Is the digital deluge beginning to abate? After years of digital tsunamis sweeping everything (including ourselves) before them, are we seeing the tide turning? Is some sanity returning to our use of digital technology?

Why do I suggest that? Consider these trends:

Twitter down: Twitter earnings, new user numbers, and ad revenue are slumping. (Forbes)

Facebook down: Sharing on Facebook has taken a dive. 34% of users updated their status and 37% shared their own photos in the last quarter, down from 50% and 59% for the same period last year. (Wall Street Journal)

Online learning down: Despite the digital glitz, online learning has failed to match the teacher at the front of the class. A major report, based on research in 17 US states with online charter schools, has found “significantly weaker academic performance” in maths and reading in these virtual schools compared with the conventional school system. (BBC)

eBooks down: Digital books accounted for about 20% of all books sold last year. But eBook sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year (New York Times). Amazon have even opened their first bricks-and-mortar store in Seattle (Wall Street Journal)

Comments down: Major bloggers like Michael Hyatt and Tim Challies have removed the commenting feature from their blogs, as have other major media organizations like Recode, Reuters, Popular Science, The Week, Mic, The Verge, The Chicago Sun-Times, and USA Today’s FTW.

Blogs down: Other major bloggers are calling it quits. (Christianity Today)

I admit, it’s a cloud about the size of a baby’s little finger, and there are still some statistics going in the opposite direction, but these trends, which support anecdotal evidence, may indicate a significant societal shift. I hope so. Perhaps, in a few years, many of us will look back at the way we allowed our technology, phones, and social media to take over our lives and replace reality, and think, “What. Was. I. Doing?”

  • Steven Birn

    I’m not buying it. The internet has always been a fluid world. Twitter use has dropped as young people have left it, shifting to newer sites and apps such as Instagram and Snap Chat. Eventually when the middle aged join the now newish apps, the young people will have shifted to something else. We’ve seen this on many occasions as the young folks shift from Geocities websites, to My Space, to Facebook, to Twitter and now to Instagram and Snap Chat.

    Sure, some news outlets have rid themselves of comment sections but it’s not likely because there are a lack of commenters. They more likely got rid of comment sections because they tended to descend into insulting chaos. For every blogger that quits, there’s another one out there to start a new blog. The blog world shifts around, much like a lot of other social media sites.

    That Ebook sales are down isn’t of itself a meaningful statistic. How are regular book sales doing? If they’re also down 10%, then a drop in the purchase of Ebooks wouldn’t be very meaningful. Also, what difference does it make whether people read a physical book or an Ebook? I’m not sure Ebooks are evidence of technology dominating us.

    I’m not sure I buy that media is dominating us. People’s interactions with each other shift over time. We’ve had plenty of monumental shifts over the past century or so. It used to take weeks to communicate with others via what we now call snail mail. A century and a half ago the telagraph made it easy and relatively quick to communicate around the country, a century ago the telephone revolutionized communication. Radio and then television also revolutionized communications and now we seem to have regular communications revolutions via the internet. There are certainly problems but I’m not sure it’s quite as bad as some people seem to think. It’s merely different.

    • David Murray

      Good points Steve. The only point I really take issue with is your assessment that the digital revolution is not as bad as people think. I’m not a technophobe by any stretch, but from what I’ve seen of the impact on peoples lives and families, it’s far worse than most people think.

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