The glamor and low barriers to entry have effed my perception of success.
You know those memes, tweets, screenshots, or whatever you see on the internet that are a straight knife-to-the-heart attack? It describes the exact situation you’re in and the feelings you’re feeling, and you either “feel seen,” get “exposed,” or simply “it me.” That was me @ this tweet:
if u have ever considered hosting a podcast, starting a blog, making zines, or applying to grad school congrats you’ve officially reached your quarter life crisis
— [redacted] (@aswangakira) April 17, 2019
I’m only 23 and I’m thinking of doing 3 out of those 4 quarter life crisis cop-outs: I host 2 podcasts (planning a third), post on this blog (and thinking of a beginning a second), and I recently decided that I want to go to grad school before I’m 30. On one hand, seeing the over 2,000 likes on that tweet reminded me I’m not special in envisioning independent new media as the ultimate escape. On the other hand, the hand with the thoughts that keep me up at night, I realize that I’ve never been able to separate the idea that new media is the magical key to instant success and everlasting happiness.
I wonder if this is an interesting reflection of my generation, those of us who are mostly millennial but with a touch of Gen Z. We remember the sound of dial up and house phone numbers, but not the internet before YouTube or AIM. The internet just made sense to us. From there the idea of “well if this guy can do it, why can’t I?” took hold. The biggest draw to new media is the ways it shows “making it” as easy––effortless, almost. Because no matter how much we’re reminded of the “grind,” “hustle,” or that “social media is a highlight reel,” we’re still sold and sucked in to the ultimate ending: “living the dream.” Sure Instagram models are miserable and malnourished, but they’re in Hawaii. YouTubers don’t get paid and the platform is evolving against them, but if the Paul brothers––truly terrible human beings––can make it, why can’t I? Anyone can start a podcast, all I need is a smartphone.
For me, this ease of “making it,” the idea that I too can create some shiny media product and then retire to Southern California and kick it with Awkwafina for the rest of my days, has messed up my creativity and goals. I can’t make anything just for me anymore, it has to be for public consumption on the internet and then it has to eventually turn into a “thing” that’ll earn me money—lots of it, preferably. That’s one of the things that I’ve been struggling with as I try to start a freelance career. Why write for free if I can pitch the idea and get paid? But I can’t think of any “good” ideas, so I won’t pitch anything. Or since I never “learned” how to pitch, I can’t (and won’t) do it. I like to blame my poor freelancing credits with my lack of experience, but really I think it’s my inability to put in the work. In my mind, I like the freedom of freelancing, but deep down I really want the instant success of new media that the “hustle” can’t give me.
But I am out here, hustling, in my sad, trope-y, little existential crisis way. New media has definitely effed up my understandings of success, but so has my constant thought process of “I’m special!” and “I’m good at writing!” I originally set out to write this post to remind myself that 1. I’m not special, nor that good at writing, and 2. Share the idea that new media is a messed up ideal of instant fame and fortune. Reminding myself by telling others that “making it” through new media isn’t easy, no matter how easy it looks. And how even though we all kinda knew that, it’s not until we actually try to “make it” when we understand it. So then, for me at least, the question becomes “Why am I making this thing?” If I want to make it for the glory, for the money, that’s great; embrace that motivation and strategize the How To plan for doing it. But if I’m making or doing something because I just want to create, it turns into a question of how do I begin to disassociate my definitions of “success”?