Web 2.0 and human behavior

I’ll admit, I did not see the value of social media when it was first coming on the scene circa 2006/2007. My first foray was getting a Netflix account and that was largely due to my younger brother. He was talking about all these DVD movies he could get in the mail, watch them and mail them back without worrying about late fees. And here I was still using my Blockbuster card. My brother is eight years younger than me but I still felt like an old fogey, stuck in my analog ways. I did give it a shot, and once I saw TV shows were available, I was hooked.

More recently in class, we talked about an article that was originally published in Newsweek, 1995 by Clifford Stoll. He was a man after my own heart when it came to digitizing the world. I am not an early adopter and my career has been in an industry (television) where technology changes pretty quickly. I was made fun of by co-workers that had come over to my home and saw my 14″ Emerson television (pictured above) and remarked “You work at the Worldwide Leader in Sports and you have this thing as your TV??” This was 1997. Shortly thereafter, I “upgraded” to a 27″ Sony and then of course the flat screens came out right after that purchase. There is an part of Stoll’s article that really hit it out of the park when it came to the internet and it’s effects on human behavior.

What’s missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee. No interactive multimedia display comes close to the excitement of a live concert. And who’d prefer cybersex to the real thing?

Indeed. Who would prefer cybersex to the real thing? Lenina Huxley would for one, the character from the movie Demolition Man, one movie of many (Blade Runner, Minority Report, Back to the Future II, Total Recall, The Net) that predicted the future convergence of technology and media into all aspects of life. Even Clifford Stoll’s 1995 predictions were pretty accurate.

Back to Netflix, I love Netflix circa 2007. I could share and write reviews, rate my movies, connect with friends and family that also had Netflix and send them movie suggestions. And then something happened. I started noticing that Netflix kept “suggesting” the same type of movies, even when I just wanted to browse titles, the site algorithm would show me movies based on what I had already interacted with. I missed browsing the shelves of Blockbuster or Hollywood Video and coming across an obscure title with an intriguing plot or discovering that independent film a big star decided to make. For this reason, I avoid Amazon.

Then I got a Kindle. Should I purchase books from Amazon like everyone else seems to be doing? I don’t want to be stuck with digital titles after I read them. Enter something old becoming new again. My local library! I could borrow books through my library (via Amazon) to read on my Kindle. It’s the best of both worlds. Until, while reading in bed, the kindle slips from your hands and lands on your face. Books are soft. Kindles are not. Not to mention if you forget to charge it. Or you lose your spot in the book.

All these devices bring convenience there is no doubt, what is key is to realize and decide how much of that convenience is actually needed.

Published by

Sam Ainuddin

Television veteran and now a @NewshouseSU grad student studying media and the digital world we live in.

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