Twitter is bad now.
I mean Twitter always it was bad, but it was bad in the way that french fries are bad or gambling at a horse track is bad – it was bad because it was so addicting good but unhealthy. Now it’s just bad-bad. Much like the TV show in Season 9, where most of the original stars have moved on, the writers are desperate to resurrect old villains to juice the ratings, and the entire web is awash with shady product placement.
Of course, all websites wither and fade over time. The strange thing is that almost all the big ones are doing it at the same time these days. The internet is a bit shit right now.
Facebook, the site that once plagued the Internet like a colossus, felling newspapers and igniting romances, has become almost useless.
Not that want you can publish all your photos in photo albums. It definitely doesn’t want you to share links to interesting articles – good luck getting anyone to click on anything but a wedding photo. It’s as if Mark Zuckerberg was so resistant to the idea that viral misinformation on his website got Trump elected that he ended up flipping the switch that created Facebook against-viral.
Google has lost its way. It’s harder than ever to find relevant results, especially if they’re more than three years old. Entire pages, including some of my old articles, seem to have completely disappeared from the web.
Almost the entire internet of cultural journalism has collapsed. AV Club was bought by a joint stock company and stripped of its parts. Gawker was murdered by the team of Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel. Grantland was expelled. Deadspin is dead, though his reanimated corpse is still staggering around.
Newspaper sites shifted to video and then went bust even harder. Slate has long abandoned its counterintuitive hot-take schtick — and now mostly seems to be churning out an increasing number of specialized absurdist advice columns that answer clearly bogus questions.
BuzzFeed has gone from cat meme distribution platform to investigative journalism powerhouse to mere nostalgia relic. (“Remember BuzzFeed?” You can imagine Mo Rocco saying in VH1’s “I Love the 2010s” video.) Snapchat’s cultural significance lasted about 15 seconds and then disappeared.
I understand that TikTok still entertains people at the very least by falsely accusing innocent people of murder or inciting juvenile vandalism.
Much of the collapse of the Internet has an economic reason, like the bursting of the Internet bubble in the 1990s: Much of the modern Internet was built on small but greedy dreams – venture capitalists, encouraged by low interest rates, pumped ridiculous amounts of money into sites that did not create no profit, assuming anyone somehow thought they might one day. But most sites have never found that fabled income stream, and with the Fed raising interest rates to fight inflation, that pot of free cash from investors everywhere is drying up.
There are some bright spots on the internet. Some of the better Substacks tease a return to idyllic times when bloggers made provocative and thoughtful arguments. The problem is that each of them is behind an individual paywall.
The Internet has connected everyone to everyone—with exciting and terrifying results. And now the opposite is happening. It is fragmentation, a return to individual websites, catering for individual customers. In the long run, it’s probably good for newspapers like ours.
But for now, we’ll have to scroll, scroll, past “Can You Believe How Ugly This Former Teen Star Turned to Be,” “13 Hilariously Horrifying Wedding Bloopers,” and toward a less viral future. ♦