The internet was invented with the intention of being a virtual space where individuals and groups can share ideas and knowledge. However, as part of the Web 2.0 evolution, the ability to monetize the internet has become a key component to being more than a casual user.
The running thread so far in class in dissecting the impact of the internet on society has been the idea of intersectionality: Thinking about web use involves comprehending consumer behaviors, and it also means being able to create something upon which consumers become reliant; after all, that’s what technology (at least in the beginning) is all about– the creation of automated tools that make our lives easier, and if it makes our lives easier, of course we’ll keep using it. Take, for example, the refrigerator, stoves, television, computers, and, last but not least, the internet and all its glory. Additionally, thinking about the internet also requires us to acknowledge the amount of privilege that goes along with having access (or alternatively, lacking access) to the internet. Lastly, there’s also the monetization of the internet, or how companies have learned to use the internet for their own gains (hooray for capitalism!).
In our presentations yesterday about social media apps, the common thread across all of our chosen apps was 1) that they were at least somewhat social, but Brian Solis’s definitions, and 2) that they all had business plan in place that ensure the company that put out that app is making money. On a human level, this second point makes sense– these people are spending so much time and energy on developing this app, and they need to get paid, and the individuals who will be updating the app to make sure it remains relevant also need to get paid. On a more meta level, it makes me deeply uncomfortable, because it feels like it was so contrary to the core values of why the internet was started in the first place: It was meant to be a free (maybe?) space for people to share, and it’s become a space where money rules everything, from whether we had to pay to the app to the ads that we see while using it, let alone apps whose sole purpose is to connect you to a service provider, and once that connection is made, they take a cut of the profit or charge service providers for their listing.
This all boils down to capitalism, which is fueled by our society’s consumerism, which links to this American Dream of being successful (read: making boatloads of money), and right now there doesn’t seem to be a break in the cycle in sight, unless we make some serious cultural shifts away from where we are now. Making money certainly is important, but it’s depressing to think that nowadays, good ideas that benefit society are often closely followed by ideas on how to make money off of it.