Something about the evolution of the web
“This one small step for a man is sponsored by Omega, official watch maker of the NASA astronauts. We'll be right back after the break to take one giant leap for mankind.”
— Neil Armstrong, landing on the moon in 2021, probably.
I wrote about money in the past on this site. Actually, I probably wrote about money way too often on this site. And it's funny because it's not even a topic that interests me that much. But it's inescapable. If you live in modern society you have to deal with the financial implications that it brings with it. And sure, you can get away with more erratic lifestyles even in modern societies but chances are, if you're reading this, you're probably living a normal—whatever that means in 2021—life.
In a recent post I wrote that greed is ruining the web. That post was a rant, as is often the case with my posts. But I truly believe that this constant drive towards monetising everything is slowly ruining the web and also making our lives worse, even if ever so slightly.
Now, pretty much everything I'm about to say, comes from the point of view of someone that inhabits the interwebs for work and for fun and it obviously doesn't represent the experience of all people. Another way to phrase this is that this is my opinion. Should be obvious. It's my blog after all, but you never know.
Profitability vs doing things for fun
I am not an OG when it comes to doing things online. While the internet was bursting its first bubble in the mid 90s I was still a kid. So I can't really speak for the very old days. But I was around when Internet 2.0 was all the rage and social media was becoming a thing. Back then, there were no guides or proper way to do things. Social media personalities, Instagrammers, viral challenges, YouTubers, those weren't a thing yet. Hell, even the idea of being a content creator on the web wasn't really a thing.
If you were doing things on the web it was either because you had a business reason to be there or you were doing it for fun and for passion. It was still the internet of forums, blogs and personal sites. There were no algorithms dictating your media consumption and the smartphone revolution was at the beginning.
As a result of all that, the money-making machine wasn't all that prevalent on the web. Because the web was not a place to become rich. It was not a place to have a career. It was a place to have fun and discover weird and wonderful things.
Fast forward 15 years and everyone seems to be on the same path online. Personal sites look the same, people have strategies on how to post content on social media, curation is a key word when it comes to your online presence. Everyone seems to fly around in a swarm, following the lead of someone—or something—in order to amass followers, likes, views, clicks, whatever.
Guides, tutorials, checklists on how to start this or that online, how to gain followers fast, how to get noticed, how to become "famous". Those things, are everywhere.
And now that you have this audience? You need to monetise this. Because you're an idiot if you don't. What's the point of having an audience if you don't get money out of it? We all despise businesses so much because of their business practices but without realising it we're all slowly turning ourself—or at least our internet ones—into single person businesses.
Side note: don't even get me started on crypto, nft, stocks. Those things are now also everywhere on the web. And if you're a person that struggles with FOMO, I feel so bad for you because you can't go 5 minutes without reading a new story about a person somewhere becoming a millionaire by investing in some obscure new internet coin. Shit's everywhere these days...
Is there still space to have fun?
Yes I'm seriously asking this question. And no, I'm not blind. I can see plenty of YouTube videos or Reddit threads where people are having fun but that's not the fun I'm talking about. I'm talking about being free to do things that are not curated, that don't fit into our internet persona. There was a time when YouTube was mostly crappy videos filmed with a potato. Now, almost everything that bubbles to the top seems to be produced by a crew of 600 people with 5 million bucks worth of equipment. And I'm not saying that's bad, I enjoy quality content. But I also enjoy people that do random things without caring about the quality of their equipment or the production value.
When things become a business, you necessarily need to apply a business mindset to them. It's just the nature of the beast. If you start a YouTube channel in your spare time because you're bored, you can post all sorts of stupid crap on it. Some might be good, some might be bad. And who cares?! You're having fun. And your livelihood doesn't depend on it. But if you start earning money and it become a career then you can't take those risks anymore. Money and business have taken over your space for fun and silliness.
Now, I'm not even going to touch on some of the other aspects that are related to this issue: people burning out, cancel culture and all the rest. I'll just acknowledge that those things exist and are indeed a problem. But it's not what I want to talk about today.
What can we do?
You and me? Probably nothing. And if you were looking for a solution to this problem I'm sorry to disappoint you. I can't honestly do shit about this issue. Only thing I can do is to try do things differently in my tiny corner of the web. As for you, just go have fun. Who cares if your blog is weird, if your Instagram post doesn't fit with the rest of the things you post, if your vidoes are all over the place. We're human beings, we're messy, we're chaotic, we're all over the place. And that's a good thing.