The running joke in the digital media world is that “it’s all content.”
Got in a car crash? Make a video about it. Going through a heartbreak? Write an essay about it. Got arrested? Get the mics quick, and record a podcast.
Whatever is happening — spin it up into a story and share it with your audience. Let’s get some views and monetize this pain.
When you have a sizable audience in your pocket, it’s hard to firewall your real self from your digital self. Human nature takes hold. You start conflating views with self-worth, content with reality. You end up picking your experiences based on the stories you’ll get to tell, the photos you’ll get to share. Rarely for the experiences themselves. And eventually, the dissonance between the narrative and the experience begins to wreck you completely.
Digital creators today are the first humans in history with click-of-a-button distribution to millions. And while we talk so heavily about the privilege that carries, we rarely talk about the burden.
The burden, to steal Naval’s words, is around “productizing yourself.” It’s trying to make all of your passions, stories, idiosyncrasies fit in the box of a clean and consumable brand. It’s treating yourself as if you are a product, instead of a person, and as a result — touting your most vulnerable stories for clicks and conversions.
It’s a choice we can make — to turn our lives into content, to productize our faces, and monetize our stories. It’s not a bad choice, but it can be a dangerous one.
The thing to remember is everything that happens before you hit publish — the experiences, friendships, and memories — are yours. But everything after is the audience’s.
Don’t conflate the two, or put to much pressure on the latter. The way not to lose yourself in any of it is to always keep something hidden for yourself. Like a totem from Inception — you just need something in your pocket to remind you.
This part is real.
And this part is not.