SXSW panel(three split)

‘This is not because of A.I.’: Yes, the internet is getting weirder. Here’s why

‘The internet is not OK.’


Braden Bjella


Posted on Mar 13, 2024   Updated on Mar 13, 2024, 4:08 pm CDT

If you’re a longtime internet user, you may have noticed that the world wide web is getting pretty weird these days. A.I.-generated images, content spun out of tragedy, and the many, many odd trends of TikTok—for even the most casual internet observer, it seems like the net is moving more away from the global connection it originally promised toward something more segmented, isolating, and, of course, strange.

Seeing this, one may wonder, is the internet OK? That’s what a Wednesday panel at SXSW attempted to answer. Led in discussion by Kerrie Finch, a GroupMe of 3 that included Flavia Barbat of Brandingmag, Chris Do of The Futur, and Holly Fraser of WeTransfer offered their thoughts on the topic.

“I don’t know if ‘broken’ is really the word, but the internet is not OK,” declared Barbat at the beginning of the talk. She went on to detail how social media is overrun with subpar content, and that, in general, how “quantity trumps quality day and night” across the web.

Barbat also anticipated those who think that A.I. is to blame for the current issues with the internet.

“This is not because of A.I.,” she stated. “A.I. is just reflecting those behaviors that we adopted over time, and just exacerbating it.”

The central tension, the panel said, is that the internet offers a breadth of content, with Do noting that “it is one of the most democratic places for content to exist.” However, any place with such low barriers to entry is prone to overcrowding—and while the internet is not as crowded as it could be, it has become flooded with a bizarre array of content that is now being used as the backbone to create additional content.

“Whilst we have amazing content… there’s also a lot more on the internet when it comes to extremism or hate speech,” said Fraser. Not only A.I., but human creators too then build atop this content, changing it in the process.

Barbat cited Mr. Beast as an example of a popular creator whose work is skewing the scales away from educational content or content that inspires personal grwoth. This, she says, is upsetting.

“It’s not because the stuff is not good,” she explained. “I just feel like it’s a little bit imbalanced.”

Given this, the panel largely agreed that the skills of the future will be sorting through this wide selection of work and curating it into unique approaches, though there was a division amongst the group about A.I.’s role in doing this.

Regardless, Fraser emphasized that the future will be defined by “creating with intentionality.”

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*First Published: Mar 13, 2024, 5:30 pm CDT