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There Is Nothing On The Internet

The internet used to be a place to explore. It was exciting. Now there’s nothing on.

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I’d just traveled across Kazakhstan, went out to the remote border region with China, went down to Tajikistan and back. Each stop of the way, just about every day, was packed with interviews, site visits, all that stuff that I find fun and fascinating.

But I was beat. I sat in a cafe and order a coffee. It arrived. I pulled out my phone and began browsing for something recreational to read. I read the Bills news, there wasn’t much going on besides some bloggers musing about how good we ain’t. I didn’t feel like reading the real news and I definitely didn’t want to read anything that was at all associated with my work.

“There’s nothing on,” I said to myself as I sheathed my phone.

I then caught myself, somewhat startled by my own cerebral statement. That was exactly what people used to say back in the day when network TV ruled. We’d say, “There’s nothing on,” when the programing on the three stations we could tune in with our rabbit ears all sucked. I haven’t heard anyone say that in a decade.

The internet is an infinitely expanding universe, of course there had to be something “on.” But I sat there and couldn’t think of anything.

What I wanted was a story. Just a contiguous narrative that I could follow and check in on — something that wasn’t too heavy but may nonetheless teach me about something or get me thinking about something remote from anything that I was doing. What I wanted was an old-time blog, like the kind that we were making in the mid-2000s, when the internet was uncharted territory to explore. What I wanted was the kind of blog where someone you found kind of interesting or odd just talked about what they were doing and thinking. Something that you could easily follow day to day — a temporary escape.

I’m not sure where those writers have gone.


Filed under: Internet, Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

13 comments… add one

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  • Vanholio! February 8, 2017, 2:12 pm

    Sadly, I often feel that way. The content is out there, but it’s gettin’ hard to find. The big blogs and sites have won the race to the mediocre.

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    • VagabondJourney February 8, 2017, 9:29 pm

      Yes, it’s kind of funny. Google and Co gave a big artificial boost to big, “branded” blogs starting around 2012 and put most of the little guys either out of business, pushed them into obscurity, or provoked them to try to pretend to be like the big, branded blogs. Then many of those same big sites went out of business! Haha. Not even they could find a model to continue making money on the internet. Now we’re kind of left with a severely undiverse index when we do searches. Do we really need Google to find Wikipedia and the NY Times? However, because of the reasons we talk about above, I predict a resurgence of independent sites in the years to come as the big sites continuing moving to paywalled models and people start reacting to the “nothing on” era of the internet and go exploring again for content that’s outside of the sphere of the mainstream.

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      • Vanholio! February 8, 2017, 11:19 pm

        Looking for new content the last few days, I find myself returning to the old blog rolls. Nothing like word of mouth!

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        • VagabondJourney February 10, 2017, 4:34 am

          That is very true. I believe this was what was initially attractive about the internet. It was the Wild West of media — a place to go to find real people doing real things. Now it has rapidly become the same old mainstream media, the outlaws have all either been jailed or have traveled on to more remote horizons.

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  • Russ February 21, 2017, 3:44 am

    Funny, I’ve been thinking this for a while, that there is not much good on the internet anymore. I do the same as others have said, go back to my old blogroll to find some good stories, which is how actually I browsed my way back to your blog, but other than that not much doing with many of the ones I’ve followed. I agree that it’s the big branded sites that have taken over, all sponsored posts with no real substance, but I also kind of figured it’s that the content is just not out there like it used to be. I know that most of the good travel blogs I used to follow have folded, but I kind of figured that it was that people were growing up and moving on, starting families, settling down, and that the younger people who are out there on adventures aren’t taking to the same media we used to consume. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I sure do miss the days of a feed full of good, unedited adventures to read through while I drink my coffee.

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  • death2 disko September 2, 2017, 1:55 am

    needs a blogtal instead of the windows misery news

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  • trevor November 3, 2017, 4:16 pm

    i think my weebly site is a blast from the past a place to lose yourself . haha

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  • Ted January 2, 2020, 1:06 pm

    I find a lot of people are saying the same old thing about the same places. One person goes to Paris and takes a photo of the Eiffel Tower, so they all have to. Blah…

    “The big blogs and sites have won the race to the mediocre”, how true.

    I tend to write for my family, a few friends and if someone happens by and signs up, then so be it. I avoid social media like the plague.

    Us “little guys” can start relating to each other. Posting comments, subscribing etc-etc. After a while exposure should increase, but please, don’t fall prey to the normal.

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    • Trevor January 3, 2020, 9:35 am

      Man i need to go to Laos and blog about tubing in Vang Vieng…. yikes

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      • Wade Shepard January 3, 2020, 10:02 am

        Yes, that’s definitely how to get ahead as a blogger. Do whatever everyone else is doing in a way that’s no more or less remarkable. It’s the age of the media zebra. Blend in!

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    • Wade Shepard January 3, 2020, 10:20 am

      Yes, it’s almost remarkable. We have this crazy open form of media that allows for endless diversity and variety yet we can only find people doing the same boring things as everyone else. The World Wide Web was infinite when it first began gaining popularity. You’d go exploring and find these people doing interesting things and living these interesting lives and telling interesting stories. It was a place for outliers. It was the domain of people seeking something different. We used to get on the internet and start searching for things for recreation. We’d spend hours and hours just searching … searching and bookmarking. It’s almost incredible how one company in particular took control of this medium and pushed the outliers beyond the periphery. They are now so hard to find that it’s almost futile to try looking.

      I like your blog. It’s legit Web 1.0, and I mean this in a good way. You’re telling stories and writing real. Subscribed.

      Sometimes I wish webrings could make a comeback. They were really the only way back in the day to discover interesting content because search wasn’t up to snuff. It’s funny that now that search is super sophisticated we still need them for the same reason.

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  • Matt March 8, 2020, 10:49 pm

    The internet is completely censored by the same assholes who run network TV. They are the gatekeepers. Every conspiracy theory has been scrubbed from the net to protect us when it’s really protecting the powers that be. I was in high school when the internet came into existence, you kids today don’t understand how much it’s changed and been dumbed down.

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    • Wade Shepard March 9, 2020, 9:00 am

      Very true. The internet was once a reactionary platform for voices that the MSM censored or wouldn’t vet. There was a span of years where individual creators were able to bring together audiences on par with mid-level MSM and make good money. Now this has all been co-opted by corporations who discovered how to make themselves the platform within the larger body of the internet and make money and gradually move towards killing that larger body. But there is starting to be a reawakening online with the dark web and and ever growing number of people who are sick of what the big G and YouTube and FB and Twitter force feeds them. There is still an entire world out there — you just have to cut the tether and go find it.

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