The other day, I heard the saddest thing I’ve heard since… Well, since Kurt Cobain died.
(it wasn’t his passing that was the saddest thing — it was sad, don’t get me wrong, and I still watch documentaries and read about him periodically to see just exactly what drove him to the ending he chose for himself. But the saddest thing that I heard back then was a girl I went to high school with tried to kill herself, and the reason she did it was so that her band’s album would sell. It didn’t. She’s in real estate now. Maybe that’s sadder? I don’t know. And these aren’t jokes at her expense, by the way. They’re genuinely how I feel and felt about her and her situation. I’m relating to you. See? This is what #ContentMarketing types refer to as “relatable #content).
The sad thing I heard that beat out some girl I knew trying to kill herself because Kurt Cobain did and it boosted record sales? It’s nowhere near as dramatic. But it made my heart sink nearly as low. I overheard someone explaining that he and his wife now refer to most internet-based things they watch as simply #Content. He went on to explain that he’ll ask her if she wants to watch “Something good like a show, or just fire up the internet and watch #content.”
What made this sad is that it’s not just him and his wife. It’s all of us. All 3 billion or so who have internet access that reaches speeds faster than the speed we can type. Me included. We are all into #Content. YouTube, BuzzFeed, BoredPanda, HuffingtonPost (I don’t write there anymore so I have zero need to even disclaim anything about them), all that. Everything, everywhere. All over the place. Dog pictures? #Content. Rating dog pictures? #content. Gifs? #Content. Embarassing stories shared on Reddit for upvotes? #Content. Jake Paul? #Content.
It’s not like any of us invest ourselves in any of this. It’s just… On. It’s around. It’s what we flip through and scroll through inbetween work or forced-atttention-paying at school, or on the toilet, or when we inevitably pick up our little black rectangles and re-connect to the world a minute or less since the last time, because we are bored. Or we’re scared of our own thoughts and the moment any sort of reality sets in and we are forced to confront the utter inanity of our daily lives as we consider why the hell it is we even bother bathing and putting on clothes when it’s only for the benefit of others, and we HATE others, so why the fuck — oh yeah, cause I need toilet paper, and that’s at the store, and people are at the store, and also I have to afford toilet paper, and that means work…
(Did I hit a nerve there? Did I strike a chord? Did I ring a bell? If so… QUALITY #Content. If not… You’re still reading, so clearly it’s still quality #content.)
And every single day, I’m right there with everyone else, scrolling through Instagram and wondering how in the world all these authors and artists and whoever else get so many followers for their books and their comics and their work and how I can do that, cause hey, I want followers for MY books and MY work and MY shows… And I get super depressed. Like, SUPER depressed. Like, “Talk to my girlfriend and lament my life and all the choices that led me to now” depressed.
Because it’s remarkably easy to make #Content. And it’s almost as easy to make you pay attention to it. All I really have to do is lie to you. A lot. Every day. Every post.
I can lie to you about how great my life is. I can lie to you about how immaculate our kitchen is while I cut up sweet potatoes and make a tart or some bullshit. I can lie to you about liberty, gun rights, politics, who said what… I can lie to you about being an expert on literally any subject and make a list of “secrets” or “little known facts” or “Top moments.” I can smile down the barrel of a camera at you and pretend I’m not jacked beyond belief on amphetamines as I Twitch stream for 24-72 hours in a go and entertain you.
I can make #Content. I used to for some really, really huge sites (at the time). I made all kinds of garbage posts, wrote all kinds of garbage articles, produced all kinds of garbage pranks… All to get traffic and attention, which felt like what I made mattered. I even had a side career writing stories about my life and blog posts to try to help people. But even then, it was all still #Content. I didn’t realize it at the time. I was 100% convinced everything I was doing mattered.
And then I realized how full of shit I was. Not the lie-to-you kind. The lie-to-myself kind.
When I woke up and realized I was in no way doing anything that honestly mattered to the one person that it really, really, REALLY needed to (Hint: me), I realized I was living a huge lie. I realized that everything I did was about validating who I was, what I did, and how I did it. And now, here, today, I just… Can’t.
Not because I’m better than that. But because I want better than that for myself.
And as a result, I want to make things that are better than that for you.
I look at the internet today and I’m not at all confused how it got to the place it is. The simple answer: corporations. They realized people were on the internet. They realized they could reach people on the internet and make money doing it. They made lots and lots of money doing it. So they made more and more #content. It’s not that hard to figure out.
Today, we have five and a half major platforms that people publish to that actually get attention: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Netflix, Hulu, and Instagram (which is the half). No one’s home page is The New York Times or my blog. Not in 2018. Our homepages are RSS readers (if you even know what those are anymore), or huge content platforms where you see a headline scroll by and then go check it out. You visit my blog when you see a notification on your chosen big platform that you hang out at. You discuss whatever you’re going to discuss there. You watch streaming videos via Netflix, Youtube or Hulu.
If I wrote the world’s most important article tonight, and posted it to my blog tomorrow, you wouldn’t know until someone somewhere shared it on a big platform — AND BE HONEST, what are the chances you’d come back on your own? Even old readers of mine need prompts. And I know this, because I need prompts to go back to the sites I used to love.
