Do you remember the feeling of getting a shiny new toy on Christmas Day, unwrapping it, and immediately wanting to play with it?
For me, it was probably a He-Man action figure, for kids of an earlier generation it might have been one of the first Barbie or GI Joe toys, later kids have had plenty of video games and Pokémon card packs.
By the dawn of spring, you notice that you haven’t played with that new toy in a while.
The shine has worn off. The paint is scuffed. You’ve broken the Power Punch Action by using it 200 times.
I’m starting to feel like it’s three months after Christmas for the internet.
Every decade since the early-1990s, when websites made their debut, there’s been something new and shiny to hold our attention. Wikis! Streaming video! Social networks! Smartphones, which put all of the above in our pockets!
But I think we might finally have run through every shiny and new iteration of things we can do online.
Take social media, for example.
Facebook currently has about 2.93 billion active users. It might hit 3 billion, someday. Or it might not. Growth has slowed, and once you’ve acquired more than 36 per cent of all living humans on your site, you can safely assume you’re close to a plateau. Everyone who can use Facebook knows it exists. If they aren’t using it, what will convince them to start now?
And yet, Facebook is probably the high water mark for any kind of social media site.
TikTok may be growing, but it’s at 1 billion users. Do you really think everyone on Facebook, and Twitter, and YouTube, and Twitch will abandon their current site of choice and switch? Or will TikTok also hit a plateau, and then begin a long, slow decline – as Facebook and Instagram likely already have?
(Twitter is the exception – its current owner seems determined to burn it to the ground before it can fade away.)
We’ve done social media. We’ve edited wikis. We’ve written blogs. We’ve posted photos. We’ve subscribed to too many podcasts.
Yes, we’ll keep doing those things. Yes, there is still value – business value, but also social value – in the internet.
But it’s not a shiny new toy anymore.
For the last three or four years, there have been multiple attempts to create some new, cool thing on the internet.
Most of them have been extremely sad.
The push to create some kind of ill-defined metaverse/virtual reality realm only lasted about a year. Before that, everything was NFTs and crypto, all services would be “on the blockchain,” whether that made any sense or not.
None of them made any headway.
It’s probably for the best that the shine is wearing off the internet. It’s there, it’s useful, it’s a part of our lives, like phones were by the 1920s, or commercial air travel was by the 1970s.
Unfortunately, after 30 years of hype, the Silicon Valley types are still trying to find the pure dopamine hit of the next big thing. They’re desperate to keep the internet from being boring.
But nothing’s more pathetic than someone trying so hard to be cool.
Have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.