Last night, Bill Maher warned us about how more and more Americans are only getting "news" from places that only reinforce what they think.
And finally, New Rule: the Sparkletts guy must tell me why nobody talks around the water cooler anymore. But wait, I think I know why. It's because as a culture, we don't have enough in common anymore. And that's because the Internet, which was supposed to unite the world, has become too adept at serving us personalized content. Do you know what I saw on Yahoo!'s front page this morning? No you don't, because mine isn't the same as yours. People get newsfeeds now that just spit back customized stories based on what we've clicked on in the past. So I, for example, might see a lot of stories about pot, American history, and of course, Christian Mingle. (audience laughter and applause) Whereas Ted Nugent just gets ads for Prozac and bullets. (audience laughter)
So yes, welcome to the brave new world of microtargeting, which look, admittedly is often harmless. No one gets hurt if my computer tells me, "You bought James Taylor's Greatest Hits. You might also enjoy this pillow and these sleeping pills." (audience laughter) Or, "You've shown an interest in nipple slips. Here's every picture ever of Tara Reid. And here's an article about another slippery boob."
(audience laughter and applause)
But consider this. Back in the olden days, this is how people spent their time on the subway.
Amazing, isn't it? Everyone's reading a newspaper, and no one's masturbating. (audience laughter)
Here's a subway car today.
Everyone's playing Angry Birds, and no one is getting news. Or if they are, it's their Facebook newsfeed, which is now a third of adults get their news. And this month, Facebook unveiled an app called Paper, which Mark Zuckerberg calls "the best personalized newspaper in the world". Yeah, I suppose the Washington Post is OK, like when it uncovered Watergate. But Facebook lets you share pictures of your lunch and do this.
(audience laughter and applause)
But hey, if one of the richest companies in America can get richer by making you a little stupider every time you look at your phone, small price to pay. And boy, does it make you stupider. Paper tracks the news you're interested in, and gives you more of that and less of everything else, never burdening you with contradictory information or telling you anything new. That's what makes it news. But only seeing the stuff that confirms the opinions you already have isn't news — it's Fox News. (wild audience laughter and applause)
The reason so many Americans, for example, think climate change is a hoax is that their only source for science news is Glenn Beck, Fox, and Matt Drudge, the cracker trifecta.
Newspapers may be old-fashioned, but here's what we're losing if you never see one. They are trying to tell you what's actually important, not just what's important to you. You may not read the whole paper, but you at least see headlines, making you aware that something's going on outside of your microtargeted world of fashion or music or Wiccans or zombies or whatever you're into.
I don't enjoy reading about climate change, it's depressing. But for example, I originally saw a headline that said Jellyfish Are Taking Over the Ocean. Which I found alarming. So I read the article, and apparently, yes, jellyfish are the cockroaches of the sea. And will happily eat all the toxic shit we're putting in the ocean, which is killing everything else down there, but the jellyfish are like, "Oil? Fuckin' love it!" (audience applause) "Plastic? I had some for lunch."
Yes, jellyfish. 500 million years of yuck, and now their time has come. And no one is going to hear about it unless a jellyfish washes up on a beach and exposes its nipple.