a love letter to the old internet, and a break up text to the new one
Growing up, I saw it all. Wide-eyed early 2000’s child experiencing the transition from CDs to MP3 players, to iPods, to Spotify in less than a few years.
Every weekend I looked forward to the small window of computer time each Sunday, where I transported myself to different worlds - everythinggirl.com, tamatown, unlocking every island on poptropica and building my dream igloo on club penguin. Instagram was the creative outlet to share fun photos with my friends. The new ipods and ipads were the coolest things I've ever seen.
I kind of knew, growing up that I wanted to be in the technology space in some shape or form. I wanted to build robots, make apps, and do things that made the world feel magical.
But the last 5 or so years have felt stagnant. This decline was also around the time I started University, just at the inception of my career in tech. The apps I spent the most time on and the companies everyone wanted to work for were Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Tiktok.
I fell in love with the internet because of its ability to invent new paradigms of how we do things. But the new internet has left me with more to be desired.
I ask for innovation, but instead, all I see is imitation. In the past few years, all the newest features on social media platforms are blatant copies of features from other social platforms. Instagram stories and filters are a clone of Snapchat's stories and filters. Tiktok and Instagram are starting to build out similar features to Be Real. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter tried to jump on the audio-style conversations because of Clubhouse. Twitter launched “fleets” to mimic the disappearing aspect of Instagram stories.
Instagram launches reels to compete with Tiktok and markets the heck out of it (even tries to make it the primary action on the app). They moved notifications and new posts the top menu, only accessible when you’re on the home page.
They’ve prioritized getting you to stay on the app as long as possible through reels and getting your revenue and ad clicks via the Instagram shop. Whatever was core to Instagram before has changed.
There are several more instances of “feature-copying” on all these platforms, but I’ll leave it at this.
One question I had was why does Gen Z love the 90s and 2000’s so much? Why do we romanticize turning what’s old in what’s new again? Maybe it’s because we’re not satisfied with what’s here today. We long for simpler times to fight an uncertain future. Many of us reflect that the internet was better before all these social media platforms.
The internet of now is a stark contrast of what it was in the past. There's more noise and ads instead of cozy spaces to truly connect with one another.
So, here is my love letter to the internet, and a breakup text to the current one. I ask for innovation, and not imitation. I want these apps to stop and ask what users actually want, instead of following the hype cycle of copying other apps.
I want to see and experience things I never have before. It’s 2022. here’s to hope for a better web that will make me feel like a child learning how to use the computer for the first time again.
*when I refer to the internet, I’m mainly referring to social network tools in this context
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