Netflix didn’t care what was inside the envelopes, so the only thing that mattered was that we, the customers, were getting what we wanted. Now, Netflix’s entire business is to know what’s inside, to make you think everything you want is inside, and to keep you distracted long enough so you never see the big world outside. Netflix went from being content-agnostic, a truly unbiased platform, if you will, to being content-obsessed, preferring to show you only its own content, and always its own content first.
A similar transition has happened at every major tech company, even the social media companies in which Netflix is often grouped as a major tech company emblematic of Silicon Valley. They all do extensive content moderation even as they claim to just be platforms, because they can no longer declare ignorance or ambivalence about what’s inside. And they, too, want you to look away as rarely as possible. They have all rallied around the cause of engagement. Finding ways to maximize it, to retain it, to increase it.
This feels similar to the post I made last week about how you should have a website.
What drew me to the internet in my youth was how raw, honest, and authentic it was. It wasn’t about monetization strategies. It wasn’t about engagement metrics. It was about making cool stuff with other dorks that cared about the same things as me for fun.
I watched so many movies with my Netflix DVD subscription back in the day. Now, with vastly more selection available at the touch of my fingers, I find myself getting to the end of my day, turning on my TV, and rewatching something that I’ve already watched before because I'm just so burned out on these terrible walled garden content platforms that only want to serve me the digital equivalent of junk food.
I know that hosting websites isn’t free. But maybe all this scale and reach is just not really needed. Maybe we just need to keep building the internet we want to see instead of relying on big tech to prescribe it for us.
Oh, and the reason I used this particular pull quote is because it’s true... Name any website, app, or SaaS tool out there, and there is undoubtedly an entire team dedicated to figuring out how to exploit it to make as much money as possible.
I really despise this game. It has always made me feel uncomfortable that we’re just cool with it. There has to be a better way to connect each other and derive meaning and value from those connections.
Because the solution of stealing everyone’s attention and addicting us to these worthless platforms can’t possibly be the yard in which we park this train.