Blink. Blink. Blink. Miss a decade a.k.a. “Why I am breaking up with marketing”.
I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor, on this neglected Medium account, for about 15 minutes. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and not the first time I have tried to write this story. In fact, it’s been brewing for about 9 months. It’s still brewing, really.
Each time I have tried to write about it, though, it’s the same blinking cursor.
Why am I breaking up with marketing?
Where do I even begin?
Ironically, it starts with that blinking cursor paralysis.
Because I never used to have that problem.
Back in the olden days (known as the 90s and 00s), I was a prolific and talented writer. I’d write a blog post daily, effortlessly. I was funny, candid, and shared stories and snippets and thought experiments when few were. Admittedly, I shared more than I should have (and I was groan-worthily precocious in my twenties). I would write about politics, motherhood, digital technologies, design, music, relationships, business. Basically, whatever I wanted to write about, because I was Téa, a person — not a product.
It’s hard to imagine it, but the internet was once a place where conversations were fun, rather than tedious. Where keeping stats on your blog was lame, and bragging about them to anyone made you a wanker. We built our audiences based on the strength of our ideas and our willingness to collaborate with others — not by our wallets (or access to them). It wasn’t “content”, and we weren’t a commodity. We just… were. We were (mostly) operating in good faith and hanging out with our imaginary friends.
The early days of the internet was the closest thing you could get to a true meritocracy. It was our haven to express ourselves, be who we wanted to be without the constraints of the physical world upon us, write and share our thoughts, and find a sense of belonging and community with like-minded people.
And no, that didn’t mean “people who always agreed”, like the tribes we have today. The flame wars were epic and brutal, but fun… mostly descending into accusations of having no life, suggesting the other person should get one, and then a debate over who had the least “life” (until someone pointed out they were arguing this point on the Mariah Carey fan forum, and rendered the conversation moot).
Then, Facebook happened.
The Like button happened.
Then, they monetised everything.
The marketers and recruiters and scammers and VCs and middle managers saw a quick buck and took over our spaces and took a giant shit on everything great about the internet.
If I wanted to survive, I had to say I was in marketing, and shut up, and shut down parts of who I am. I could no longer be multi-faceted and “Téa”. I couldn’t be a social scientist AND a designer AND a writer AND a musician, right? I couldn’t be funny AND credible, right?
To be more than one thing takes longer than 30 seconds to talk about, and why would anyone talk to you if there isn’t a buck in it for them with an elevator pitch? Crazy!
Middle managers, “lifestyle bloggers” and over-consumers (the bane of everybody else’s real life existence) took over the internet and appointed themselves as the morality police.
The fact is, I could no longer be a person with opinions if I wanted to succeed in business.
I was no longer Téa.
I was now a product.
And I have been a product since 2011.
And it shows in everything I have (and haven’t) written since.
Think about the time you left a relationship. The other person asks you “why?”, but you struggle to answer, because it is never one thing, but death by a thousand paper cuts.
My procrastination over this post - and that dreaded blinking cursor - feels like that, because I have observed the gradual erosion of my soul and intellect over ten years, it’s hard to explain it without sounding like a laundry list of whining.
The short answer?
I’m bloody miserable. And bored. And everyone else decided what I was, who I should be, how I should package it, and I let that determine my value. The fact is, the thing I signed up for has changed (and not for the better, despite all the buzz about innovation and creativity). It’s all about making 5 men richer, at everyone else’s expense. Marketing is not something that requires intelligence or critical or creative thinking — it now requires assembly.
The thing I once loved — through the underhanded exploitation of data, manipulation of people’s weaknesses and tech companies literal harvesting of our lives for profit — has turned something that used to be fun into something sociopathic, violent, and greedy, and I can’t compete in it anymore without being complicit.
I have to quit marketing because, in 2019, it’s time to pick a side. I choose my soul.
So, in 2019, it’s a weird place to be in, having so much to say and yet, finding myself crippled by the blinking cursor, unable to write a single word of truth without looking over my shoulder.
You only need to look at my blog archives to see the turning point in my writing. Look, in the last few years I have still tried to challenge things in my way, but, all I have been writing about was marketing and design. And I lost a decade of my life.
Because I, too, was writing for the money and the “product”, not for the sake of the idea. Or, more specifically, only writing about the safe things I can not offend someone with, or only offend those who aren’t my customers.
But, marketing has dulled my senses, and I have lost the ability to do my best work by letting insecurity, fear and self-consciousness dominate my thoughts.
Because now, everything is problematic to someone. And if it isn’t problematic, someone has a “well, actually”, or a comment about my face or whatever. The comments sections aren’t what they used to be. Now, negativity and offence and outrage in the comments is the price of admission… how is any of that worth it if it’s not even for work you’re proud of?
Year upon year, I have written less and less, about less and less. Still Téa, of course, but still, very much a broken and shallow version of what I could have been.
And that is, in part, the reason that cursor blinks at me.
That blinking cursor is why I need to get the hell out of marketing and into art, because I have lost a decade of comedy, book writing, podcasting and all the things that make me happy.
Seems I overcame the blinking cursor today.
That’s a start.