What do you do?
That used to be an easy question: a simple icebreaker when meeting new people. Now though, it’s more complicated.
First of all, since the economic crisis, people are understandably wary about asking the question, as we’re more aware of the fact that the answer might be nothing.
Second, for a lot of people who do have something that they do, it can be a hard to specify exactly what it is.
Which is why we’ve adapted our vocabulary related to… I was going to end that sentence with pastimes, but then I thought work would be better. But then I decided neither really work, because the lines between work and pastimes have become blurred. And that’s why we’ve had to adapt our vocabulary.
Now, it’s quite normal to say things like:
I curate content across social media.
I’m a professional gamer.
I’m a digital influencer.
A lot of that might sound like gibberish to my parents’ generation. A lot of it sounded like gibberish to me at first, till I got used to it through exposure.
It’s easy to dismiss such language as pretentiousness. And I’m on board with that when it comes to curate. You can just say you gather content or simply have a website: leave the curating to the museums.
Content though: I instinctively don’t like that word being used to refer to any kind of creative endeavour, but I get it. Now it’s so easy to produce all kinds of, well, content, online. You might write opinion pieces, share recipes or photographs, upload instructional videos, stream yourself playing video games, and all sorts really. They’re all so different that there is a logic to using content as an umbrella term.
The same goes for influencer: it sounds quite ridiculous to me, but if you set out to influence people with what you do, then why not?
Technology, and our relationship with it, have changed and so too, therefore, has the language we use. We can all easily share our words, pictures, and videos with the world, and mix them all together as we like, so why not use the word content to describe this? And as we can directly engage with people online, and influence them…
I suppose the downside to these words is that they’re quite empty, because they have to cover a lot of possible meanings. Content in particular sounds so cold, so commodifying. It’s probably got different connotations for young people used to it being used online, but I’m old, in internet terms.
Of course there are a few people who have nothing to say or offer and use such empty language to cover that up. This is something that’s been happening since the idea of trade came about, but it’s interesting to see it in its current form. I’ve really noticed it as I get more involved in the Twittersphere. I get all these new followers who promise me things like providing me with opportunities to maximise the cross-media potential of my content through multi-platformized incentivized targeted digital promotion. They’re offering more followers and ads, basically, but of course they can’t just say that. Still, you can try too hard to sound impressive.
How do I describe what I do, by the way? Basically, I don’t. Most of my online presence is just for my own amusement, so I don’t grant it its own term. My writing here is the most substantial thing I do outside of my day job. And I think of it as writing, basically. I do it because I enjoy writing about my ideas. I’m not sure I’d say I’m a writer per se, because that’s a fairly loaded term, but I think I can safely say that I write. And on a phone too, as I’ve just written this on my phone! I guess I’m not too old to create content!