Have you ever been told “You shouldn’t have posted that on Facebook.”? Did you not understand why somebody would think what you posted was inappropriate? Welcome to the fight between those who are connected and those who aren’t. In this fight, there are those who adapt with technology, and those who get left behind.
If I could get sad just for a moment here… Recently, my father passed away. Unfortunately cancer took him from us way too early. After spending an early afternoon in tears. I felt a need to post “R.I.P. Dad” on Facebook. To me it was a message to him, not just friends on Facebook. I got it out there and it made me feel better. It also let others know of his passing, which had been expected for a while.
I thought nothing of this post until the next morning when I received a call from my cousin saying “That is not a very personal way to mourn.” Not only does this strike me as bizarre that somebody would think Facebook isn’t a way to communicate such things, it strikes me as bizarre that somebody would call to tell me how to mourn the loss of my father.
My cousin will never understand this though. It’s people like this who think of the Internet as a toy. To them, the Internet is only a thing people use in their spare time. But to people such as myself who are connected, we use it as an extension of our life. Why wouldn’t I post something about the most important event in my life right now?
I understand there are some things that shouldn’t be said online. Bullying, saying something negative about your boss, or anything that may get you into trouble should be avoided. But when it comes to things like death, it’s no longer taboo to use technology to communicate. Heck, I haven’t even gotten a call from friends or family regarding my father’s death. They have all emailed, texted, or posted their condolences on Facebook, and that’s perfectly alright with me.
From my post on Facebook, I have been showered with love and inspiring guidance during this rough time. I appreciate all of it. I feel bad for the people who don’t get it though, the ones who can’t learn to accept the Internet and social networking as a tool that enriches your life, no matter the scenario.
Lately there has been a lot of concern about ‘content farms’; web sites that post small blurbs of information about a news story. At issue is how this style of journalism is undermining our traditional way of reading news. Writers are screaming about how the Web is in deep trouble because of these sites, trying to convince us that the Web as we know it will just become dumbed-down mess of information. I say it’s ridiculous hysteria.
What if you had to read a long article in order to learn the score of the Cubs game last night? Thankfully, we have scoreboards published on MLB.com. What if you need to know the score and who pitched? We have box scores for that. Has anybody protested box scores? Sometimes I may feel like reading 1200 words about the game though. So if I want to go beyond the box score, I can choose to read a Chicago Tribune article about Carlos Zambrano’s meltdown.
With this argument comes concern about search engines and what gets indexed. People say “Google searches one day will be filled with nothing but these junk articles.” This argument assumes people will just stop reading long articles. It also assumes that Google has no control over what they index.
Let’s say Google started serving nothing but articles from the feared content farms. What do you think would happen to Google? If I’m looking for that 1200 word Cubs article and can’t find it on Google, I will stop using Google. So will others. The people who work for Google know this. That’s why the search index changes regularly to reflect what people want instead of serving junk.
All of this fear only comes about because traditional journalists have failed to adjust to the new way we get our information. They are all pissed off. They get angry when somebody ‘steals’ a part of their article and pays them with a link. Writers at sites like Mashable and Engadget high-five one another for the same reason. Traditional journalists want us all to subscribe to the same boring newspapers we have for over 100 years so that we can get only their view of the news. Well it’s a new world. A world where the many can spread information, not just the few who who could afford a useless journalism class. Deal with it!
What’s great about the Web is that I can choose what I read. Sites do not perform well if people do not read them. So what’s the worry when it comes to content farms? A content farm may not feature much, but if it gives me the quick information I need, it’s valuable to me and deserves whatever success may come. It’s never going to be the only thing I read though. The writers who put their heart into a long, masterpiece of an article will be rewarded with my eyes as well.
The population on the Web controls what’s popular. If there comes a day where everybody wants to read small 100 word articles, so be it. I don’t believe that will ever happen. On the Web, there is room for all kinds of content. Short or long. Filled with deep info or filled with fluff. There’s even room for porn. It will always be about choice.