The last few years I have been at the intersection of tech, content, hustle culture, startups, creator economy and the move towards more indepent work.
A thread about the current state and the road ahead. 🧵👇🏼
(Might as well add a dystopian prophecy trigger warning)
Today if you look around people are making a lot of noise about a few things
- remote work, freelancing, independent work
- side hustles, personal growth, financial advice
- creator economy, social media, YT/Insta growth
Seems doing all this is both sexy + essential to survive
Here’s what I want to break it down at - it is sexy because some people you have come to like are constantly hammering that thought down your head.
Reality is, it is becoming a way of life, and that is making surviving in the modern world an increasingly uphill battle.
Let’s take an example of D2C brands. Making small crafts/utility/food products, selling to people.
A lot of people are shouting from the roofs that D2C is bringing the power back to small makers, mom & pop business, and is a radical/liberal takeback from BigTech. Ok, but wait.
Go to D2C subreddits, forums, telegram groups, discord servers or clubhouse rooms and try to find out what it takes to be D2C and a smol maker.
Everyone invariably says - make an insta account, make catchy reels, get distribution.
This starts to break apart the initial core argument that we are taking back control from big tech. Just because you don’t want to sell on Amazon, you now have to sell on Facebook (Instagram).
Also everyone says how you can open up your own cute little store with Shopify
Shopify, to be very honest, isn’t any flagbearer of small business. They are a $300B dollar company first of all. Second, they are closing the loop on the consumer end of it via shop.app.
Shopify + Shop.app = Amazon pretty much. Fuck D2C.
Let’s go back to another track of things - the hustle culture.
Everyone’s saying “make side projects”, “open an YouTube channel”, “build in open”.
Sounds nice. There are a lot of success stories too. (You can include me in that).
But can everyone afford to do all that?
2 years back, in my webdev classroom program, a young guy joined. He was exactly my age (25 then). A few years of work-ex, in a govt of India department working on IT support. He wanted to break into big tech or product companies. Sounded pretty normal to me.
But whenever my 5-8pm classes would stretch a little longer, he’d ask to be excused early and leave. After a couple of times, he told me that he needs to go pick his wife (who is also working), and back home there is a 2 yr old kid.
Suddenly I felt my stomach is missing.
Like holy fucking crap. Here I am advertising side projects and staying up at night to build your own Tinder clone to get ahead in life. There’s someone responsible for a 2 year old kid.
Easy to blame that on bad life decisions. But point is privileges exist. Admit it.
So yeah, it is easy to showcase a coupe of poster kids of hustle culture, who got a little successful with their YouTube live streams and positivity rants on Insta reels, and never had any financial/social burden to look back upon and proclaim that independent work is on the rise
The reality is the median got shifted up. The day-and-night horns of hustle culture blaring makes us all think that is normal, and that leaves those without the privilege to hustle quite high and dry. Their normal (by last decade’s standards) lifestyle is now deprecated.
Like look at the world around for a second and honestly ask yourself if we really are not in an episode of Black Mirror.
To be able to knit some sweaters and sell, you need to go and dance on TikTok and hope enough creepy people find it sexy and hit like and share.
To be able to stay relevant in the job market, so that if you ever want to switch jobs you can easily - you now have to, after working 8 hours at your workplace, also work 8 more on side projects, which there is no guarantee of working.
At work you might be working on only tech, or product, or marketing.
For side projects, you have to come up with an idea, develop it, market it, and pray there are users who like it. Might need to do some ‘thought leadership’ threads on Twitter to drum up attention too.
When did the world suddenly turn into this nightmare where everyone needs to have business-running skills, company-creating skills, just to be able to survive and life a life that matches up to the expectations and norms being advertised as bare minimum in the media.
The pandemic has pushed the agenda forward. Those who are lockstep in with this newly changing ecosystem, and have the privilege to adapt to it, are drumming up the fervor for it.
“2020s is creator economy” they shout with glee. “content is king” they proclaim. hurrah.
Today for a mid sized company to just barely survive - they are told - they need to spew out an article everyday. “You can’t not have a newsletter bro!”. Who will write it though ? You don’t have the time to. So you hire a ‘writer’. They are a college kid with a blog.
They don’t know jackshit about your business. But they got their first job at your place. They could’ve been so much happier writing what they love to write. But they need to survive too, so they take the job. Now they’re churning an article a day. Abt something they DON’T KNOW
The articles are trash, adds no value to anyone, but out here in the internet with 3 billion brain dead pair of hands holding a glowing rectangular slab - whatever you push out in sufficient ‘volume’, gets this golden currency called ‘traction’. It works! Yay. Sales pour in.
When David Graeber talked about bullshit jobs - even he probably never imagined what the world post 2020 will look like.
But my oh my oh my. Have we created an economy actually solely around bullshit jobs.
Have you talked to any friends recently who have one of those dead Instagram accounts ? 5 posts, 10 followers. And no Twitter account. Not even an Alt. Have left using Facebook too. And a LinkedIn which just has work-ex details filled, but not a single post.
What do you think of them? Not up to much in life right ? Come on. If they were hitting some home runs at work, they would describe their ‘winning mantra’ on LinkedIn right ? If they had some hot takes on current geopolitical atmosphere, they’d tweet right ?
If they were really enjoying life, travelling places, or cooking good food with their significant other, they must have posted photos on Instagram. Right ?
What a sad life they must be having.
I don’t know what’s sadder. That we think this way, or that IT IS ACTUALLY TRUE!
What do I mean by it being actually true? Well, if you are not beating up your resume drum night and day on LinkedIn, you’ll statistically have less success in switching jobs. If you’re not sharing hot takes on Twitter and dumping pics on Instagram - how’ll you make friends ?
Hell how’ll you even date? It is not like 90’s American sitcoms that you walk into a bar, order your whisky sour in sexy voice sitting beside someone from the other gender, and then end the night in bed with them, and 5 years later married to them.
Everyone’s drumming up remote work too a lot. Nice I get that. But countless young folks are getting swept by that same wave into a ‘remote life’ too.
Sitting in dark rooms they prefer to call studios, living out a virtual life, powered by dopamine blasts…
… every time someone is watching their sad life on Twitch or YouTube.
Some even break through. The rate 0.1% are able to do orbit-shifting maneovres, end up with millions of followers, actually mint some money, and win in this Black Mirror episode.
But go look at Twitch and YouTube stats. How many are making hours and hours of videos from their sunlight-less rooms, which are watched by almost none. This despondency creates mental health problems, not to mention scurvy and weak bones due to siting in a prison cell all day
Read this 2018 article Verge did about thousands of Twitch streamers whom no one watches
I cannot fathom so many things.
- why did they initially want to stream ? inspired by other streamers ? but what end goal ?
- what they feel when no one watches ?
This fascination with ‘independent work life’ at the top financial/social strata is interesting in the sense that people from the top most strata are seemingly unable to look at and learn from the same cycle that played out for the strata just beneath them - the “GIG ECONOMY”.
Today the “CREATOR ECONOMY” is where the “GIG ECONOMY” was 10-15 years ago.
A certain social strata considered that as the holy grail of lifestyle shift, the golden ticket for upwards mobility.
And for a few lucky + privileged + early adopters, it happened too.
There are stories of cab drivers who turned millionaires.
But there are chilling stories like this of a gig economy worker whose DoorDash van was stolen with his 2 kids inside it
Want a jolt of reality? Read it.