Have you Bought Into an Online Culture of Greed and Deceit?
Welcome to the internet of writerly dreams
Unless they’re a verdict, words aren’t supposed to slam doors shut yet the words of those who can afford to have an opinion do.
And who can afford not to have one these days? It’s all about trending with the trends, riding the coat tails of whatever celebrity has been breaking bad, and making bank.
We think, we write, we publish and algorithms take care of everything else. As a result, we’re staring at an internet full of ugly stuffed with so much SEO words no longer sound like human language. Go viral, you will; mean something, you will not.
When the internet gave everyone who wanted one a platform, we thought we no longer had to pander or curry favor to be heard. In an anti-intellectual climate that suppresses signal at the expense of populist noise fostering fear and outrage, time has come to admit this no longer applies.
We no longer know how to express ourselves or communicate in a non-transactional way, every word is optimized for maximum returns on time and emotional investment. And the pandemic has wiped out what was left of our interpersonal skills.
How can writing even begin to earn a living?
Many say they’ve figured it all out: They’re all marketers. Breathe in the zeitgeist: Profiteering is having a moment.
What was relevant before the pandemic no longer applies however no one ever reminds you of this before charging you. Who even knows what they’re doing when we’re all adapting the best we can on less and less?
Money and writing rarely go together, even in journalism, so unless you’re deeply invested in writing, there’s a good chance you’ll end up hating the thing you thought you loved and wanted to explore because some website promised you some money for your words.
Writing good words is a labor-intensive pursuit and process.
In a system designed to serve the lowest common denominator for maximum market share, you’re working against the law of diminishing returns. Typing a lot takes stamina but writing good words takes heart. If the ones you write make you miserable then something’s off.
What’s your message? Every single piece of writing has one. If greed and outrage dominate some online spaces, the internet is vast. Find words that don’t snuff out your spark or cause you to sacrifice ethics. Otherwise you’ll be left without work, voice, or morals.
The Alex Jonesification of everything isn’t inevitable, it’s a choice.
Fomenting discord over discourse pays. You can keep your fingers crossed American democracy can afford the bill.
Or you can simply close that tab. The internet is broken, language is breaking yet we keep trying to combine the two to fix both issues. And because we can’t afford to fail, we will succeed, whatever it takes.
Can the digital citizenry rise to the challenge? Feedback is systematically misconstrued as a personal attack when it dares disagree with the author; blocking and reporting is more common than conversation. And then there’s the passive aggressive humiliation you’ll never find out about: muting.
It makes no sense.
Nothing screams “you’re only vanity metrics powering my personal brand” louder than muting someone on social media. Is there anything more spiteful, more disdainful of human communication? If basic common decency where a mailing list, ‘mute’ would be the unsubscribe button.
Why are writers attempting to cancel each other out? Why are we wasting time picking at the corpses of discarded dreams instead of birthing better ones that work for everyone and not just the loudest grifters? Words comfort, empower, and can change human minds why not write more of those?
Robots, we are not.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.