Even the Tech Elite Are Worrying About Tech Addiction

Even the Tech Elite Are Worrying About Tech Addiction

By Farhad Manjoo FEB. 9, 2018

Your phone buzzes. A message, an Instagram post, a tweet — some bit of digital effluvia has come in, and it’s right there, promising a brief but necessary hit of connection. All you have to do is look.

But, just as an experiment, how long can you resist looking? A minute? Two? If you make it that long, how do you start to feel? Can you concentrate? Does your mind wander at what you’re missing? And if you give in — as you surely will, as you probably do many times a day — how do you feel about yourself?

I’ll make this short: The thing you’re doing now, reading prose on a screen, is going out of fashion.

We’re taking stock of the internet right now, with writers who cover the digital world cataloging some of the most consequential currents shaping it. If you probe those currents and look ahead to the coming year online, one truth becomes clear. The defining narrative of our online moment concerns the decline of text, and the exploding reach and power of audio and video.

Photos, videos, graphics and more are taking over our online experience. And in response, companies and publishers are all pouring money into developing even more multimedia for us to consume. How do we know this? These numbers tell the story. —

·        About 70 million Americans regularly listen to podcasts, according to Edison Media Research. People who listen weekly tend to spend five hours a week on them.
·        In 2017, YouTube reported that people watched a billion hours on that service every day. On average, young Americans spend two hours a day watching video online.
·        Instagram lifted Snapchat’s video diary feature, Stories, to great success; more than 800 million people use Instagram, for more than 30 minutes a day on average.
·        A tsunami of money is flowing to audio and video. Netflix unveiled a plan to spend $8 billion on original content in one year, while Apple plans to shell out $1 billion.

Political memes have gone mainstream as the distance between the White House and subcultures like 4Chan has closed.

President Trump has frequently retweeted his fans’ meme work, #MeToo jumped from social media to every workplace, and political campaigns started to invest in the form more seriously. The political meme — text over an image, sometimes short videos or digital clip art meant to spread and be imitated — is often a guttural, simple message couched in humor, like the doctored video from September of Hillary Clinton being hit with his golf ball.

It’s easy to tell when you’ve nailed a good tweet — just watch the likes and retweets pile up as the post goes viral.

Now there are also more ways to tell if a tweet was bad. That’s because a new barometer for Twitter blahness has taken hold: the ratio.

The alt-right’s most enduring legacy may be its lexicon. With passphrases borrowed from sources as varied as men’s rights message boards and pro-Trump YouTubers, the language has escaped its origins and lodged firmly in our national discourse. Pull up a chair — it’s time for a vocabulary lesson. — Kevin Roose

Redpilled (adj.)

A reference to a scene in “The Matrix” that is now used to indicate a person who has achieved a state of right-wing enlightenment. Becoming “redpilled” could mean realizing that Jews control the media, or that feminists are the real oppressors.

Triggered (adj.)

The state of being earnestly offended by an opposing view. On the right-wing internet, being triggered is an automatic admission of defeat.

Cuck (n.)

A weak, emasculated liberal, or a right-wing politician who has abandoned conservative values. Short for “cuckservative,” a portmanteau of “cuckold” and “conservative.”

Virtue-signal (v.)

A term borrowed from social science, now used to refer to liberals who conspicuously express left-wing values, primarily for the purposes of impressing other liberals.

For advertisers, one of the internet’s great promises has been the ability to automatically target people based on their interests and demographics, with little regard to the websites they are visiting.

But these days, major brands have been forced to rethink how they advertise online. Companies from Kellogg to AT&T have come under fire for inadvertently funding bigotry, hate speech and misinformation, often because they were using automated ad technology to reach groups of people across a vast number of sites and videos.

Today’s virtual currency market is a lawless free-for-all, and as with any good gold rush, scammers and schemers have moved in alongside legitimate peddlers to create their own digital currencies for all manner of things. Here are a few egregious examples of crypto-world flotsam that have succeeded despite themselves. — Kevin Roose

“The world’s first blockchain option for investing in production of organic bananas.” Private sales: $2.8 million.

“The blockchain solution for the global dental industry.” Market value: $350 million.

“The first digital currency created to facilitate transactions within the legalized cannabis industry.” Market value: $31 million.

Useless Ethereum Token
“The world’s first 100 percent honest Ethereum I.C.O.” This offering promised to take investors’ money and give them literally nothing in return. Market value: $104,000.
Ashley Armitage’s Instagram post of model Amanda Ochoa. John Yuyi

For all the talk about the internet’s power to democratize the media, Instagram can present an awfully traditional picture of what a woman is supposed to be. The images that rise on the platform are a hellscape of white feminine conformity, with top influencers sporting the same matte lips and contoured cheeks, their bodies whittled and waxed and contorted into the same poses. (Hey, @kyliejenner.)

But perfectly polished Instagram feeds have now given way to real ones, in which women in particular are showing what they actually look like. And because they have demanded to be seen, brands have taken notice, too.

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