Now let's pump the breaks and think about our values as creators + fellow internet humans.

Recently, I've been diving back into the world of academia. Chatting with researchers, former fellow students, current graduate and phd students, and people who are on the frontier of discovery and research in the worlds of sociology, journalism, fandom, and media ethics.

During my graduate studies, I focused on the creator economy and its impact on the newsroom and news media creators. Since finishing the program in 2020, I noticed its impact only continued to expand and grow. By the end of 2020, it was hard-pressed to find someone on Twitter who didn’t have a Substack or some sort of personal blog or newsletter.

The ability to create and make a living as an independent creator is a beautiful thing. Is it perfect? Well no, it’s far from it — we’re still exploring new methods and means of making a living.

As much as I love tools, platforms, and new ways of doing things, I’m actually going to argue that we need to pump the breaks on some things right now. We need to stop and think about our values, our ethics, and what we’re actually trying to achieve in this world.

With the rise of the creator economy and the dominance of the read-write web, we entered into a space where everyone is a creator. If the world is full of creators — where creation is no longer the differentiating factor — we must focus on our values, quality of content, trust, and connection with one another to build better futures.

On the grandiose scale of things — the web as it currently stands really is quite new. Only in the last 10 years have we really started to hit this sort of mass popularity and relevance, but only if you have access to internet of a certain quality or speed. Even now in one of the largest cities in the United States, internet monopolies have made it hard for everyone to have access, let alone quality access. This simple lack of access is only the start of it all.

Many education theorists hypothesize that we learn best by doing — so why are we continuously adding more roadblocks in the way of doing?

Let’s just make the assumption that we all have access to the means to even just get online. Not everyone online is actively doing or creating — and heck why would we?

I’ve seen this through the lens of my own mother — she’s someone who grew up largely scared of the internet and concerned about privacy, her security and other ethical qualms that one may have being online. Honestly, I don’t blame her.

Recent headlines talk about the downfall and demise of Facebook, toxic fan communities taking down corporations, entire podcasts dedicated to adding nuance back into the world of cancel culture, and pop culture references from Bo Burnham to Lily Allen singing about keyboard warriors.

Encounter this in your day to day and yes, the internet is a very terrifying place.

As much as we love the internet, we love to hate it as well. This only further increases the roadblocks and friction one might experience to create. In order to truly improve the internet — we must learn to navigate these spaces through more shades of grey.

We’re not likely to (immediately) change the system — we must develop our own values and code of ethics on how we navigate the world.

I often find myself ranting on the internet about various things + shaking my fist at some of the institutions. I joked often in graduate school that I was getting another journalism degree only to find more ways to yell at the institution of journalism.

Looking back, I’m not sure that this was the healthiest approach. I’ve grown, i’ve learned, I’ve experienced more and I’ve explored the world. Sure I don’t agree with everything that happens or everything that goes on — but mindless quote tweet dunks or clapbacks in the replies does nothing for me or the other person online.

Someone I revere very highly in their online world (and I’m fortunate to work with as a boss/mentor/friend) recently tweeted “we learn to connect through gossip, rather than creating solutions.

I understand the conflict of this scenario. We’ve created worlds that facilitate connection and provide opportunities to chat, but don’t really provide much more than that. There are guides for growth, guides for scale, guides for how to optimize these routines — but where’s the guide to determining your own code of ethics?

We’ve gotten close — but I’m not quite sure that this has become quite the norm yet. I’ve seen the Twitter threads of “How I Engage Online” as well as the concept of a “Working with me” doc, but it’s not a widespread practice at the moment. I’d argue that it should be.

In order to build a better, more equitable future as creators and community humans — we need to better understand how our actions, even at the small scale, change the way that we interact at a larger scale.

I’m not sure if I know exactly what that looks like — and welcome a conversation with anyone who wants to chat more about it, but I do know that our current trajectory is off.

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