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The Billboard Generation

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A failed attempt with too much time to introspect about self and other trivialities.

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A Golden Opportunity

With the advent of social media, individuality has become more important than ever. Garnering the attention of millions with a simple post, sending a message using yourself as the medium, has become for some, the way through which a living is earned. Being nothing more than simple entertainment in its incipient stages, this world grew wings when companies learned that they could monetize this entertainment through the posting of ads, giving those creating such content a golden opportunity.

Supersede the Past

With many having already created a following by consistently producing content prior to monetization, paychecks slowly began flowing in as people kept their eyes glued to the screen, to watch whatever the creator would make next. Initial motivation was probably high as the theoretically limitless possibilities paired with the almost inexistent rules, allowed the creators to unleash their imagination to its limit, eventually greying the area between them and a professionally made production. The comparison between what you can find online, and what is aired on live television has become close to null, as television has started to become an obsolete source of entertainment. The capacity of social media to oust live television as the prime source of entertainment could be considered natural selection. Advantages such as the capacity to choose the type of entertainment and the boundless amount of content were prime weapons against television, which nowadays receives attention from customers born in older times.

Entertainment Revolution

The homemade creators ended up becoming mainstream media, inspiring millions of others to join and become part of the creator generation, where individuality and imagination became the flickers that ignited a new era of entertainment. Soon enough television shows and channels would partially migrate on the online platforms in order to grab a piece of the pie, leveling the playing field, thus capturing once again the attention of the masses. In the upcoming years, the number of creators inexorably grew, from single name producers to entire companies building a name for themselves on these platforms. This gave birth to a deeply saturated market of content producers, feeding the masses entertainment in impossible quantities.

From Good to Bad

Growing from being fueled by creativity and social connection, platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Twitch became plains plagued by the hunt for attention. Offering an equal ground for anyone to start making a career centered around ideas, dreams, talents and other traits closely tied to the individual, anyone equipped with the right skills and determined could succeed. Video platforms like YouTube and Twitch are some of the most populated platforms on the list, replacing television almost completely, with an endless amount of people tuning in daily. With all good things, there are also bad ones and this case isn't an exception.

Unavoidable Past

We all abhorred advertisements as we grew up, taking up almost a quarter of the total time a movie would take to watch from start to finish. Unavoidable in nature, there is no surprise in the fact that the internet managed to supersede television as a source for entertainment. The escape from ads did not last long as the internet was a perfect medium through which ads could be forced down the throat of the masses, but unlike those on television, internet ads were easier to avoid. Through payments or software such as AdBlocker and others, ads could be removed from sight quite effortlessly, allowing the viewer to enjoy content without interruptions. Turning into a battle that goes back-and-forth to this day, ads have become a normality with which the population that views content deals with by either accepting, ignoring or paying the price to have them removed.

Evil or Not?

The reason why internet video platforms and other types of social media websites grew to be flooded with ads, was caused by what made these sites enticing in the first place, variety and the amount of content. Each creator approached a different theme, in their own way, attracting a specific demographic, building a community that became loyal regardless of the ads that were posted on the face of the creator's video. On the contrary, these ads were a way through which the creator could be supported financially as ads were and are, the first and most popularized way money was earned.

Effort Conversion

The time someone would spend watching, ended up being converted into financial gain for the creator, which is fair considering anyone could do whatever they wanted on video and post it, in hopes of gathering attention. This monetization of attention is where the system began to crumble as aside from the saturation of creators that propagated across the platform, somewhere along the way it turned into a war for attention. Originality is quite a finite resource and even if trained, there is a limit, which if reached will cause the person to burn-out. Many creators would go through multiple such phases as their efforts to maintain the attention brought them to the point of collapse, this being a reason why despite this type of career seeming so ideal, proves a challenge that many fail to overcome. In the end, it didn't matter how original your content was, if it failed to gather the necessary attention to allow it to flourish.

Streamlining Production

A pattern of success became that of copying ideas and models which had been proven successful, and repeating the pattern, adding yourself as the single element of difference in order to achieve something remotely original. People that were the pioneers of the platforms could continue doing what they desired but newcomers would not be so lucky, and unless they would possess a perfect amount of luck, a tad of charisma, and some knowledge of how to grab attention and maintain it, success would remain but a dream. According to this system, originality was no longer a challenge that needed to be overcome, creators managing to streamline the process of creation and making their jobs easier, many choosing quantity by sacrificing quality. Judgement can not be given since the environment created, overflows with competition, and if success is desired, corners will inevitably be cut in order to reach one's goal.

Equality in Efforts?

Being platforms that I would categorize as "battle-royale" and "free-for-all", the term fairness loses much of its meaning because of the sheer number of opponents that participate in the fight. Turned from a creativity oriented pass-time into a hunt for fame through the implementation of ads, the innocence of such platforms was washed away, losing much of its initial identity. Despite such a negative connotation that I tend to give to ads, they are in no way inherently evil, as their presence has brought many people the chance to earn a living by doing something that otherwise could not be monetized. Unfortunately, as a tool they worked as bait, and brought in a catch that was probably bigger than expected and the "fishermen" decided to take advantage of such a useful tool, to the detriment of originality. They gave birth to a generation that I like to call the Billboard Generation, as regardless of what you do, the quality of what you do and how much you do it, in the end all that matters is the attention you manage to gather.

The Hunting Grounds

Superficial as this may be, the future is heading towards a universe filled with visuals, materialism and distraction. Despite how original you may be when you create, the attention you eventually gather might not equal the work you have put in the creation process. Still a developing universe, it changes everyday, and it proves ruthless by showing the unpredictable nature of humans as they interact with content that is in a continuous pursuit for their attention in order to feed them information and of course, ads.

The Good within Bad

At the end of the day, the existence of ads has yielded more benefits than deficits and a testament to this are the millions of people creating and sharing content to the masses. Having succeeded in using this system to their advantage, they have turned ads into a tool that works for them, creating a state of co-dependency. Despite any qualms I might have with how ads dilute the quality of content, I must refrain from commenting any further, as it is plainly obvious that in spite of the flaws, the platforms using them would not be what they are today and the world would be painted a color that cannot be imagined.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Bogdan L