On Content Creation
Internets. It appears that I have to write a follow up to one of my previous articles. Not necessarily because someone demanded it, but more so because it would be somewhat presumptuous not to. A while back I scribed a small and little-read piece on reading intelligently, and that is dedicating time to sit down and enjoy a piece of literature, a magazine article or one of those gum-wrapper comics.
Since it was the internet piece (as in written exclusively for the digital world), I may have griped a little too hard about our collective inability to focus for more than 2 minutes to enjoy writing lest we miss Justin Bieber flying by on a hover board follow by a pet tiger handing out autographed photos of Taylor Swift. But now that the steam has come down a bit, I think I have to call out the flipside of this coin, and that is that we do not necessarily have what I would call an abundance of good content that deserves such undivided attention. What we have is content that is at best mediocre creative expression and at worst a literal, watered down rip-off of someone else’s work. Much like a Hollywood remake.
At this point I’m going to indulge my inner 50-year old (get off my porch you vandals!) and wag the finger at the internet, the proliferation of social media and the idea that we are all content creators. Because that is bullshit. You’re not. People cultivate and develop that skill for ages, and sometimes, some people are just better story tellers. Life ain’t fair, some people have talent, money AND power and you can’t even get that Tinder match to reply to your message (maybe the tiger wasn’t vicious-looking enough in that main photo).
The online world we live in has led us to believe that all of our lives our special and deserve to be shared. You start following social media and you start to believe, slowly, that your life is special. You think people care what you had for breakfast, what shoe you’re wearing on your left foot, what the temperature is like outside when you go for a jog, what you are doing at this very precise moment (probably thinking about taking a poop). Well it’s not and they don’t. No one cares. At least not in the form we present these things. Unless you’ve figured out a way to cure cancer, solve monetary inequality or proven without a shadow of a doubt and with scientific evidence that Batman is better than Superman your life is not exciting to anyone (yes, I really do mean that no one on Snapchat cares that you’re doing homework right now).
But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it exciting or shareable. Consider Casey Neistat… Or Sara Deitschy. Or other people who share content on YouTube. Or on Snapchat. Or that saxophonist that plays outside of the subway every morning making my commute significantly better. They live regular lives and do document them on social, but they introduce an element of entertainment. It could be through staging of a shot or seeking out a few exciting avenues to handle mundane stuff. The point is, they understand no one wants to watch them eat lunch, but they will watch them skateboard through New York while eating lunch. And so they do.
The point is, unless you’ve learned to shit rainbows out of your ass, no one wants to see unfiltered shots into your life. At most, we want snaps or entertaining moments of though that maybe mundane, but posed in an interesting way. Bring value or bring nothing at all.
You may wonder to yourself now… did you leave the iron on? I don’t know, probably not, you’re an adult (I hope, or I wouldn’t swear this fucking much). But more importantly, what does my social media behaviour and my propensity for geometrically arranging my brunch and photographing it before I eat it?
Well, you silly goose, let me tell you. It’s that social media amplification has governed the way our brains work. We now believe that each and every one of us is in possession of priceless thoughts and opinions that have the potential to bring around the new Golden Age of literature, entertainment and possibly politics (a Trump effect if you will). Because the people who take photos of their alarm clock in the morning with a snapchat filter to make sure we REALLY know what time it is are the ones then writing articles for websites that we read so religiously.
This is why we get “articles” like How To Tell if You’re Dating a Mermaid or 15 Reasons I’m a Goddamn Idiot. In one word, these articles aren’t unique, they’re not creative. They use other people’s work for the most part (gifs, videos, memes) and in many cases other people’s opinions (like that one time Complex posted an article that was literally a verbatim recollection of a Shea Serrano book). There is no valuable insight, it’s basically train of thought with no filter in place. Half of these articles have no more foresight than you do when you decide that everyone of your friends deserves to know you’re making a bagel at 8PM as a snack.
So I think we have to acknowledge that we do deserve well researched and well planned articles. As writers we have to develop a range of critical thinking that takes us beyond “what colour socks do I wear today.” We have to think about subjects beyond just “well, I like this, so it must be entertaining.” Sometimes we do find that out through trial and error, like putting your hand on a burning stove, but sometimes we should just know. Would you care if your friend is doing homework right now? Do you want them to tell you what time it is even though you have your OWN PERFECTLY FUNCTIONING CLOCK on the device that you’re viewing the media on. No? Is there a way to make this message entertaining? No? Don’t write it.
Take care out there.