What He Said: The Internet Feels Like a Ghost Town


I find I have to periodically refresh my reading list. And sometimes that requires some effort to get out of my usual ruts AND find people actually worth reading.

Also...even though not everyone writes about politics, I think there is usually a lull in chatter after big elections.
I'm not getting what you're saying. You say you're "a text-centric person and the internet feels like it's moving more toward photos and video than text" and that you think "there are more people online, but they're all staying within their carefully defined niches and sharing the same content."

I'm an example-centric person, and don't understand what you're getting at unless you can give an example.

Here's one example I can contribute, that I think gets at what Ellis is saying. I've spent the last almost-seven years here on Slog and also one other primary blog. This other blog is generating far fewer comments than it used to. Sometimes Slog seems to be generating fewer, too, although that's at least in part due to Dan's partial absence for the past few months. (Dude can generate comments, no matter what opinion he expresses.) More recently, I'm sure the end of the election is part of it. But that's just anecdotal, and Slog at least seems to still have a lot of people checking in.

Social sites seems as busy as ever to me. I don't have tons of friends on FB (around 200), but if I don't check up regularly I have a LOT of posts to plow through.

I wasn't much of one for using email before social sites arose. My friends and I were more likely to call up on the phone. Email was important at times, such as when making plans, but Facebook makes it much easier to talk about nothing to everyone. I never sent a picture of a pretty sunrise or a description of what I had for breakfast to everyone (or anyone) via email, for example.
I just reread Crecy. Warren Ellis is fantastic.
I feel it too, but I believe it is the fault of a change in my online activities. I used to play MMORPGs, discuss gaming on message boards, and use IM like crazy. I don't think I've been on IM in over a year, and my gaming has ceased. So now it's just news really, and I'm getting sick of that too. (Although I recently discovered Twitter and am still amused.)
"Because I don't live on Facebook"

Yes. Right answer.

Facebook is the suburbs. Everyone moved there.

Responses to posts on Facebook went from a few to hundreds.

No one uses the internet anymore because it's too crowded.
About a year ago, most of the author/cartoonist blogs I follow stopped updating. Six months ago, I discovered that they'd all moved to tumblr, and never bothered to mention it on their home sites.
Well, since we're being anecdotal and poetic: maybe it's not the Internet. Maybe it's the world. We live on a planet that's hurtling toward unparalleled social and environmental calamity and there seems to be no hope to fix it because there's too much corruption, too much delusion and ego and too many stupid fucking assholes. We've got what, five years before global warming calamities start killing tens of millions of people a year? On top of that you've (we've) got a "leader of the free world" whose policies on surveillance, military adventurism, corporate power and lots of other things are a total fucking nightmare. And he was the GOOD candidate!

Didn't the European court just rule that the CIA is literally guilty of torture? NOT A HEALTHY SOCIETY.

And how about guns? Your country* can't ban assault rifles! Merry fucking Christmas, Portland.

There are problems. Good people are sad and tired. We all know it didn't have to be this way.

That's why the Internet seems hollow, Charlie Brown.

*I'm Canadian
I think the internet is seeing the kind of media consolidation that's happened in radio since they eased the restrictions on owning multiple stations.

We're seeing more professional sites run by a few big media companies, which draw a ton of traffic - and more content creators moving to these sites where they can earn a paycheck.
I get that feeling, but mostly on Facebook. I think it's because of the way they're tweaking the news feed, but I feel like all I ever see anymore is memes, from people or feeds I subscribe to, and that actual mundane status updates from my friends, which used to make Facebook feel like a hangout, are way down. I've been speculating that it's because I don't spend time on Google+. But when I check my friends' individual walls, often they're posting the one-line text updates that are my favorites, but Facebook just isn't including that in my news feed. Damn you, Mark Suckerberg. I meant to spell that with a Z but I think I'll leave the typo.
@7 and I have had the same experience. Many of the blogs that are still in my RSS that are dead/moribund have Tumblr equivalents that are quite active.
@9 Maybe this too. I'm seeing a lot fewer blogs, the amateur kind that were lavishly illustrated and written as somebody's hobby. Blogs seem to be either going big, by adding sponsorship/publishing books (oh, irony), or going home (shutting down to join bigger media sites).
Nothing is more irritating than clicking on an article link, and seeing nothing but an embedded video.

I want to read, not listen to someone read to me, dammit.

Regarding the main point of the post, I would guess that like all wild areas, the internet is constantly being charted and "tamed," in this sense meaning that content creators and distributers are consolidating, making it seem like there is less out there.

Kind of like if a bustling city block with many small residences was bulldozed, and in its place a few very large apartment buildings were erected, and inside are all the things people used to go out to the streets to get (food, art, conversation, etc.). Same amount of people, but they are pressed into one place giving the illusion of less activity.

Maybe, I dunno. My internet presence is essentially just streaming video, reading news, and posting on a very small number of sites. No Facebook or Twitter, so perhaps my opinion is worthless.
I stopped reading your post because there were no cat gifs.
WHAT. There are two Nick Caves and two Warren Ellises!??!?!?!

