Blockbuster, taxis, classified ads, cds: all these things, and many others, seem to be very different, yet, they share one glaring characteristic. Their success has significantly declined due to the advent of the Internet and its, perhaps excessive, use in today’s society. Blockbuster has been replaced by Netflix. In fact, one can even argue that television in general has been replaced by Netflix and other sites like it. Taxis are struggling due to lift-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Classified ads have been forgone for other means of communicating one’s needs over various Internet consumer sites. Moreover, print newspapers in general have been largely overrun by social media sites and online news sites. CDs are almost laughable as the music industry is largely run online through Apple music, Spotify, and other music apps. Evidently, the Internet is being used today in ways that the creators never could have foreseen or even dreamed about. Without a doubt, the Internet is influencing the economy and its structure more and more each day; however, the true question that welcomes many different opinions is if this is a good thing or not.
The answer to this question, like most other things in life, depends on your perspective. If I was an employee at Blockbuster ten years ago or a NYC taxi driver in 2015, I would most likely argue that the Internet’s effect on the economy is not positive because it is leading to my job being in jeopardy and other negative side effects in my own life. However, my friend Steph who managed to start a business selling decorated shoes via Instagram holds a very different opinion. Is there something wrong with me selling an old sweater for 20 dollars on Poshmark to a stranger in California who wants to buy it? Again, it depends who you ask. Obviously, it benefits me because I made 20 dollars just by going to the UPS store and mailing the sweater. However, Urban Outfitters does not benefit because they would have made 50 dollars off that same sweater if it was sold to the same stranger in one of their stores or from their online site. Evidently, this question of whether the Internet is improving or ruining our economy is dependent on one’s perspective.
Finally, I want to touch briefly on the idea of targeted ads. How does Facebook know that Anthropologie is my favorite store so they can put ads of Anthropologie sweaters all over my feed? Well, as previously mentioned, it’s probably linked to my online shopping habit. Duncan argues this is a good thing because I see ads about stuff I actually would want to buy, leading to both the consumer and producer to benefit. While that’s true, other stores that I may shop at other than Anthropologie do not benefit from this addition of targeted ads to my Facebook feed. This problem is similar to that of online newspapers, in which people may only read articles recommended to them, leading to the reading of articles all with only one side of the story or solely about one topic. Does this cause the general public to be less informed on important issues today? Ultimately, I don’t think we will see the full effects of these problems for a few more years, but I think it’s something interesting to keep in mind as I read my news articles online.
As you might have noticed, I really enjoyed this week’s seminar and the shift towards the effects of the Internet on modern-day life. I’m really excited to talk about other aspects of life that have been significantly changed and shaped by the addition of the Internet into our society.