There was a family-owned
The small bookstore survived 2 wars, 5 presidents and one small fire only to succumb to the big box invasion a few years back along with all the other Ma and Pa shops that were undercut by low prices, sexy selection
What I missed most about the little bookstore was the miscellaneous section where you could find actual bins of old books – mostly paperbacks – that described places, stories and situations that I didn’t even know existed. The words and infrequent pictures described foreign topics and circumstances that were other-worldly to me. I loved to dig into those miscellaneous titles and find a treasure to share my afternoon with. The fact that it was an unexpected find made me relish the story it unfolded that much more delicious. In my predictable rise-at-7, dinner-at-6, bedtime-at-9 suburban life, it was a way that I could totally surprise myself. Big adventures in small packages that carried me away to places unknown. Heaven.
Fast-forward several decades to 2014. Outside of discovering a rare and particularly antique garage sale, my ability to find things I never expected has all but vanished. My world – and everyone else’s – has been handed over to the algorithm bots. My viewing habits have been studied and combined with other information regarding my life and location to produce the most optimized information at my fingertips, courtesy of Captain Google. Every search I execute on the internet bounces information about who I am to a highly sophisticated database that churns out a recipe for sending me content that is increasingly targeted for my uniquely individual tastes and preferences. In fact, the math has become so genius that Google is instantly able to recommend choices based on thousands of microgenres that categorize content for me. Super.
The reality is these are not true recommendations.
Internet searches are intensely striated analyses of what you want based on data collected and factored into what you have asked for before. The choices are aligned with you. They match your world. They match your history; the person you were the last time you interfaced with Captain G. The person you used to be a minute ago . . . or a week ago . . . or a lifetime ago. That was basic me. You don’t know me now, Captain G! This is me 2.0. Now I’m so badass and fly.
Internet searches give you matches and they give you unlimited access. “You like vanilla? We’ve got 4,000,000 kinds of vanilla for you!” oozes Captain Google.
What I am missing in my life is the stuff that would represent Jamocha Almond Fudge flavor: that glorious miscellaneous bin at my old bookstore. But there is a much deeper loss than that. What is really missing is the hunt, the small personal victory of discovering something extraordinary in an otherwise ordinary day. Google (and other search engines) have eliminated the simple adventure of being able to do my own archeology. Their method for content curation has figured me
The other thing working against me in Googleland is that the list of curated items that Google produces for me in my search may bring 1,200,000 results, but competition for being first in the Google queue is a matter of SEO (search engine optimization) magic and who is willing to pay the price. It’s a “pay-to-play” for position on page one. So although I may really prefer to buy a beautiful, handmade sarong from a woman named Maia with 5 children in the backwaters of Nigeria because I love her dresses, her story, and I want to help her, I do not even know that she exists because Macy’s and Target have bought my attention on page one of my Google search. Captain Google keeps me safe and secure with search results conveniently located within a ten or
Google thinks it is being helpful, but it is not. In a very real sense, I have been bound and routed by the internet process and big business. Small business, craft, art
I miss my dusty bookstore. I miss the hunt.
The solution for me – and let’s face it, this is all about me – would be a kill switch. A button on the Google
Ah…monetizing. That is why I will never get my kill switch.
by Mary Meldrum