- Elena Jean
Hey world, I'm back – let's talk about hyper-short-form content...
Welcome to my blog. It's great to have you here. Sit down, stay awhile. Tea? Whiskey? Beer? I myself am enjoying a Peach and Apricot Hefeweizen, currently -- a little hoppy for my liking, I've been off the IPAs, but it'll do.
I'm here to tell you that something strange, no, something fantastic has occurred to me. I'd love to tell you about it...
But, first, question for you: Have you noticed how completely and utterly INSANE the world seems right now? If you haven't, congratulations on breaking your longstanding Oath to thy Luddite Gods (or Amish cult), considering this must be the first thing you've read on the internet since '10.
For those of you who have been on the internet recently, I'd like to express my sincerest condolences. Things are messed up right now. "Entropic" feels like the right word. Gone are the days of some semblance of innocence or order -- a general enjoyment of Facebook and Instagram photos, Tumblr, or pre-Cambridge Analytica mass-marketing offences. We're now well into the dark ages of the Internet. In a time when parents of TikTok stars gladly exploit their children's pre-pubescent bodies and no one seems to want to read anything longer than an emoji anymore.
As a long-time user of the Internet -- since the good ol' days of dial-up -- I can confidently say that things are not what they used to be. Now, don't get me wrong, this isn't all so desperate. This is simply evolution.
Fittingly, to quote Darwin's Theory of Evolution,
"Those that are better physically equipped to survive, grow to maturity, and reproduce. Those that are lacking in such fitness, on the other hand, either do not reach an age when they can reproduce or produce fewer offspring than their counterparts. Natural selection is sometimes summed up as “survival of the fittest.”
Right now, the Internet is being dominated by the content creators (working within the digital bounds of social media platforms, websites and marketing campaigns) who are most able to consistently release attention-grabbing and highly-stimulating content. I also like to call it "highly-short-form" content (HSF content). Furthermore, the HSF content that is most rapidly consumed and rewarded by audiences is then rewarded by algorithms -- creating a positive, promotional feedback loop. Simply stated: Fast, highly-stimulating content "survives". Everything else sinks to the bottom of a never-ending pit of dreams, data, ones and zeros and digital, human waste.
Depressing? A bit. But, remember, it's just evolution. And, as the Theory Of Evolution goes, nothing stays the same.
Now, as an internet user who both creates and consumes content, I've noticed two things:
My overall engagement is higher, my content "performs better", when I successfully create attractive, succinct and hyper-short-form content. This HSF content takes time and energy to customize for the algorithm, and sometimes diverges from what I actually want to create, but it fits the necessary high-performance mold.
I don't feel good consuming very much hyper-short-form content (as described in #1). In fact, after about fifteen minutes of consuming HSF content, I feel confused and a little delirious.
Our need for speed is killing us.
Nothing new, of course, we've come to well understand the carcinogenic affects of various technologies we've created throughout history -- from DDT to McDonald's. And, social media (more specifically, the modern way we create and consume content), is no different.
It seems to me that all technologies have their heydays, their "gold rushes", of Wild West growth (and chaos). Followed by a more subdued, refined version of their original invention. We're perhaps seeing crypto go through this very transition right now. (My sincerest condolences, also, to those triggered by the latter sentence. Change is hard, I know).
Where was I earlier? Oh yes, I was going to tell you about a fantastic realization I recently had.
My fantastic realization: I like, no, I love to write. (And, unlike AI, my writing is 100%, certified "original").
At some point last year, or the year prior, Instagram captions went out of style to make way for faster, more immediately stimulating content like "reels". I used to use Instagram as a sort of "digital diary". But, if I'm being honest, writing long captions never really felt right. I always felt a little constrained. And, more and more I began to question if what I was sharing was interesting or attractive enough (or, at least, not "too out there").
I like to make long-form content. I love to write. And, if you've followed my work, you know I also love to make videos and films.
While I'm more than capable of creating hyper-short-form content for the hungry HSF-consuming masses, I don't love making it. And, as mentioned, I really don't like consuming it. Still, I've found myself trapped in the newsfeed cycles over the years. I've felt compelled to follow gimmicky trends, to lean into my ADHD tendencies and to seek more (and MORE!) immediate gratification. But, it's a trap.
That ship is going down. I can feel it coming -- I think many people can. Why? Because it's hurting us. It's causing cycles of addiction and distraction leading to greater mental and physical suffering. According to the World Health Organization, we've seen a global 13% increase in mental health disorders and substance abuse in the last decade... Coincidentally coinciding with our decade of growing hunger for HSF content. HSF content is the fast food of the media world. And people are waking up, just as they did for actual fast food (Supersize Me, anyone?). So, the hyper-short-form (HSF) content beast is going down. I don't know when, I don't know how, but it's not built to last. And, as I've decided, not a worthy investment of my time or energy.
So, here I am, back to blogging. Back to writing articles.
Welcome to my digital diary of sorts. It's a home for thoughts, ideas and stories. A home I always wanted and always had the choice of building, had I not been so distracted.
I'm not quitting HSF content -- not entirely. But, I am significantly reducing my creation and consumption of it. I really want to focus my energy in more productive directions. I want to focus on projects where readers and audiences can really be with an idea or story (as can the author/creator --that's me!). Because, this kind of content, in contrast to HSF, can actually be healing and more constructive. Kinda like, to continue with the food analogy, organic vegetables. Then, if anything, I'll use HSF content to direct the masses to my longer-form content (my organic, whole-grain, pasture-raised content).
I think, at the end of the day, I just feel more at peace here. I feel my happiest writing.
I've always written! I write every single day (no exaggeration). I have tens of thousands of notes -- thoughts and dreams, ideas and stories -- written down on my computer and in notebooks. It's a bit silly, I guess, that I haven't shared much of it. I think it might've been one of those situations where writing came so naturally, I didn't even realize it's potential value. Similarly, five years ago, I had that realization with my love for filmmaking (after nearly failing engineering school, due to spending more time video-editing for fun than studying for exams, haha).
I guess I've just realized... I had a kind of fantastic realization, that my writing could maybe, just maybe, be useful. That maybe, just maybe, there's a higher place for it in this content-rich, quality-poor Internet universe.
So, I'm back. Excited to see where this unending desire to write and create takes me.
Thanks for being here! I hope this little reflection inspired you in some way.
As always, stay curious ;)
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