Web Commercialization and the Standard of Polish

Often, I find that the commercialization of the web is talked about in the sense of how the web is increasingly dominated by a small number of corporate platforms. I understand these discussions, but can’t help but think there is another aspect that's being missed in discussions about the impact of this commercialization. I’ve seen others discuss how it creates homogeneity in content and stifles creativity as a result, but I have another argument about how exactly this commercialization discourages creativity. I think that the saturation of commercialized content on the web creates a high barrier of entry for the everyday, casual creator.

You might ask, what do I mean by “a high barrier of entry?” But just imagine this following scenario: You are someone who has enjoyed making videos since you were young on a camcorder, then you discover that there is a popular website on which people share videos. That sounds fantastic, and you can’t wait to share your own stuff, or well…that’s what you think until you watch many channels on this website and discover a large number of professionally edited, lengthy, highly scripted, practiced and sponsored videos by creators with a long established “personal brand” and studio for filming videos. Have you stumbled upon a marketplace for production companies? Where are the people like you, just having fun with a simple camera like you?

Now, of course I exaggerated a bit in that scenario there, but my point was that when it seems like everyone is out to turn their work into a hustle, it creates an atmosphere in which hobbyists feel out of place. It’s like joining a cycling club after getting a bike 9 months ago, only to find out that all the members are training for the Tour de France. There’s nothing wrong with video makers (or cyclists) who are serious about their craft, but the problem lies with the domination of algorithms on social media which tend to bury anything less than perfect. This tendency also shapes how people value and quantify the quality of content.

When people expect perfection on the internet, it isn’t necessarily because they have an inherently picky attitude. It’s because what they’ve been exposed to on a regular basis has created a standard of polish that they impose on all other works. Is it bad to have preferences? No. Is it bad that not everyone likes everything? No. What is bad is when the standard of polish stifles creativity, through fostering an environment where creators self-exclude because they do not think they are good enough.

Creators already beat themselves up when it comes to likes, comments and the mystical quality of "engagement" too often. Imagine all the people who don’t even reach that point, though, because they don’t believe that their work is even publishable online. For them, the barrier of entry is like an impenetrable fortress, but why is that? Sure, mean people and harsh critique aren’t new, but it isn’t as if these creators are even reaching a point where they receive that. I found myself wondering, just how in the world did the internet become a place where people don’t feel free to express their work and selves? Then as I thought about it more, I realized that what’s holding these people back is their, and others' internalization of the idea that they shouldn’t exist on the web creatively unless they are going to be lucrative and make videos that look like what everyone is else is making.

AUTHOR'S NOTES

yadda, yadda, full circle back to web commercialization causing mind rot or something. anyway, it's been a while since i’ve actually written an essay. hopefully it’s comprehensible, but if it isn’t it’s still going online anyway. proof that anything can be published online, right here. also, thanks for giving this short essay a read.

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