If I put my money into making the next Akira, with 24-frame-per-second animation and mind-bending story and incredible art, you wouldn’t watch it until it was on Netflix, Hulu, or MAYBE YouTube (because let’s face it, YouTube is for 1) keeping your kid from screaming in a restaurant, 2) indulging your nostalgia watching unboxing videos or half-accurate historical looks at your favorite cartoons, movies, or hobby, or 3)for watching while you’re high).
I’m writing a cyberpunk novel series that I publish to its own website and make available for free. That site has been built by me personally, with every single known convention possible to make it accessible to assistive devices, readable to anyone with vision impairment, color blindness, or other vision issue, run on older browsers, and allows you to download the entire book at will whenever you want. I also did some pretty fucking badass CSS and JS animation to really try to bring to life the cyberpunk feel, and am working now on some augmented reality and VR and yeah, you stopped reading already didn’t you, I know you did, stop pretending and scanning lines and move on to the next paragraph.
The vast (VAST) majority of readers? Amazon Kindle. By several orders of magnitude. I have sold (and given away) over 10,000 copies of the 3 books in the Marlowe Kana series so far on Amazon. I have sold (or given away) a little under 300 on every other platform COMBINED.
I get it. I shop at my favorite stores and watch my favorite networks and read my favorite sites, too. If it’s not there, I typically don’t go hunting for it. Who has the time? When someone links me to their thing, if it’s a personal site, I typically glance it over and then don’t return. I am not proud admitting this, but I am admitting it. When their stuff is on a network i know and trust, I pay attention, because I, like everyone else, have become completely overwhelmed with the sheer amount of #Content out there. If it’s not referred to me by a) someone I know and trust, or b) a network I kinda sorta know and barely trust, but enough to click their link and give a show a minute, I’m probably not going to watch / read / consume it.
And this brings me to the source of the depression: I don’t want to make fucking #Content.
I really, really, really don’t want to make fucking #content.
I have worked very, very hard to learn how to write Marlowe Kana. That may sound odd, but trust me… If you’ve never actually tried to write fiction from scratch — especially science fiction — and make it make sense, you genuinely have no fucking clue how hard this job is. And I’ve taken it very, very seriously.
I am not confused, however — I know fully well that just because you work hard at a thing doesn’t automatically make it good. But I have worked to make it good. I have worked to make it better than good, really. I’m trying. And for some folks, that effort is appreciated. I get great feedback on the books and have built a small fanbase of loyal supporters, of whom only a small fraction are “old readers of mine” (or my personal friends) — a fact I’m very, very proud of.
I try to dig deep into the human condition, political and social constructs, and why we are the way we are by talking about the inevitable conclusions we’re facing 100 years from now. I also shifted my blog and personal writing away from hot takes and thinkpieces and try to explore feelings, emotion, reality, sadness, depression, suicide, making a life when you think it’s ruined…
And as great as I used to be wayyyy back in the day making #content, I have no goddamn clue how to try to promote any of that stuff. So I scroll and I scroll and I scroll, sad beyond belief that I will never, ever know how to get my stuff into the hands of people who want it whom I don’t already know somehow.
Except to just keep writing. To just keep making it. To just keep producing.
I don’t really have much of a point here. That’s been a theme on my blog lately. I feel like as I’ve gotten older and wiser, and the world has shifted ever more, I end up with far more questions than I do answers. I find myself questioning so much these days, not the least of which is how I feel about literally every single facet of society as it metamorphosis into something none of us have ever seen, which is this insane mish-mash amalgam of literally everything that’s ever happened before in history.
I mean… Nazis are back, people. Fucking Nazis. And so are overhyped entrepreneurs who exploit labor and laws to get what they want, and madmen threatening nuclear annihilation, and bell bottoms, and axe throwing (for whatever fucking reason), and the goddam Atkins diet (which goes by Keto now, and people, I’m telling you — if you’re not actively making money on showing your body, don’t do that diet. It will wreck your insulin production and your liver). And Paleo diets and stone carving and people who make videos of surviving in the woods with literally nothing and goddamn MEASLES because MOTHERFUCKERS SOMEHOW THINK VACCINATIONS ARE BAD and the more I think on ANY of this, much less ALL of this, the more and more angry and insane and confused and tired I get and I just have to fucking stop.
I am a writer. I publish on the internet, because yeah, where the hell else am I going to? And I write about human things, which means I pay attention to what humans are doing and thinking and feeling. And right now… I’m not so sure I, or you, or anyone really, truly knows what it is we think and feel right now. And so we just turn to the internet and fire up some #Content and hope our brains stop hemorrhaging long enough for our stomachs to stop turning and we can eat some supper.
Only, I don’t want to make #content for you. I want to write shit that matters. And unfortunately, there just doesn’t seem to be a place for that much of anywhere these days, except my own blog and my own sites and in my own books.
So, I guess I just do that for a while. And for as long as I have Patreon supporters and people who read my books, I’m going to keep going. I may not really have a strong handle on where I fit in, or where any of this fits in really. But I know you are here, reading this now. And for that, I thank you. I’ve got more (oh man, do I have more). Stick around, and you’ll get as much as you can handle (and if you don’t stick around — and let’s face it, in 2018, hanging around some person’s blog is just not a thing anymore maybe you’ll get to see it linked somewhere).