Today, on the way back from a short (and spontaneous) trip to a tree house – yes, you can rent tree houses on Airbnb – I watched the latest Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma.
It sort of went viral, so I assume you’ve heard something about it.
If not, watch it. It’s a must for every content creator out there – to know what kind of environment we’re working in.
My biggest insight from the movie was that for social media – you and I are the product.
As the saying goes, “If you are not paying for the product, you’re the product.”
We use Facebook. It’s free. (For us.) But the content we’re consuming has been paid for us by advertisers. Meaning, Facebook (and most of other social media) sells access to our attention.
If you’ve watched GaryVee a few times, you’ve probably heard him say (more than once), “I day-trade attention for a living.” After watching this documentary, it dawned on me just how unethical that sounds.
These guys are day-trading our attention. Our minds. They profit from us being mindless about our choices and consumption habits.
The Internet was designed to be a tool.
But as one person in the documentary says,
“If something is a tool – like a bycicle – it sits there, patiently. Waiting for us to use it. But if it’s constantly nagging us, notifying, demanding something from us, it’s not a tool. It’s something else…
Today’s Internet is not a tool, nor it a creative playground it used to be in its first decade – when most of the companies we know today were started.
Today’s Internet is a huge virtual shopping mall where the medium of exchange is our attention.
As a platform, Medium is on the path to change that. (Which is why I liked it in the first place.) It started as a platform with a mission “to make Internet great again” – to make it a place where thinkers and readers collide.
But as I mentioned in a post many of you liked, it too can’t escape the commercialization of attention. Right now, Medium resembles a floor of an exchange where people trade not company stocks, but articles and ideas. Those “salesmen” who scream the loudest and the longest, win.
“Financial incentives ruin everything,” another character in that documentary said. It’s true. Even though compensating writers via the Partner Program is better than having advertising; there will still be writers who take advantage of that. They will write 3-5 self-help pieces a day to get the most clicks and attention, maximizing their profits, putting quality of what they’ve written or the value they bring to the table second.
It’s up to us, writers who care, “honest creatives”, people who don’t want to create or consume noise, to make a difference.
The future belongs to those who can control their attention and not become slaves to corporations that “day-trade” our attention.
Long-term creative success belongs to those creatives who care and put their craft before money or follower growth.