Since it’s a Thursday, and since the New York Times decided to tackle the subject, it’s time to hate on Medium again. Such a pain, always having to complain about products and services I love…
In the NY Times article, Ev Williams — founder of Medium — asserts that the internet is broken.
“I think the internet is broken. And it’s a lot more obvious to a lot of people that it’s broken.” -Ev Williams
Ev’s right, the internet is broken. We broke it. Somewhere along the line we decided that what’s valuable isn’t content or thoughts or ideas, it’s follower counts and read rates and views and likes and going viral and favorites and, oh god, where is my money damnit!
A while back I stumbled upon this Fusion article, “You Can Have Millions Of Subscribers On YouTube-And Still Be Flat Broke.” The article tells the stories of various YouTube and Instagram stars who’ve amassed huge digital followings yet are struggling to pay the bills. In a few instances, people have had to quit their day jobs because they’re too famous despite the fact those day jobs pay their bills.
We broke the internet because we feel entitled to digital success and prosperity.
I get wanting to be paid for what you love to do. At the same time, I 100% understand that just because I want something to happen doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
I have a degree in entrepreneurship and small business management. Part of what I learned is in order to make your dream a reality you have to put in an insane amount of time and effort. In order to make money from a side gig, which is what my digital writing really is, you have to hustle.
Hustling means creating a ton of content and sending pitches left and right. It means a ton of rejections and time spent building an audience with the hope that it will some day pay off. It takes the time I would devote to a full time job. I don’t have that kind of time. I have a full time job that I love. It’s a job that also pays my bills.
I enjoy writing, but I’m not entitled to make money from it. If I wanted to make money from writing, I’d be fighting for a job in the industry. I wouldn’t be publishing all of my work on a platform that is free to use.
I feel for the people mentioned in the Fusion article. It’s not right that they quit their jobs because creepy fans were memorizing their schedules. That’s wrong and I get it. At the same time, complaining about not getting paid enough by YouTube is exactly how we broke the internet.
YouTube shares ad sales with some of its content creators, but YouTube is in the business to make money for YouTube — not their content creators. We can debate over how much is enough for the corporation and when they should spread the wealth, but that’s not for us (the users) to decide.
We are not entitled to tell YouTube how they should or shouldn’t spend their money.
None of us are entitled to internet fame and fortune. In fact, none of us are entitled to anything. We make our own destiny and if we want something enough, we need to fight for it. I enjoy writing and it is thrilling to know people read my words, but will I ever be “internet famous”? Probably not.
I wrote a thing early on in my Medium days about Seinfeld and Snapchat. This silly thing went a bit viral and was mentioned on a tech podcast, translated into a few languages, and even got picked up by Backchannel. As I emailed back and forth, exchanging notes with Steven Levy himself, I could have let the waves of entitlement roll over me. I could have sat back and said, “bring on the money.” Instead, what did I do?
I kept writing.
I didn’t get bitter when no money or fame came with this brief moment of internet viral success. I kept writing. Some stories were well received. Others weren’t. But I kept writing because I enjoyed it. Not because I hoped it would someday pay off.
The internet is broken. We broke it with our desires to be famous. We broke it when “reality TV star” and “YouTuber” became job titles. We broke it when we started judging people by likes and not character.
Whether the internet can be fixed remains to be seen. It will require everyone, globally, to put less emphasis on our entitlement to fame and success and more emphasis on work. Is that possible? I guess time will tell.