I have spent a considerable amount of time on the internet since I decided to try and make my artistic lifestyle a reality. The foray into both consuming and studying the world of vloggers and bloggers has opened my eyes into how modern platforms on the internet have created substantial opportunities for those who want a career and lifestyle that differs from the non-creative or non-flexible work options typically available. There is freelancing, online consulting, YouTubing, Instagramming, blogging, dropshipping, becoming a digital nomad, and countess other money-making prospects. Due to this, free platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Medium have become inundated with entrepreneurial personalities hoping to achieve their own status, fame, and luxurious nomadic lifestyle. Yet the platforms, with their lack of regulation and dense competition, have become a prototypical ‘capitalist’ minefield rife with creative entrepreneurs hoping to garner a following and make their online presence a career. These individuals promote fad culture- such as the 5am wake-up call, cultivating a niche, productivity journals, vegan/health lifestyles, merchandise promotion, the grind-until-you-can’t mentality- and follow traditional paths to online success in both content and marketing strategy. Meanwhile, creative artists who spend a considerable amount of time on their craft and prefer a less traditional path to success continue to get lost amongst those who post for quantity, status, following, money, and networking benefits. This reality of the modern online landscape has me questioning: Where are the artists on these platforms? And will they have a space online if companies such as YouTube continue to promote Daily Vlog videos over creative visual production or writing platforms such as Medium continue to promote productive hacks, how to guides, self-help articles, and the ubiquitous lists over creative or investigative writing?
Now, this isn’t to say that I blame YouTube, Instagram, or Medium for not catering to the modern artist; and nor do I blame the online entrepreneurs. The fact is that with or without these platforms life was still hard for the non-entrepreneurial creative, as the amount of artists and creators necessary to generate a functioning modern society is less than the amount of doctors, mechanics, teachers, contractors, or general workers needed. And even without these inundated, highly-competitive mediums, the artists that became famous in the past also had similar characteristics to marketers, entrepreneurs, and business executives (which is why the majority of successful pop art tends to look or sound the same and follow similar structure or ideas).
Since life has been a struggle for artists throughout most of modern history, it can be argued that- in giving artists a free and already established space to expose their work- these online publications are providing a service to those that dedicate their lives to making art. And it has. Platforms have given space for remarkable content creators and artists who are devoted to their craft to succeed, such as Nerdwriter, the Kurzgesagt team, Casey Neistat, and many more. But the sheer amount of competition and the manner in which corporations such as YouTube, Instagram, and Medium promote and support their content creators via views, subscribers, likes, comments, and advertisement revenue makes it so that the platforms, as big production agencies and the tabloids did years’ prior, support a system where it’s the entrepreneurs, business-individuals, and general workers who strive for quantity over quality, fame over inspiration, and fast money over incredible artwork (which can take weeks, months, years, and even decades of hard, unrewarded labor to pull off) that succeed.
This is why corporate-structured and unregulated sites such as YouTube, Instagram, and Medium can be so hard for artistic creatives to grapple with. As much as they provide an easy platform to post content, they are also corporations with the main motive of profit and growth, and most of this growth is concentrated into the catchy, the superficial, the fast, and the visual. Because of this, it can seem that my craft in particular- writing- has lost its creatives due to the particular community that these sites generate and that journalist, novelists, essayist, and short-story writers are continuously getting shafted for catchier self-help articles, how-to-lists, or write-ups on start-up culture or entrepreneurship.
As a writer writing anything besides the easy-read articles the majority of society will consume today, the path to success can feel Sisyphean: like pushing a bolder uphill only to be pushed back down by it. In a highly-programmed, success-driven, productivity-obsessed, anxiety-ridden culture, creativity is valued mainly in its ability to generate revenue or productive inventions. The majority of jobs and chores are now banal, filled with work that is monotonous and lacking in creative thought. People no longer need to learn to cook creativity, they can buy food already prepared or in simple, pre-arranged packets from corporations like HelloFresh. People no longer need to make clothes, tools, furniture, or dwellings, they can buy or rent them. People no longer need to find interesting words and sentence structure to convey their ideas, they can copy, paste, and repeat catchy memes and tweets from the internet.
In essence, the astounding increase in productivity generated by modern capitalism has reduced creativity in such a wide-scale manner that it has extended into our daily lives.
Just as the manner in which modern society operates concentrates the available wealth into the lives of a select few, only a small percent of world’s population can have a job and lifestyle that is creatively fulfilling. And this is why individuals who feel an intense desire to create are struggling to find balance, contentment, work, and the ability to provide in a society that doesn’t give them enough of a chance to express their creativity.
As a creative, I wish I could find a place for others like me. But I myself am struggling to just find a place for myself in a society that doesn’t cater to my particular emotional needs, proclivities, desires, passions, lifestyle, dreams, and so forth.
But I hope to keep pushing that boulder back up the hill, even if it does crush me in the end.
And maybe in just doing that, I can encourage even one other person with a passion or vision like my own to do the same.
Life is Sisyphean: Even when you’ve made it to the top, there are still boulders to encounter
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(You can read this article on Medium)