Joy is Still There – How To Find Fun on the Internet

By Todd Russell Nov5,2023

Sometimes it’s what you want to look for that determines what you’ll find.

The New Yorker recently published a gloom and doom piece with the headline and subtitle: Why The Internet Isn’t Fun Anymore: The social-media Web as we knew it, a place where we consumed the posts of our fellow-humans and posted in return, appears to be over.

One section in particular stuck out to me, quoted below:

The Internet today feels emptier, like an echoing hallway, even as it is filled with more content than ever. It also feels less casually informative. Twitter in its heyday was a source of real-time information, the first place to catch wind of developments that only later were reported in the press. Blog posts and TV news channels aggregated tweets to demonstrate prevailing cultural trends or debates.

I’ve been following the internet since before the whole “social media” storm began and never really got into that part of it. My initial thoughts about Facebook and Twitter were, “why?” and didn’t really use these sites the way most others were using them. Yes, I had early accounts — still do — and have used them to try and incorporate ways that I thought made sense. Facebook started more as a dorm thing in college campuses, kind of like arcade games did once upon a time.

Guess what bothered me most about the social networking wasn’t it didn’t feel very social, even in the beginning. It felt like people with megaphones pushing stuff on others, some of it very stupid and inane. Like do we really need to know what somebody ate for lunch? What kind of car they were buying and driving? What they did for the day? And then came reality TV where we were now watching celebrities and non-celebs with interesting moments plucked from boring days. How is that fun?

Probably the most annoying thing I’ve seen happen is how interest and engagement turns to advertising. That’s the real downfall of the internet. That everything becomes about plugging something. I’m not totally anti-ads, I don’t even run ad blocker programs. I’ve had advertisers for websites in the past, but when I did use advertisers, they were for very specific purposes and didn’t litter the website and ruin the experience. Try to read just about any news website these days, they are littered with ads. There are all these ways of making you click more and stay on a page, so you can be a “view” — that’s not a very human thing making humans out to be no more than our eyeballs — for advertising.

YouTube is another problem. Give somebody attention, subscriptions, likes and what can you (eventually) expect? Promo ads like the one I saw with disgust from Cary Hardy, a pinball enthusiasst that did an entire promo video on a $139 USD glow in the dark lit-up cup holder. Am not going to link it here, because it just adds weight to the kind of thing that makes me dislike “influencers.” This endless shilling is what’s killing the innovation. Stop supporting shilling, people. That’s how you make the internet fun again — at least to me. Unsub from influencers that are leeching the life from the internet.

In the beginning, people talked about things in blogs that they were truly interested in, not for ad money. At some point it became a manipulation game – an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) play. And that, in part, is what drove me away from covering mainly technology. That too much became a trick, a ploy, a way of deceiving in order to get ahead. That wasn’t for me, so I walked away from virtually everything I built online. I did keep third party accounts like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Steam and others, but pretty much everything I built and ran myself was canceled and non-renewed. I decided to go focus on more personal creative endeavors and work on getting a novel I wrote published. And after that, I just sort of unplugged for a few years from the internet.

Came back when my wife and I started recording the movies we were watching in theaters together. Sharing our thoughts and experience as we left the movie theaters in a website: MovieReviewsByUs. For a short time, I thought I wanted to be a Rotten Tomatoes critic, but a couple years later realized that I didn’t want to be a movie critic after all. That led me back to something I’ve been doing 50 years now: playing games. That’s my current focus on the internet.

And this brings us to the good news.

Yes, the good news, there is still joy, still *fun* on the internet. You just need to learn/know how to find it. I seek to avoid influencers, people, apps and websites that are about using me for my views and clicks. It’s a different way to train yourself to view the internet. Is it possible to use “social media” in favor of finding fun? Yes, it is. But the New Yorker article is more right than wrong. The internet can be a souless, empty echo chamber of advertising and money. My advice is simple: avoid this activity, or at least reduce your attention on it.

Probably the biggest threat to the internet, IMO, aren’t humans turned into influencers and shillers, it’s machines taking over. It’s Skynet from Terminator, although in a much more subtle and less violent way. AI – artificial intelligence – is something not to fear, but to be wary of. Use it as you would use social media, in the spirit of human creativity not to replace human beings. Full disclosure: the image at the top of this post was created using AI. Why didn’t I contact a human being to create this for me? That’s a great question of which I don’t have a good answer. Maybe convenience? You can type a text prompt into these AI generators and get an image in very high res to use somewhat instantly. I much prefer human-drawn/created graphics work, but that takes time. I know, I know, it’s a lazy excuse, but it’s the only one I can give without being a total hypocrite.

But back to finding fun on the internet.

Here at PlayGamesMore (PGM), we are all about having fun. We don’t have any paid advertising. The only thing we advertise are games, playing games, Twitch streams about playing games, profiles and reviews from gamers playing games. We don’t do politics, religion or world news. Our only “social” activity revolves around one simple question: what are you now playing? We’d love to have you join us. It’s totally free to join and no, we’re not going to ask you to spend any money on us, only on games you might want to play that others are playing that aren’t free. And there are a ton of free games worth playing. We aren’t affiliated with any companies and I don’t want us to be.

We aren’t unique, btw. Certainly, somewhere, some place there are other groups on the internet like us. You just have to dig around and find them. Please let us know in the comments below where you’ve found gaming-related fun. Share what you’re playing and enjoy playing on/through the internet or offline. We don’t need the internet for gaming. It can be completely offline fun. No, not interested in other topics or themes, so share those things elsewhere.

That’s how I’m dealing with the internet: find the fun, ignore what’s not. Even the darkest doorsteps, can reflect light.

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