The late 90s were the heyday of brain-draining television. Those of us who are old enough to remember are familiar with the aimless channel surfing, spending entire afternoons in a TV trance. Our generation was supposed to have break free from this cycle, to become more than passive consumers. How often have we heard someone say “No, I don’t watch TV!” or even “I don’t own a TV!”. The digital era was supposed to transform us into creators.
Oh boy, how wrong we were.
The web today is a trap of dopamine-fueled scrolling. Algorithms are designed every day to keep us hooked, and they’re making our feeds ever more mindless, our thoughts ever shallower.
Remember the good old days when our social feeds were chronologically ordered, when content was presented in the fairest way possible? They’re all but a faint memory now. Instead we’re being force-fed a menu of whatever the algorithm deems to be the most engaging content for us. We’re just bots following a script that has been written for us.
Take Twitter, for instance. It used to be a place for meaningful conversations, a place to share ideas, a place to follow your heroes. Now, it's largely a cesspool of division and hate, driven by algorithms that promote whatever gets the most views. Content that I can’t differentiate from 9gag. And this environment only attracts more of the same, hordes of wanna-be influencers who optimize for the algorithm instead of adding value to their readers.
Twitter used to have a vibrant ecosystem of third-party apps but they killed it by restricting their API so much until it suffocated every popular client app. Now this is happening with Reddit. The investors want their money back, and the easiest way to do it is to own and squeeze every possible pixel for revenue.
Remember the excitement we felt in the early days of these platforms? The honeymoon phase when everything felt new, empowering, and truly revolutionary? Those days are long gone. The moment these companies need to start generating substantial profits, they turn their backs on the developers and users who made them what they are. Welcome to the era of the walled garden web.
This transition isn't just an inconvenience, it's a betrayal. The community-powered platforms we once loved are being controlled by the very corporate forces we thought we were escaping. The very tools that once promised us the freedom to connect, to learn, to create, are now more akin to the mind-numbing television shows we despised in the first place.
Perhaps it's time we woke up to the reality and took back control of our digital lives, communication tools must be open protocols not under the absolute control of corporations. Otherwise, we might end up trapped in this endless loop of algorithmic stupidity, where the promise of the web is lost to a world where the only thing that matters is the next mindless click.