What does the other Blixa Bargeld do?
I think this is your answer:

I think it's a mix of this:


and this:


which is to say, when the Internet multiplied in size, most of the new users went to the controlled walled gardens, and content creators followed (think AOL in the early days, where ads would say "go to *URL* or AOL keyword: *WORD*". Now it's Follow Us On Twitter and Like Us On Facebook).

The "noisier" Internet you remember was the one reminiscent in Anil Dash's post, where we were all just figuring this thing out, and a greater proportion of Internet users were more proactive in their information-seeking and generating. Now giant swaths of people get their day's entertainment from Facebook and Reddit.

Also, a lot of enthusiasm for generating content just died out. There was a time when everyone had to have a blog because we were so excited to publish and be public, until we realized generating compelling content was hard, and we weren't actually that interesting. Statuses on Facebook and Twitter have made anything but short text bursts (Blogspot, Livejournal) useless. The most successful "blogging" platform is Tumblr, and it does it by being terrible at traditional blogging.

All this to say, it's not that it's quieter, just that it's more efficient at satisfying the less-curious masses :-p
@13 Yeah, I don't click on videos unless there's some text to tell me what it is. "You've got to see this. Just watch it!" isn't going to cut it anymore. Life's too short.
This whining is, I think, coming from old-school journalist types who assumed that they would just move over into the online world and continue being as scintillating as ever, and all their readers would follow them. Not the case.

If your internet diet seems leaner than before, it's because you've overgrazed, and the same old same old is boring to you now. My vote is for the "niche" explanation. The solution is not to complain, but to find new sources of interest.

Nothing lasts forever. No one site is "the internet". Things change. Slog is much less busy these days, both in the comments and in the increasingly narrow range of posts. That's not a slam at Paul; if anything, Paul's been visibly overextended, trying to do too much, in my opinion, and both his book reviewing and his general-interest or political coverage are suffering a little for it. Maybe if he posted less but posted better, he wouldn't feel so burnt out. Slog would have to fill the slack with something, though. Paul can't do it all, though it sometimes feels as if he's trying to.

And we as readers would have to fill up the slack elsewhere as well. Find some new blogs. There are loads of great writers out there, and I guarantee you haven't tapped them all. Facebook is part of the answer, and so is Tumbler, but there's still a ton of great writing out there. Go find it. Hit up a blog you like but haven't been reading very much and go down its blogroll. Start googling new subjects that interest you. Or, uh, read some books.

Only boring people are bored. That's been true since long before anybody ever heard of the internet.
I'm with @7 and @11. Your answer is: Tumblr. That's where all the crazy, chaotic, old-school blogs have gone.
@20 I only read tumblr in RSS. Maybe I'm doing it backward, but I can't stand that site.
My take:
It's called growing up - this toy (internet) is getting old. So are the kids on the playground. The color is faded from use and daylight, the ball doesn't seem to bounce as high (even if it still does), the xmas-morning shinyness is either scratched and dimmed, or seems so. You remember what toy fatgiue was like, right? New toys don't stay new forever, especially when used hard. Some people need a new toy. Most of them are finding a slightly updated/new toy in mobiles (tablets & iPhones! and yay APPS!). And those apps are, IMO, trending much more solo-play than group play. All's quiet on the digital front because we're listening to, and talking to, the voices in our heads (or earbuds).
The solo play of apps is more truthful to the nature of electronic media. Perhaps our inner lizardbrains are attracted to that honesty, not to mention masterbatory reward-cycle. All the disguises of the false-social aspects of "social" media are wearing off: the emperor/internet has no clothes: No matter how much you tweet, surf news, FB, pintrest or blog, no matter how many tweets from celebrities you read
...we're all just sitting in front of screens.
- there's nothing truly-HUMAN-INSTINCT-ively *Social* about it and the facts of the matter are sinking in, through the digital illusion. Photons/Sight (and sometimes sound) alone aren't enough to fool our highly-developed human abilities: we can't smell or touch that person we're "Facebooking" - and perhaps our body and subconscious are just tired of playing along with the BS.
Ghost town is a pretty accurate discription: You "know" that person tweeting/FBing/Pintresting (be it Barack Obama, Rachel Ray, Wil Wheaton or that girl you knew in high school but haven't seen in 15 years) no more well than you know Eleanor of Aquitane or Martin Luther King Jr or Homer: you can read or hear their works, you can follow their every move or word, you can convince yourself you know their thoughts and interests, but ultimately they could be dead and all you're listening to is the rattlings of ghosts.
We could recapture some of the early internet magic if we all made clunky html websites for ourselves ("About me," "Links," "Click to go back") like we had in 1998.
Facebook, paywalls, blog fatigue.
We're all on Twitter and most of us are sending personal IM to each other to coordinate the 3-5 party invites we get every day, the gifts for relatives, and all our travel plans.

You don't see us cause we're busy.
@23 I think you mean .plan pages. HTML came later when we needed beamtime.