PlusHeart Issue #16: The one about the Content Dream
Believe it or not, this issue is less doomer than it sounds; let's look at what causes people to want to "be a big creator."
I’ve been reading some new manga series lately, while also re-reading some old favorites. Most of the stuff I read involves hard-work-makes-good underdogs, who are chasing their dreams; I find this kind of stuff inspiring.
I’ve had to talk myself out of that feeling sometimes, because fiction is… fiction. A creator gets to choose when or how the protagonist struggles, and how that struggle gets resolved: real life doesn’t work like that, and I really didn’t want to start hoping it would.
But still, the concept of dream-chasing is fascinating to me, mostly because even without being conscious of it, we can end up drifting towards that concept of “what we really want.” Even if it isn’t something specific, there’s still commonalities: I tend to dream of independence, acceptance, or validation, and some (if not all) of the choices I’ve made along my life’s path have involved those themes.
Even if I’m just looking at this newsletter, I chose to write on Substack because of the potential for independence, and that it was something I made for myself.
I struggle for a term that encompasses the idea of “making content for money as a career path”; I feel like just saying “content creation” or “doing content” doesn’t have the weight I’d like it to. For the lack of a better phrase at the moment, that’s how I’m going to refer to the idea of “being a big enough YouTuber, Influencer or Streamer that you can do it full-time, comfortably.”
That “content creator” success is something I feel a lot of people dream about these days, mostly in reaction to their station in life.
To the dreamer, achieving this gives you a lot.
You get validation from peers, or your audience in general. You are essentially being paid to be loved.
It gives you a large amounts of income. It’s easy to perceive that stream of subscription or donation notifications as your role model making bank.
It enables more new, exciting experiences. You’re traveling to cool places, eating cool things, and having the resources to explore what you want. And, in theory, you’re getting paid to do so.
You’re free to work how and when you want, doing something spiritually fulfilling. Work doesn’t feel like work.
You might think I’m going to spend the rest of the issue just going after how this is all wrong. That’s way too easy — I’m actually going to give those dreamers a bit of sympathy. This is partially because I, myself are guilty of that idealizing sometimes; instead of just trying to shut that down, I wanted to try to rationalize why that happened, and why it continues to happen.
It’s easy to play armchair therapist here, and I didn’t want everything I put down to come out as a (terribly) veiled analysis of my own issues. However, we can kind of assume that there’s a mental reaction for an action at play here, right?
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Simply, a thing happens in someone’s life, and it causes them to want something in response. It might be something to make them feel better, or directly address the problem.
I think that the content creator dream isn’t specifically an answer to these things, but for the reasons I listed above, it sates the hunger that’s generated by life dissatisfaction that’s common to “the gaming demographic”.
I’m going to throw a couple things at the wall that our prospective dreamer might be thinking:
They don’t have money.
They feel inadequate about the money/status they do have.
They don’t have a job.
They don’t have a job they like. They don’t see it helping them progress as a person.
Their job is too structured, or has them playing by rules they’d rather not, in order to succeed.
They’re lonely. They have a hard time meeting new people, or don’t have fulfilling relationships.
They’re “stuck” in their geographical location.
They lack the ability to discern life milestones, or when they’ve actually made progress.
Dreams don’t necessarily spring from somewhere realistic, and “yeah I’m just going to be a content creator” doesn’t exactly address all these things. However, the dreamer needs to hope — or better yet, believe — that the thing that will help will be attainable, regardless of it’s actually what they need.
To them, there’s this thing that’s just right over there; this image of an idealized end state where all those concerns are solved. You’re loved, just for existing. You’re making money and doing something cool with your life.
Like I said before, I’m not here to purposefully be a downer; I’m actually trying to do the opposite, here. As we get older, it feels easier to succumb to the jadedness, and maybe I’ve been feeling a bit of that.
I think that’s why I mentioned the idea of dreams not fulfilling specific things, but more specific wants earlier; a dream you have early in life may not be as realistically achievable later, but that can be modified to still address the same wants.
A person who wants to be a rock star at 16 can realize when they’re 40 that playing guitar in a bar once a week scratches the itch — it doesn’t mean they failed at their dream, or their previous dreaming was a waste of time.
I think it’s just important for people to know that, if only to help rewire my brain so I can believe it myself.
I also think that the self-comparison that people do just by existing online plays a factor, and it’s hard not to look at other peoples’ successes. The ability to just tunnel vision towards your own path is difficult, and ironically, it’s probably the thing that will contribute most to your success. I feel like that’s a background radiation that content creator dreamers might not acknowledge, and the solutions to the problem don’t exactly feel evident.
I always get a kick out of people railing against YouTube and Twitch for not having ample opportunities for “smaller creators” to get a bigger audience; the platforms themselves (hell, even Substack) have an incentive to prioritize the people who’re making them the most money.
It’s perhaps a sidebar, but Steinbeck’s quote about “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” feels a bit apt here: that kind of yelling is a way for those creators — frustrated at their own lack of progress or opportunities — to say “Hey, you forgot me. I deserve to be in the sun, too.”
By doing that yelling, maybe they’re saying something about their non-dreaming lives, too.
I liked how this one came out. I went to tea and ramen with someone I’d never met in person this week, and we had some conversations that really got me thinking about the topic of this issue. Believe it or not, I’m actually more optimistic about this kind of thing than I sound.
The manga I mentioned at the top of the issue are Space Brothers by Chūya Koyama, BECK by Harold Sakuishi, Planetes by Makoto Yukimura, and Blue Period by Tsubasa Yamaguchi. All are worth the read. You can check out what I read manga-wise on my MAL.
Sometimes you just gotta redo your entire network setup at 2AM if that’s what gets you focused.
Cheers for now.