I read this and found it very insightful. The author reflects on the escalation of competition for our most valuable resource—time. All those “free” services we use on the internet are not free. They make money by keeping us tuned in as long as possible so they can feed us as much advertising as possible. Even this blog, hosted for free on WordPress, is supported by ads. I don’t place any of them or make money off them, but that’s how WordPress can offer this free service to you and to me, by showing you ads. The conclusion is: all free media treats us as users, trying to make us addicts, so they can pump as much advertising into our minds as we will tolerate.
On one hand, I get it. Google, Facebook, and everyone else are in business to make money. It takes a lot of money to provide platforms and services for millions of people to use simultaneously. On the other hand, I feel violated. I’m old enough to remember when Yahoo was a subdomain of stanford.edu. My first dial-up ISP gave each account web space to create a site with no ads forced on it. Good luck finding that today.
As the author of the above-mentioned article observes, internet companies are not just competing with internet companies, they are competing with everything in your life because they want as much of your time as possible. Facebook is not just competing with Twitter, it is competing with your sleep, your job, and your spouse. Google is competing with your kids, your church, and your friends.
This is a problem not just because the internet is trying to eat away at your life, but because your life—friends, family, religion, hobbies, job—has a hard time competing with websites created by herds of designers and engineers making algorithms and code to keep you clicking and scrolling. Plus, they’re not just pursuing your time. Your friends and family are being pursued just as ardently. Even if you reject the matrix and unplug, you will likely be alone, surrounded by those who are still jacked in.
What do we want to do with our time? Time is the only thing we have, no matter what. We need to spend some of it in order to eat and have clothing and shelter. We spend some of it with people we like. We sleep, eat, and bathe. We worship, read, and think. We have the ultimate control of our own time, though our decisions about how to spend it certainly have consequences.
We can’t spend all of our time being productive, but we also can’t spend all of our time having fun. For much of human history, the majority of people spent their waking hours working to survive, but in the last 100 years, we have seen that change with the rise of leisure as a class of activity most people have access to. Unfortunately, that time is being attacked by those who would seek to profit from it. We deserve better than that. Or, maybe we don’t. Maybe we are where we are because this is where we have allowed ourselves to be taken.