Maybe we need more friction

Posted on 02/03/2022 in misc

A while back when I quit Amazon Prime (note to self - quit Amazon Prime again) I mentioned how the big problem with Prime was that it eliminated so much friction from the process of making a “buy” decision. Spending is one place where friction is good.

Do you know where else we need more friction? Human communication, particularly the online variety. The ease of clicking reply and saying something rude or stupid is going to cause a war soon, if it hasn’t already. My average Tweet only gets seen by about 100 people, but I’m much more likely to get a rude reply than I am here on my blog, which I think also gets about 100 readers to an average post. I took all analytics off the site a few years ago, so I’m not really sure, but that average held over most of the last decade, so no reason to think it’s changed dramatically. I never get rude emails about a blog post. (Note - not an invitation!). Clicking the email link at the bottom of the post really isn’t that much work, but nobody does it. But if I express the same thought on Twitter, I’m much more likely to get a rude reply from roughly the same number of viewers.

Interestingly, Twitter is experimenting with a feature that triggers a pop-up box suggesting your reply appears to be rude or angry, and gives you a chance to reconsider before posting. They report about 30% of people do edit or cancel the post. So apparently 30% of Twitter users are sheeple that can be led around by the company.

That was a joke.

I also noted in my previous blog post that a little friction in the music listening experience might make it better. If you pick an album versus letting an algorithm choose for you, the music is likely to be more meaningful and more memorable. If we accept that the above thesis is true, it presents a problem. The internet seems to exist to remove friction from every process it can touch, but if our happiness relative to those experiences suffers due to the lack of friction, we are literally making ourselves unhappier and unhappier the more time we spend online. Well, except for the time spent reading this blog.

I was an early adopter of the commercial Internet, and it’s paid my bills since 1996. But more and more I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve made a terrible mistake. Not the concept of the Internet, a worldwide platform anybody can publish to is a fine idea, but our implementation, particular the monetization of it, has ruined the ideals we all had when we were doing this stuff in 1996.

I don’t have any real solutions here, except maybe some of you should dust off your blogs and start posting regularly again.

Inspiration for this post

This post composed while listening to Natchez Trace and Restoration by Kevin Bowe & The Okemah Prophets, streaming straight from my SSD drive.

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