Web Surfing and Spume

Web surfing and spume

Yesterday, once I’d caught up on those annoying jobs that linger on the to-do list, I needed to fill time waiting for a bid to declare, so I turned to the web. Which is when it struck me how much, the way we view the web has changed.

Surfing and Search

Some of yesterday I surfed the web. This is a term not often used, but was all the vogue in the 90’s and 00’s. The web provided information through answers to questions. Like waves the first search could give a good ride for a simple short question and then begged for another to finder fuller answers or to turn to the second page. Just like surfing.

Now we expect the answer to be on that first page. It’s why we are more likely to put in longer more detailed questions. And why the results that come back are increasingly localised and personalised. We never know whether what we see in search are the exact same results as those seen by someone else. Often, they are different.

Information or Opinion

The nature of data presented on the web has changed along with what is now available.

In the early days, the web often seemed to be akin to a library where there were systems that allowed you to access the right stack and shelf for the information you required. Within that setting there were conventions and values to be followed. If the answer was not there, it was either because it did not exist or you’d asked the ‘wrong’ question.

Now we go by default to the same general sites or social media that we trust. This reflects the sheer volume of data on the web. Now data exists in many forms, but is difficult to distinguish between information or the spume or froth of opinion. ‘I’ve been informed by what I found on the web so it must be true’, is now false

Amusement, Connection and Protection

The web is now used more for gaming, amusement and social media than for information finding. It’s a bedrock of how society now functions. Early electronic games required standalone physical consoles. Now they are multi-player and global built on the presumption you wish to play with others located elsewhere.

Social media drives behaviours, both good and bad in the always-on society. Here friendship groups are controlled by accepting and deleting in an instant, creating echo chambers of the same opinion. While the contra-view is trolled or difference amplified rather than connections deepened by discussion.

As the power of the technologies have grown so has the need for protection. On the web where technological advances have been driven largely by porn, anything goes. But unlike the past where youthful and not-so youthful indiscretions could be forgotten; there is a permanent record sitting in a memory somewhere ready to trip up those now in view. Or volume can be easily attached to distasteful views directed at individuals; without the control of a quiet word or respectful discussion.

Sadly, the useful tool has become a rampaging beast, where spume now has the power of the surfing wave to wipe out the unwary just thinking being in the sea was cool.