I love the internet. Despite working in digital for the best part of a decade I still feel excited every day by this most challenging and diverse of mediums. Am I a geek? A little bit, yes. But mostly it isn't the tech that thrills me but the connection.
The idea that anyone, anywhere can change the world, that every cat can dream of global superstardom if he just meows to Eminem long enough, is the modern miracle that I, old enough to remember a world without digital and young enough to find it easy to absorb, never wants to take for granted.
image courtesy of shutterstock
So it worries me that I am definitely showing signs of 'meh' syndrome. I still love the net; it's the crap that gets put on it that is bogging me down. In the same way that a wife will inevitably get jaded by the husband she loves if bloated with his own self-importance, he starts shouting at her and neglects her needs. This web-spouse is thinking of calling relate for advice on how best to tell the mainstream media she once professed to adore that she doesn't find it attractive any more.
My professional days are spent being assaulted by hyped-up headlines (usually over punctuated and with at least one CAPITALISED word) aimed at my click, with no regard for my concentration. I would estimate that 90% of the articles filling my multitude of timelines are all filler and little fact. My internal 'bs' filters have called in the unions and are threatening a three day walkout if I don't at least give them time to pee.
The digital revolution has meant massive change for all industries in order to allow for a medium that moves fast. Nowhere is this truer than in the media. As Google prioritises content, and brands prioritise clicks for its ad spend, news outlets have had to become adept at creating content that consumers want to read at speeds that Fleet Street of old would have considered inhuman.
Randi Zuckerberg's 2013 book, Dot Complicated, states that in 2012 there were more pieces of content in the world then grains of sand. 'Zucks Law' suggests that the amount of information we share with the world doubles every two years and if what she wrote is to be believed, by the time you have read this article another 200 pieces of content will have been uploaded and shared. That is a hell of a lot of 'news'- almost beyond the limits of my comprehension. It is inevitable therefore that a certain loss of quality may be inevitable, but a complete lack of editorial credibility? I am not sure that is what Google had in mind.
Never was this more in evidence then when the Solange and Jay Z story broke. Their video of a fight in a lift nearly crashed the internet and believe me I get why. I too watched more than once, trying to work out what was going on. It is human nature. The Carters created an illusion of perfection and it stands to reason we would be vicariously fascinated to see that the reality falls far short of the myth.
But that doesn't explain why three days later, once respected publications were posting complete and utter crap from non-existent 'sources' saying, well, nothing at all actually. Pixel after pixel devoted to Bey, Jay and So..erm...lait (?)*still* saying nothing, body language experts saying less and the insights of a women who once broke a nail after seeing a dress designed by Rachel Roy.
Editors seemingly fell over themselves to find relevant comment in a world where the protagonists themselves stayed determinedly absolutely silent on the subject. Until they didn't, when they still refused to explain themselves, merely offering the world a very nice version of 'mind your own business'.
Did that stop the feeding frenzy? No. And through it all we tweeted, 'memed' and blogged at every stage and twist, seemingly adamant that we too could be included in this most public of falls from grace.
It saddens me that there was no discerning between the trash-mags and tabloids and the more educated glossies and red tops in this 'grab the click quick' approach to content. It saddens me more that the only reason otherwise savvy outlets would decide to take on morally redundant gossip rags for 'most pointless crap non-story ever' is because their research will have shown that we read it and they have to compete for clicks to make the money needed to keep the far less drivel driven print editions alive.
Which brings me to my final question - why the hell are we reading this tripe?
I love a good 'sleb done bad story as much as the next girl, I enjoy well written, funny and interesting lifestyle content and I never could scroll past a kitten and lightsabre video but I worked out that if I waste my digital time on bad content ten times a day (which I do with ease) I lose up to 40 minutes.
Over a lifetime that equates to 18200 hours, or 758 days or 2 years and 1 month on completely mindless rubbish, existing only to make a faceless brand money. I ask you, are the Kardashian's fluctuating backsides worth that much of your life?
Perhaps Google could invent a button that meant that if the content a brand put out was regularly awful we could just turn that magazine off on every single social platform and search result, until they proved to us that they were sorry. Like unsubscribe but everywhere - detention for misbehaving media brands.
It isn't just them though, it's us. We need to acknowledge that amazing the digital world undoubtedly is, but without us it is nothing. Reading the literary equivalent of a deep fried mars bar on a regular basis offers only one future. A digital world with nothing but z-list celebs sharing their real-life stories (aggressive siblings may be included). Ponder on that before you click again.