years Of The Internet

Yesterday the Internet turned thirty years old. In those thirty years the Internet has changed a lot.

I started exploring the web back in the '90s.  Back before the Internet was a visual medium with pictures and video.  There wasn't much out there.  Many pages were lists of links compiled by humans.  Those links were either academic or just plain weird pages coded by amateurs.  The net felt like a creative version of the wild west.

When Mosaic and Netscape took over the tubes took off with graphics and videos.  Soon the net started attracting commercial businesses.  I was excited when I saw my first commercial with an internet address list.  I am easily excited.

Blogs appeared fairly early on allowing 'ordinary' people to spill their guts, show off their children, and document their lives.  I began blogging seriously in 2006.  I started Homer's Travels as a way to let our families know what the Wife and I were doing.

Blogs soon connected me to the world.  Over the years I met people through my blog.  It started with Phil who writes Wild Rye.  He left a comment on a post of mine and started following me.  I took the second move when I came across a hiking post when I was researching the Sandstone Peak, Mishe Mokwa, and Tri-Peaks trail.  I came across a write up on GeekHiker's blog and, inspired by Phil, left a comment thanking him for his post.  GeekHiker started following my posts.  One day, while bored at work, I went through GeekHiker's blogroll (his list of interesting blogs).  This led me to Just A Girl's 'Angsty' blog, Miss McCracken's 'Silly With Heart' blog, and Dobegil's 'You Did What?' blog.  Before I knew it a small family had formed as we read each other's writing and left comments.

Over time I met in the real world, first GeekHiker and Just A Girl, and then Dobegil.   (I have yet to meet Miss McCracken - that will have to change someday.)

Eventually My blog friends slowed and stopped updating their blogs.  Our lives are not constant.  Things change over time to the better, to the worse, or simply to the different.  The lives of my blog friends have all changed in one way or another.  GeekHiker quit his job, traveled the country and the world for a year before settling in a new area of California, getting a new job, and getting married.  Miss McCracken quit her job as well and is working towards becoming an illustrator for children's books.  Just A Girl met her "Boy", became less Angsty, and has now become Just A Mom.  Dobegil, battling health issues, is supported by her faith.

I know what happened.  It happened to me too.   My life changed with the move  to Omaha and my two Caminos.  But the real reason blogs are no longer being updated: We all discovered social media - i.e. Facebook and similar sites.

Facebook (and Twitter is some cases) became a replacement for blogging.  It was just easier to spread information to our family and friends as they were all there. The didn't all have to visit your blog.  At the same time, social media, in my case anyway, discouraged long form writing.  Most Facebook posts are limited to a paragraph or two.  Often, when someone writes more than a paragraph they feel the need to warn people and apologize for the length of their post.  Twitter is even more overt by limiting posts to two hundred and forty characters.

Over the last decade or so blogging has been slowly fading.  I used to randomly wander through Blogs to get ideas for Homer's Travels.  Over time I started noticing something.  Many of the bloggers, after faithfully blogging for a year, two, or three, would start to slow down or even stop.  Often abruptly.  Many times there was no warning.  Often the last post said they would be more diligent at posting and then ... nothing.  The decline I saw occurred sometime between 2008 and 2010.  Something happened these years.  That's when it seems most people would either slow down their posting dramatically or stop all together.  That's also when Facebook adoption approached an inflection point.



So it appears that Facebook may have been the culprit.  Long form blogging has been replaced with short snippets of random thoughts.  I miss the longer posts.  I looked forward to sitting down and exploring the thoughts of my friends.  Taking a long look at their lives.  Now, while we share more than ever, all we show are glimpses.  Tiny little peeks that only scratch the surface of what we are really thinking.  In my opinion, social media ruined the Internet turning it into a homogenous world with limited creativity and rebellion.

I have succumbed to this trend as well.  Little posts I would have written up for Homer's Travels now find there way to Twitter or Facebook instead.  I have tried to steer a middle course.  I post links to my Homer's Travels posts to Facebook and Twitter.  People can click through if they wish more than short little blurbs or interesting links that I have shared.  I have tried.

I've posted about this same subject before over six years ago ("More than One Hundred Forty Characters").  Things have not improved much.  I have moved away from Facebook a bit only linking to Homer's Travel's posts and occasionally liking family and friend posts. The short form is so enticing, so easy, but I miss the long form of writing I used to enjoy.  They say the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Maybe, if I stick with it long enough, long form writing will come back into style and the Internet will once again become the wild west of creativity.

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