The early indications were when people started tossing around ideas like digital sabbaths and talking about FOMO (fear of missing out). But it was easy to think this was a niche feeling only for the media class and its associated hipsters across the country.
Nowadays, I think all kinds of people see and feel the tradeoffs of the stream, when they pull their thumbs down at the top of their screens to receive a new updates from their social apps.
It is too damn hard to keep up. And most of what’s out there is crap.
Or take Snapchat and the Snowden-NSA revelations. They highlight a pernicious aspect of this metaphor: while the stream flows quickly past you, it flows into the vast, searchable reservoirs of companies and intelligence agencies. This stream is archived and data mined! On the Internet stream, you cannot keep up with the stream, but the stream can keep up with you. The NSA took advantage of this.
There are some interesting insights here. I’ve been traversing the endless, ever-growing waters of the Internet for more than twenty years now, and pumping content into it that entire time. I’ve gone from vi and Usenet to blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblir, and all the rest of the inexhaustible info firehoses.
Yes, it does become exhausting. And yes, just as the rats keep pressing the cocaine button, you want to keep pressing the info “reload” buttons. In fact, about the only time things ever seem to pause is “for a word from our sponsors….”
Remember when there was no advertising on the internet?