It has been a while since I did this. Writing used to be a cathartic experience for me, helping me organize my thoughts and bring abstract ideas into consciousness. However, over the past few years, my writing has been driven solely by views and popularity metrics.
Honestly, it’s quite debilitating. It takes away my love for writing and makes me forget why I was initially drawn to it. I am passionate about writing because it not only aids my own thinking process but also provides my readers with broader insights and the chance to explore new perspectives.
I understand that it’s not easy for content creators to resist metrics such as active users, views, subscribers, reach, impressions, and other numerical measures. Even for someone like me, who began writing professionally in a pre-digital era, it can be daunting to continue pursuing my passion when the numbers don’t align in my favor. I can imagine that the younger generation finds it even harder to resist the allure of creating content solely for the sake of viewers, forsaking the romanticism of the craft.
Some may even doubt the possibility of creating content for ourselves. Even for idealistic creators, striking a balance between creating for the love of the craft and catering to pragmatic numbers is an ongoing struggle.
How did this shift occur? It hasn’t been long since the creed of “l’art pour l’art” (art for art’s sake) gained popularity in the 19th century. However, tech giants like Google and Facebook have reshaped our thinking, placing sole emphasis on numbers and metrics. Yet, I strongly believe that art cannot be accurately judged by numbers alone.
To be fair, this change is not the sole cause. As mentioned earlier, I used to write for a printed magazine. During that time, the editorial team was not responsible for circulation numbers. There was a separate distribution team tasked with managing the numbers. Editorial team only needed to focus on the research (facts, methodology, etc.) and how it’s presented to the masses – using all kind of techniques like writing and graphic designing to make it easier and more enjoyable to consume.
Nowadays, most companies and management believe that content creators or the editorials are responsible for both distribution and the numbers. This shift has led many creators to resemble marketers more than artists.
For instance, I’ve observed that my fellow writers in online media possess better skills in areas like Google Analytics, SEO, and keyword research, rather than in language proficiency, writing creativity, or research methodology. Frankly, it is quite disheartening. It is even more disheartening to witness creators with superior craft skills often being overshadowed by those with strong marketing abilities. This disparity becomes evident in terms of financial success, popularity, and the ability to shape opinions, creating a feedback loop that devalues the quality of content.
I acknowledge that I may come across as an old man reminiscing and romanticizing the “good old days.” However, I am a hypocrite because I still create content for the sake of popularity, despite despising it. Perhaps this reality will persist until the end of my days, where I will continue to resent doing something I once loved simply due to the pursuit of popularity. Nevertheless, I find solace in knowing that occasionally, I can return to this type of writing – the cathartic writing that disregards pragmatism.