Thoughts about the internet landscape and self learning 2023-12-10
No coding today, just some raw thoughts that have been going through my head and I feel like I need to discuss. I love the internet. It's a vast array of bytes that we have access to and contribute to every day. I and many others use it for learning and entertainment, but so many people young and old myself included are stuck. We are in this endless cycle of consuming content. You're literally doing it right now reading what I have to say. You could say I'm contributing to the issue though I have my arguments to defend this blog. There are so many platforms out there, I could mention a social media or protocol and you could have never heard of it. Have you heard of Hello Talk, LINE, XMPP, Matrix? Those and platforms similarly are not the source of the issues. TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (X), and Reddit are truly the domains committing the sins.
For this post I will mostly be commenting on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Reddit. I feel so overwhelmed with how content has evolved on the internet. Its truly great that someone can build a community of people with similar interests (assuming they have good intentions), but because of the idea that someone can be a full time content creator we have created this incredibly toxic and addicting environment. Its something that we really don't do anything about and its incredibly frustrating since its becoming the normal.
In September I was finding myself with a lot of headaches and they only really came when I was on YouTube. I just found myself clicking on video after video and kept hearing the same things no matter what I watched. From the way people speak, how they edit their videos, how their thumbnails are edited, and even the titles of the videos. Its all meant to pull you in so you just watch and follow/subscribe. Its become so formulaic that its genuinely hard to find truly unique content. Its also a trap since people are trying to go as far as use psychology techniques or wording things in a really annoying manner with clickbait, so I took off a month from YouTube and it was incredibly enlightening. I used the time to study Japanese and just kinda escape the parts of the internet I was not enjoying. I found I was doing more in my day and that I didn't care as much about a lot that I thought I did on the internet, after I was able to take that step back and analyze what I was doing. Now there was a negative. Dropping YouTube meant dropping the best resource for learning. Even though I have plenty of books and resources outside of YouTube on Japanese not having YouTube made it harder to find some answers to questions I had while studying. YouTube Has some of the BEST educational content I've ever seen and its really what makes YouTube shine to me. So returning for studying purposes I found was a good balance. Using it as a tool like it should be. Its okay if someone finds entertainment on the platform, however my point is more that there should be a healthy space between you and the platform. It also doesn't help that the patterns even emerge in podcasts as well.
I feel like when Tiktok came along it made all the problems even worse and it spread to other platforms. Now every platform has its own version of Tiktoks in the form of Reels (Instagram), Shorts (YouTube) and the worst part about all of this is that its the first thing the apps will show you and you can't turn it off? I should be able to opt out of viewing a video format, I can't even say just give it its own tab of the app so you can choose but YouTube already does. The videos become harder to not watch and you get in the process of just scrolling for minutes and minutes can dangerously turn into hours. Ive heard a lot of creators call the process "doom scrolling" which fits. Another thing that also bothers me is that on platforms like Twitter and Instagram are virtually unusable for me since I am trying to avoid spending longer on the platforms and I just want to see what the people I follow have posted but instead my timeline is consistently people I don't know and don't follow because the algorithm is trying to push creators on me that I may like to stay on longer. I only see roughly around three or four posts from people I actually follow and then I get to the end. I know I follow more people and a lot of them have posted recently. Stop showing me posts I don't care about and show me the ones I do care about. This is functionally why Snapchat is my favorite social media. I can make short (temporary) posts on my story to show you what I am up to via my story or just send people messages. I know it has its own version of Tiktok's but its not nearly as invasive and not well developed. The only gripe there is the discover section but you can just ignore that a lot easier so its fine. Where with other platforms I can be scrolling through my follow feed and end up seeing channels I don't follow, and the platform equivalent of Tiktok's.
A month and a half without internet
One of the biggest contributors to this post is that I recently had to go without internet in my house for a month and a half due to complications with installation. During that time I mostly just cooked and caught back up on some shows and comics that I had. During this time is where I realized how nice it was to have YouTube as a source for learning since you can just look up explanations with someone explaining and showing examples and if its a really good video they explain why it works and/or shows you why other methods don't work as well. I wasn't able to really do too much as well, but it really cleared my head and showed me I needed more hobbies off my computer. That does not mean I drop all my current hobbies and loves that I have with my computer but rather have things I can do when I am not around my computer or on my home network. Too much of my life is just on my computer and I don't think that's terrible but I personally just don't want my default action to be go on my phone and scroll endlessly. I have things like cooking and Japanese but I need my computer to use the software I use for flash cards (Anki), play VR Chat which is a game I personally use for Language Exchange, and look up all the questions I have on the language. That being said I have looked into more offline hobbies that can keep me occupied in healthy ways and I am feeling better lately I don't feel like I just dove in a pit of formulaic content that is only trying to keep me sucked in.
I feel like all of this is so important because there are a lot of people out there that fall for the trap we all tend to fall for. The process of I want to learn about X. Then you look up "How to start learning more about X" Whether X be programming, drawing, a language, doing make up, etc. You watch these people through tutorials and tutorials aren't terrible but most people don't really experiment outside of the tutorials they just stay in those bounds and that's something that typically holds us back. This a common problem in programming and art related hobbies. People hammer away at tutorials for weeks and they don't really see progression due to not really exploring beyond the tutorials, so they blame themselves and they think they aren't enough for the task.
Failure and experimentation is so important. Its how we learn. No soul on our Earth learns exactly the same. We all have our own quirks that provide us with challenges. Some people can learn without tutorials and stick with books and like higher level explanations, some can just observe by watching others do it, others like reverse engineering the process and breaking everything down, some like really simple explanations and examples, and some are incredibly hands on that need a lot of repetition to see what works and doesn't. This is something we don't really think about. We only think about the subject that were learning about, and don't give any time to reflect on how we are approaching the task or how we use it and how we can improve that process.
To give an example from the void month I spent without internet. I was struggling with Japanese. Not in a way that I thought would come up. I found that I could detect grammar patterns well, but I couldn't really speak the language. I could listen and understand but I cant speak it to others. Which to me is weird, but obvious since speaking was practiced the least which was the first contributor to the problem. The other problem was that I was too hyper focused on the written form aspect of the language learning process. I even compared this to when I was in school and I could speak introductory French. I could read and my speech was a lot better and it was because I had practice and more immersion with French as a language. So I have re-evaluated how I am learning and practicing so I can pivot and tackle the roadblock, or else it'll feel like I am stalled in traffic and blaming myself for it, and speed up the burn out process.
Personally Id recommend it. Just take a few weeks off social media, YouTube included, and just observe your life. Think about what value all the content you consume provides you. Think about the things you do and how you do them, and ask yourself "is there a more efficient method to go about this?" or "this might not be working, why is that?" and pivot if necessary, if you are going strong don't worry about it. It really just helps put things in perspective and helps you think more. I don't know how well I conveyed my thoughts, but it seems I have vented important thoughts.
As always I hope something positive came from your read.
Thanks for reading!