Giving up on keeping up? A backlash is developing against Internet overload

REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Seattle Times journalist Lauren Rabaino: “We publish articles on a 24-hour news cycle and expect readers to figure out how to connect the dots on their own.”

Your body can drown in 6 inches of water. And your mind can drown in the shallow ocean of crap that is the Internet.

Pardon the coarse language, but it’s not my term — it appeared in The Atlantic, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected periodicals. Author Alexis C. Madrigal describes the transition of the Internet (which now includes an array of mobile devices) from its early beginning as a collection of websites, to its current incarnation as “the Stream”: an always-moving, never-ending flow of digital input that keeps us fully occupied but fundamentally unsatisfied.

It is too damn hard to keep up,” Madrigal wrote. “And most of what’s out there is crap.” Madrigal is no geezer, fuming about those newfangled contraptions – he’s a savvy thirtysomething and Harvard graduate who makes a living writing about technology.

Rumblings of discontent are coming from other quarters, as well. Political reporter Sam Youngman left a White House beat — a career pinnacle — to take a job at a local newspaper in his home state of Kentucky. On his way out, he blasted the emptiness of our nation’s elite political reporting, which prioritizes intramural Twitter snark over examination of serious issues.

Elite political reporters, naturally, responded with Twitter snark

At Harvard’s Nieman Lab, Seattle Times journalist Lauren Rabaino bemoaned her profession’s failure to add context that would help consumers make sense of the relentless news feed.

“We publish articles on a 24-hour news cycle and expect readers to figure out how to connect the dots on their own,” Rabaino wrote.

In my own career as a marketer, I’m sometimes frustrated by the constant appearance of new apps and services. I need to know about them, because our clients rely on us to keep current. But I confess there are times when I wish all those developers would just give it a rest.

Three examples make a trend, journalists always say, and I’ve given you three. Yet I certainly don’t expect people to give up on the Internet. It’s become too embedded in our lives; you might as well ask us to stop using electricity.

But it’s sometimes hard to remember just how new this all is. It was only 20 years ago that AOL was mass-mailing CDs and offering their service over dial-up modems. It’s been less than a decade since the majority of Americans got access to broadband connections, which enabled widespread use of online video.

The Internet genie will never be put back in the bottle. But while the benefits of the Internet were immediately and readily apparent, the drawbacks took a bit longer to grasp.

I think there’s a dawning awareness that we could do a better job of balancing this new creation with other means of human connection that have been with us for thousands of years.

And you can tweet that.

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