Online Inequality: The Widening Content Gap



Normally, I love the brutal honesty and sheer madness of the internet, but there is one thing I’ve┬ánoticed┬áthat bothers me. There is an increasing disconnect between the people who create and disseminate content, and those who passively consume it.

In many ways, the internet functions like a global economy. The only difference is that economies deal in goods and currency, and the system of trade online is data and content (not to mention cats). In order for the internet to maintain a healthy informational flow, content must move in a continual stream through all subsets of the greater system, much like wealth in the real world. Without a constant influx of new information, and the correct systems in place to curate and distribute it, the entire ecosystem stagnates, and intellectual recession is inevitable.

The beauty of the internet is that there is no “pay to play” requirement. Anyone with an opinion and the desire can set up shop and distribute their ideas. The lack of an entry cost should mean that everyone, at least to some degree, should be taking part in the creation of content, and not only be relegated to the roles of curation and observation.The thing that worries me is, despite the ease of entry, how few people take part in the generation of content.

Much like the growing wealth gap in our economy, I feel there is a widening “content gap” online. I see this trend even when it comes to discussion of content. Most people passively consume the content created by a handful of power users on Twitter, and the same is true with blogging and other social platforms. It’s true that maintaining a constant stream of original content is time consuming and difficult, but people need to make an effort to voice their opinions on the content they read, in order to maintain a healthy online commentary. A continual online discourse creates a vibrant and evolving ecosystem, whereas an increasingly hierarchical system of providers and receivers creates an environment that stifles new ideas, and suppresses alternative viewpoints.

Unlike the wealth gap, the solution to content inequality is much simpler. Systems are already in place for online activity and content distribution. All that is needed is the desire to contribute to the social discourse. Voicing one’s opinion should not be too difficult, as free will is something latent in all individuals. The only challenge is to galvanize people out of apathy and to inspire them to take part in the collective online discourse of humanity.

We can do it. We have the technology. Our actions and discussions can make the internet better than it has ever been before. All it takes is to choose action over apathy, individual thought over conventional platitudes.

That is, if the cats don’t stop us.


Mr.  David Benson is a social media analyst and coffeephile. He currently lives in New York City and works as an analyst for Mashwork, a social media analytics company.

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2 Responses to “Online Inequality: The Widening Content Gap”

  1. Eduardo Pauletto Says:

    Unfortunately, I can not imagine people expressing their thoughts freely, while there is an ideological, political and religious censorship. And I believe that censorship will always exist.
    On the other hand, there must be someone controlling the content or anything can be said? Should someone be allowed to comment on your post about global integration with a message of hate? (Sorry! When I try to write seriously I’m very boring!)


    • David Benson Says:

      You make a good point about ideological censorship, since there is a line that even the internet (or at least the national ISPs) will not tolerate.

      In terms of a controlling power, I’m not sure if I agree. The internet offers the closest thing to equality of expression. From my limited vantage point, it appears to me that the internet is the closest thing to a true meritocracy. The most valuable content rises above the noise, and the most valuable people become the thought leaders online. The trick is to get people to participate in the game, and not simply consume what already exists in the ecosystem.

      Now if you were to talk about the ISPs themselves, and the platforms erected upon them, I might be tempted to agree with you. Therein lies a very scary possibility, that a handful of people can, at any given moment, shut off the tools we use to share our opinions. That is a subject that deserves a dedicated post, I think.

      Thanks for your thoughtful remarks, and don’t hesitate to make your opinions known on future posts. I always love hearing alternative viewpoints, since they all help to make us better informed.


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