At the heart of the web’s self-destruction is contagious media: crazy cat pics and the entire Buzzfeedification of the internet.
Every site, even reputable ones, raced to the bottom because celebrity sideboob and stupid human and pet tricks drove clicks.
Writes Tim Wu in The Attention Merchants:
“Contagious media is the kind of media you immediately want to share with all your friends. This requires that you take pleasure in consuming the media but also pleasure in the social process of passing it on.”
“Contagious media is a form of pop conceptual art” in which “the idea is the machine that makes the art (LeWitt, 1967) and the idea is interesting to ordinary people.”
The clickbait craziness spawned an albatross of more ridiculous news, some of it fake news. As Zeynep Tufekci says in her TED Talk, “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.”
And now we’re living with the repercussions of confused algorithms and companies like Facebook and Twitter avoiding responsibility.
We are psychologically vulnerable to social media games. If we want stupid, we’ll get stupid. And anything that requires some thought and effort will fade away.