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My Corner of the Internet...For Now
I’m beginning to question my relationship with the internet. I think a lot of people are. Or at least extremely online people like me who are over 40 years old and no longer recognize the virtual communities and networks they once knew. Whether it’s the slow death of Twitter or Meta’s obsession with turning Instagram into TikTok, I don’t know where I belong anymore. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe it’s time to call it a day and stop pretending the internet is good for me?
While it initially started as a way to manage all my photos, Flickr (or should I say Yahoo Photos) was probably my first real connection to other architecture geeks back in 2005. It was an active photo-centered site where I could find and learn about interesting places that were slowly disappearing from our everyday landscape: neon signs, mom and pop stores, dead malls, midcentury motels, old buildings soon to meet the wrecking ball. Flickr documented just about every specific type of building in whatever area of the country (or world) you could imagine with billions of high-resolution photographs uploaded to the image hosting service. It was an archive of architectural history, as noted by Kate Wagner on The Baffler, with its efficiently tagged and labeled photos searchable across the web. But it is no longer as popular as it once was, losing the social and mobile game to Instagram when it came to editing and sharing photos in a user-friendly app.
I found myself doing what I did best on Flickr and moving over to Instagram, where I created a popular account with almost 95,000 followers. Its focus is what you might call old house porn. Yet over the last year I probably broke the Instagram algorithm. I’ve been bleeding followers for awhile and barely receive any likes or comments on my posts. I know Instagram is trying to be more like TikTok with an emphasis on reels and stories, but I’ve never been much of a video person. So I’m probably being punished for not playing the game. I like to take still photos and share information about buildings in lengthy captions (repeating what I did back in my Flickr days). Obviously I was successful at it…until I wasn’t. But I’m happy to know it’s not just me as I’m now part of a long message thread with other popular old house accounts like archi_ologie who are all commiserating over less engagement on our posts. Should we continue like we did? Or do we have to start making quick cut videos/slideshows to get more eyeballs? I spend a lot of time researching the history of historic homes I share with users. If no one is seeing my stuff, then why bother?
The point of this little rant is to finally admit the internet’s dominant role in my life was to fill the void that was left over from my brief time as a teacher. At long last I am beginning to recognize the internet is not an educational tool. Especially in today’s world. Most people just want to endlessly (and mindlessly) scroll. They don’t want to take the time to read your boring caption. They barely read anything at all. Everything nowadays seems entirely disposable, with everybody having the attention span of goldfish. While it’s nice to get the occasional comment “I learn so much from you,” it’s not enough to keep going on Instagram or other social media platforms. Why dedicate so much time and energy when I feel absolutely nothing at the end of the day!?! I will still tweet etc. for now but something is amiss, changing not for the better. I guess what once felt like an authentic experience is now a distant memory. Like a lot of life since 2020. We’ll all be replaced by AI soon anyway so I don’t know why I care so much. At least I have this corner of the internet where I can focus on my interests, writing lengthy blogs/newsletters/whatever we’re calling it these days. At least for now.