‘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.

Expand full comment

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.

Expand full comment