‘An influential Twitter user is both an addict and a pusher’

This is the crux of the issue I would say. ‘Content creators’ face the worse of both worlds- as addicted as ‘consumers’ but not really reaping the financial rewards of those ‘influencers’ who (for whatever reason) are favoured by the algorithm.

It’s a losing game and all of the comparisons made between smartphones/social media and slot machine gambling are apt and true. Like the ‘problem gambler’, the power users of twitter and instagram are slowly but surely going broke- but spiritually instead of financially. (Although that can happen too as you waste your time and squander your career opportunities in service of using these apps all day)

I increasingly think the only way to win this game is not to play and I say this as a creator who makes my living from the internet. This does not mean to give up on creating but to automate (and increasingly ignore) the whole game of social media promotion. I figure that a regained attention span and a commitment to mastery will mean that a creator who does this will eventually thrive as their work will simply be a cut above the rest. It may be naive, it may be an unverifiable article of faith but I believe that consistent quality work is the best and truest form of promotion.

Attention and fame (and with it money) are the carrot on the end of the stick, the mythical gold at the end of the rainbow. So I have found that ignoring this, and with it accepting obscurity, anonymity, privacy and ordinariness is the only way for the creator to get off the endless treadmill.

It’s a quiet life, a less flashy life, but a more contented one when lived this way.

The work, ultimately, must be it’s own reward.

Thank you for another excellent piece, Justin. You are doing important work here.

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"The power users of twitter and instagram are slowly but surely going broke- but spiritually instead of financially."

Damn! Well said there. It really can chip away at you. I briefly tried Twitter recently (for this newsletter) and became disheartened at seeing so many people I respected being so bitter and performatively spiteful all the time (even if I agreed with them). As though they had been poisoned by the platform itself.

I too would like a world where creators of all kinds are not incentivized to pump out content-for content's sake or risk losing their house. That said- the most interesting artists I've ever seen are invariably the ones who foremost set out to make art, and worried about commodifying it later (if at all). Similarly, the best journalism comes form publications that don't rely on click-count. This frees journalists somewhat to foremost tell a good story without worrying about its popularity. Social Media encourages the reverse- popularity foremost, then the content as an afterthought. How many brilliant minds get sucked into that trap?

I do think I'm slightly more optimistic than most as I look at the growth of non-commercial social media systems like Mastodon. There is still *potential* for addiction and spiritual decay, but they are not *designed* that way. If anyone could crack the nut of a platform that encourages "collaborative connection in a digital space without all the extra junk" I think it could be the open source community (and the STSC of course ;).

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"those ‘influencers’ who (for whatever reason) are favoured by the algorithm."

I think that influencers provide exactly what the algorithm seeks: toxic engagement. Regular content creators can generate some engagement but at most partially toxic, which in the algorithm's view, does not achieve maximum engagement possible. On the other hand, influencers are only seeking to get as much engagement as possible out of anything, even if it becomes toxic to do so. Of course, if the algorithm will choose one of the two, clearly would prefer the influencer.

I wouldn't blame influencers that they are what they are. They are only groomed to be that way by the algorithm. Feels sad.

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This is something I've been struggling with as of late. I'm a small business owner who can't afford to hire a marketer, so I've been doing everything myself—and in turn have exposed myself to some of the most toxic parts of social media. I keep thinking "I wish I could just delete my account" but I can't, as it's impossible to make a living selling products online without some form of active social media presence.

I try to make high quality posts and content to bring value to people, but it's extremely disheartening when those posts do poorly while random meme I make in 30 seconds get all the engagement. It's clear that the algorithms value junk food type content over actual utility, which doesn't help the issue of addiction.

I've been slowly trying to compartmentalize and change the way I approach social media, but it's difficult. I do agree with the journalists that it would be a net positive for everyone if regulators were to step in and make these places less toxic and more useful—although that's never going to happen and is more of an optimistic pipe dream than anything else.

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Compartmentalization *is* difficult. It's something I think about a lot, and I wish there were better, more authentic ways to do it. The big companies try to nudge people to act like hyper-curated brands all the time. I think the best way to look at social media promotion is to imagine you are an hourly employee that was hired to do the job. Get the apps off your phone (or buy a second, cheap wifi-only phone if you need functionality missing in a desktop browser) so you are less likely to get sucked in after-hours, and do your social media-ing during set work hours during the day. Remind yourself that it's work, work sucks, and you're being paid to do it.

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