The Decline of the Free Web

As the world moves into an age where the majority of modern culture is shifted by the internet and society moves online to avoid the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes a question as to how the internet has changed over time. To me, as a child, the internet felt like an expansive place where everything you’d want to find is a click away.

Now everything feels 50 clicks away.

Every site I used to browse has either been overly censored, commercialized, or ruined by demographic changes. In cases of sites like Twitter, it feels as if all three of these things happened. Pretty much every 4chan board worsened to the point where I started browsing Reddit. Then, Reddit changed with shit tier subreddits on the rise and places like r/suicide and r/WatchPeopleDie getting deleted. I just wanted to tell people to kill themselves unironically and now I fucking can’t.

Even Instagram, a site with a premise so simple that it’s impossible to fuck up, turned into this overly commercialized confused mess.

It feels as if the internet experienced a major shift in 2016. Everything became much more centralized. Forums declined in favor of Reddit boards and Discords. News sites died in favor of Twitter. Webzines died in favor of Instagram. Blogs died in favor of Twitter.

Everything spreads extremely quickly online now. Whatever is original content gets spread on every platform, destroying any type of uniqueness that the original platform could’ve had. No matter what site or app you go on, you’ll see the same Twitter screenshot or Tik Tok video. It’s tiresome.

I also cite 2016 as the year most major social media became more algorithm based or adopted other forms of addictive elements. Twitter and Instagram replaced chronological feeds with algorithm-based ones. Snapchat released streaks. YouTube changed to promote videos 10 minutes or longer. All these changes to have you spend more time on their platforms.

The 2016 election also brought a lot of politicization to the internet. What used to be dismissed as SJW bullshit became so much of most social media sites to the point of it not being ostracized and dismissed anymore. This brought similar reactions from the right and the same thing is echoed on their side, with less censored sites becoming hubs for them rather than places for actual interesting content. Every site is filled with retarded political talking points.

This polarization along with companies wanting to capitalize on the internet’s growing centralization also led to mass censoring either by communities or the moderators of these sites themselves. Everything needs to be sterilized enough for advertisers to bring the site profit.