Originally, this piece was going to compare the difficulties of finding a partner and a job:
Single women: I can’t find a good man!
Single men: I can’t find a good woman!
Employers: I can’t find anybody who wants to work!
Unemployed people: I can’t find a job!
And then, I realized it’s not just dates and jobs. It’s everything. In theory, the internet should be bringing people together, but it doesn’t. It has the power to make things better for everyone, but it’s only serving the few.
The population was better informed pre-internet.
People got news from professional journalists working at media outlets who needed to present the news fairly to a large and varied audience, so nobody could afford to nurse their private biases.
The nightly network news, newspapers and news magazines needed to appeal to millions of people, so they couldn’t go off into crazy tangents. Now, those audiences are scattered, and there’s a niche media outlet for everyone.
No matter how insane your political views are, somebody out there is catering to them. Accuracy is optional.
This is not an improvement.
Singles struggle to couple up now.
If there are so many single people desperately seeking each other, why aren’t they finding each other?
There are some crazy theories. If you ask an incel or men’s rights dude (is there a difference?), the problem is that women are too damned picky. Even women who might be considered pretty average are all clicking only on the Chads. If only these picky-ass women would consider an ordinary guy!
This isn’t true. Women are looking for all kinds of guys. Most are just looking for somebody nice they click with and who wants the same things out of life.
The men I know who are single or who were single for a lot longer than they wanted to be were not holding out for a wealthy supermodel. They just couldn’t find a woman they connected with who also was ready to settle down.
The apps seem like they’d work great!
There are thousands of singles all trying to connect. Shouldn’t the internet be able to bring people together?
I asked one of my family members about it. He’s nice-looking, intelligent, financially stable, has never been married and has no children. According to him, the apps are so overrun by bots it’s not worth the trouble. His requirements are pretty minimal: A thoughtful, reasonably attractive, well-read partner who likes a quiet home life.
He would rather have a deep conversation than party. He’s not religious and doesn’t want to date anyone who is. An app he paid for had less of a bot problem, but it kept sending him conservative, religious women who don’t like to read, so he gave up.
An old friend of mine is married with a child now, but he spent years diligently trying to find a wife — and he’s an attractive and good guy who does very well financially. It took him years to find a partner, and he worked hard at it.
People used to be fixed up by their families and friends. Nobody made any money by introducing you to their cousin. Dating apps made $4.94 billion in 2022, according to Business of Apps. Why would they want you to successfully couple up and stop clicking? The longer you stay single and on their app, the more money they make.
I suspect choice overload is playing a part, too. The person you just went out with seems cool, but there seem to be thousands of others at hand who might be even better, so how do you know when to stop scrolling?
Job searching is no better.
I never want to hear another person claim that nobody wants to work now. Lots of people desperately want to work, but they can’t find a job.
Way back in the day, you’d come up with a resume, pay a copy place to make about 100 copies, and you’d start mailing them out. If you went to college, it had a staff paid to help you figure out where to apply. You would send the same exact resume to everyone.
The generation before me actually typed this stuff up on a typewriter and mailed it out. I knew of people who got amazing jobs that way.
Now? You have to go to the company’s website and make an account. You come up with a username and password. You fill out pages and pages of information about yourself, some of which may not apply to you at all. You’ll then upload your resume, which you have carefully optimized to be perfect for this one particular employer. It takes hours to do it right. This becomes your new unpaid full-time job.
You can objectively be an ideal candidate and be rejected immediately, without a human being even reviewing your application, because you left off one specific keyword. It’s not enough to say you can jump if they want you to say you can leap. I once applied for a job with a major corporation and got a rejection letter in less than a minute. Then I learned how to put in all the right keywords. I still didn’t get the job, but it took a human a few weeks to reject me.
Progress, I guess?
Businesses could fix this anytime they wanted to. Nobody is making them hire in this way. Every business that swears it can’t find good people probably rejects many strong applicants automatically.
Shopping is shitty now.
I still want to try on clothing before I buy it. There are so many outfits that I have just loved on the rack that have looked terrible when I’ve tried them on. Or they haven’t fit right. I don’t know who these people are who are successfully purchasing clothing and shoes online.
Or anything else, really. Even when online shopping works out, it’s so aggravating. If you use Amazon, you can type in exactly what you want: “Acme Thingamajig, model #7239,” and you will get back pages and pages of other stuff. Other companies that make similar thingamajigs actually pay to have their stuff show up each time you type in a competitor’s product. It’s frustrating and soul-killing trying to find exactly what you want.
I wanted to purchase a piece of kitchen equipment recently. I would have liked to have gone to a kitchen store to look at things, pick them up and assess their quality. But I can’t, because there is no kitchen store anywhere near me now. They can’t compete with online.
How many kitchen stores existed 25 years ago? Every city of any size had at least one. I loved shopping at them. I haven’t seen such a place in years now. Hundreds of such stores have closed, hundreds of store owners who made a decent living selling kitchen wares are out of business now. All the profit that used to support hundreds of shop owners goes into one company’s coffers now.
The same is true of every category of goods you can imagine.
The book business sucks now.
Ebooks have just about killed the book publishing business. AI may finish the job. We used to have a whole infrastructure that in theory assured reasonable quality , but until recently any hack could write a book and upload it. Now, you don’t have to even write it! You can use AI.
There is a sea of crappy books that makes it more difficult to fish out a good book. Both authors and readers are worse off than before, not to mention bookstores. Only Amazon is benefitting.
Before I came to Medium, I wrote a number of genre novels under a pen name and sold them on Amazon. I found I could only sell them if I advertised heavily. Amazon kept a healthy percentage of each sale, but that isn’t all — Amazon will only show your book to shoppers if you pay for advertising. Writers do all the work and Jeff Bezos makes all the money. (Medium is a better deal.)
The internet could and should work better.
It’s been ruined by what Cory Doctorow calls enshittification. He’s on Medium and Wikipedia. Look him up. He does a better job of explaining the concept than I can.
We need to be willing to pay for things again.
Medium is a good example. We pay for a membership and get to read as much stuff on this site as we want, without any ads. Readers and writers — not advertisers — are served.
Nothing is actually free. If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold. We all know this now, but we learned it too late.
We were trained to believe social media and news should be free. They are not. The price we are paying is higher than we ever could have imagined. We may yet end up paying for both with our democracy.
AI isn’t going to make things better. I fear it will make everything immeasurably worse — as hard to imagine as that is.
I can understand why we thought computers and the internet and AI could do a better and faster job than human beings. Human beings often suck. We make mistakes, we have bad motivations sometimes, and some of us cheat and steal. But I was well into adulthood before the digital age began. If you are, too, ask yourself this: Does anything work better now?