I think most people would agree that the internet is probably the single greatest advancement that human beings have made in the history of our existence. Never before have we had this level of connectivity, not just with those people in our immediate sphere, but with people from all around the world. Practically unlimited information is at our fingertips in a nearly instantaneous fashion, and as technology and ideas continue to progress it only becomes easier and easier to find what you’re looking for.
This amazing ability to transfer information in a nearly effortless way is both the blessing and curse of internet content. Whereas it required a nearly impossible number of factors to come together to get something distributed even just a few decades ago, the modern internet has allowed anyone with a voice and the ability to use a computer or smartphone to start posting things online for other people to see. In a way, we have gone from having not nearly enough content at our disposal to having a tidal wave of information that washes over us on a daily basis.
The problem with this is that much of this content isn’t the fresh, clean waves of a clear ocean lagoon, but a deluge of sewage that buries us in filth. The internet as a whole focuses on quantity over quality, and the result of this is that virtually all of the content we become exposed to has had little or no review by a human person with the ability to compare what society really wants to what is being distributed. In the past, things like books or television shows or other published works had to get through a human filter who typically understood what would do well and what would not. Now it’s just a computer algorithm.
All of these things combine to create a new type of barrier to entry to getting noticed in the public space, and in many ways it can be harder to get noticed today than it ever was in the past. Before internet algorithms, nearly all content went through relatively few channels in the form of talent scouts or publishing companies or whatever other organizations sought out quality content to sell to the public. An artist typically knew where to go to get noticed, and success came down to being good enough and a little bit of luck.
Today, this just isn’t the case. Because of the vast amount of mediocre content creators that swamp the internet with uninteresting content, there is simply too much out there for human beings to sift through. It is the reason that algorithms have been developed in the first place. As a result, it isn’t enough for people who have some kind of talent to simply be good enough and show their talent to the people who decide. We have to become marketing experts in our own right to have any chance of getting noticed.
Of course, sometimes people just get lucky out of the blue for no particular reason other than they posted something that “went viral”. This is incredibly frustrating for people who plug away every day trying to get through the massive wall that is the internet search algorithm, only to watch someone post something that required little or no effort and just happened to hit the right nerve out of blind luck. This obviously happened in the past, but the gatekeepers typically recognized talentless individuals and rarely propped up these “one hit wonders” with any amount of seriousness.
It’s difficult to say whether the old way was better, or if the current way of doing things makes more sense. The creative part of me despises having to capitulate to the conformity required to make my content easily “searchable”. I prefer for the things I write or create to simply be what I want them to be, not what works for the algorithm. As I stated in a previous post, the reason we have such a sea of sameness is exactly because you can’t really get noticed if you don’t format your posts in a way that makes sense to the programming. Balanced with the abysmal quality of content we have today, I personally feel it was better when there were real human gatekeepers.
Regardless, we obviously won’t be going back to the way things used to be. Anyone who wants to enter this space will have to learn and adapt and figure out how to break through the barrier to entry that is the almighty algorithm, either by conforming to the system or figuring out a way around it. My hope is that I can find a way to do the latter, preserving the way I write so that my readers can see the authentic me rather than the veneer that results from shaping content to the algorithm. Until more people start to value this and take an active role in supporting that idea, we will continue to be stuck with the sewer brigade.