Popularity, success, quality?

There was once a time where if your work was much attended to it was probably (though not inevitably) because it had merit. Art has in the last half century or so had exceptions to this, but then art has always been a bit of an odd one in that respect. The ‘what is art’ debate will probably continue unresolved for as long as humans walk the planet. So this piece doesn’t fully include that in its considerations.

Since YouTube burgeoned into a money making platform anyone who has spent time there will be well aware that success frequently doesn’t relate to quality content, but to the appeal to trivial amusement, shock value, the apparent desire for the emotional hit drama brings, and the lure of cash. I’ve sidestepped pretty much all these repeatedly. Offers have been made on many an occasion. For some time it meant I had quality viewers and commenters, but as time went on it meant I had barely any new ones as Google steered eyes towards money making enterprises and away from the more altruistic or content and community motivated. Granted, some have succeeded in doing both, though I don’t feel unhappy I’m not one of them.

But this is not me moaning about the inevitable lure of cash and apparent success. This applies in any online venue I’ve encountered. Flickr is a more recent discovery for me. I put any of my photos I consider have any merit there. Success there is much more hit and miss. Some people seem to have found ways to give the appearance of popularity by favouriting everything certain people produce, with the hope they will do the same in return. There are some groups where being selected brings guaranteed success, but those who are truly talented may or may not end up being successful. Some will do fantastically well, while others will languish unnoticed. Essentially, talent and ability is no guarantee of success.

This applies in many other online venues. I’ve been talking recently with someone about the fact this also applies with writing, short stories, fiction (and probably most other forms of writing). There are many books out there which are successful but the writing is dismal, others who have rare talents are unnoticed.

It seems that opportunity for all (or all who have access to the internet, which of course is far from all), rather than discovering real talent, seems to have dumbed it all down, made it increasingly difficult for those who have something to offer to break surface. I suspect in part this is because the push is towards celebrity, money and popularity, rather than the quality of content.

This might sound like sour grapes, but really, it isn’t. I’ve always rather foolishly perhaps, avoided being noticed, so my place in the scheme of things is entirely down to me. Perhaps not in my best interests, but that’s not objectively related to this. In part there’s something rather beautiful and wonderful about most people having opportunity. This never used to be the case. The chosen few would glide effortlessly to the top of the pile and everyone else (with the odd notable exception) would know their place. That was no better. Perhaps its current motivations which skew the whole thing in a less than helpful way. Because within it there are opportunities for some wonderful connections and wholeness which wasn’t present before. I can’t quite work out if that skewing is down to human nature or to corporate greed. Or something else.


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