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I am a big fan of writing, I love reading great writing regardless of whether I agree with it or not and I truly believe that the best writing should be celebrated whenever found. This week MTV News effectively shut down its current operations in order to redirect its focus towards video and short form content. Basically, MTV wants to get in on the ADD quick hit industrial complex that prizes cutesy, attention-grabbing 30 second videos over actual quality and labored over writing.

This news comes on the same week that Complex’s interview series Everyday Struggle went viral over a confrontation between its host Joe Budden and Migos happened on the air. Everyday Struggle is the textbook example of everything worth hating about media today: a show where middling (at best) rapper, Joe Budden, and sentient twitter parody account, DJ Akademiks, yell at each other and at guests for any number of minutes. It is the rap version of First Take and as low brow and shameless as it is, it’s brilliant. A cranky rapper complaining about rap next to an easy punching bag isn’t intriguing or quality but it is entertaining and succeeds at inspiring both hatred and love –which work the same as far as online traffic goes. For as much as Everyday Struggle personally disgusts me, it is an indicator of where all of media is headed. Easily digestible and shameless content that focuses on “takes” and panders to large masses of people; garnering strong reactions (positive or negative) is an easy sell and good content for companies that purely want to make as much money as possible. It’s getting harder and harder for journalism and great writing to fit in this incredibly cynical climate.

I don’t know anything about teens but I know that when I was a teen I read my dad’s copies of GQ and Esquire all the time. It’s what made me want to be a writer and when the blog era began, I used Livejournal, Myspace and Blogger as my training grounds for writing longform content about music and movies. The teens of today turn to Tumblr now for the same thing. The idea that teens are not interested in good, interesting writing feels disingenuous. There’s no doubt that video content is all the rage but the two things can coexist and this latest plan to forgo good writing feels extremely cynical and dismissive of the very audience that MTV hopes to appeal to. Regardless of whether it.s video, essays or a page full of giant, flashy gifs to catch the eye and/or cause epilepsy, treating your audience like its stupid never works out in the long run. MTV News marks the second time a site that had grown dear to my heart thanks to its dedication to good writing and interesting subjects has been dissolved thanks bottom lines and money-hungry corporate execs (the first was Grantland). It’s incredibly sad and it makes you feel like there’s no point in being good at your craft when lowest common denominator trash is more talked about and coveted than the best writing out.

2017 has been the worst year for me as a freelance writer. The editors I once worked with have left their respective jobs or the new ones I talk to are either unresponsive or more fickle with who they give assignments to. Despite my snarkiness and the disdain I show towards media on Twitter, I blame no one for this but myself. Media is an extremely tough gig and it takes more than talent to stay afloat. It takes networking, insightfulness and strategy. There are a million writers out there and many of them have thought the same pitches that you have; it’s up to you to find that unique angle to set you apart and connect with the particular audience of the site you’re pitching to. Not getting work out there has been extremely difficult and frustrating but more than anything else, I miss working with good editors who made me better at what I do. That to me was the most satisfying part of the writing process: having that person there who could take your words and make them better, more thoughtful, more detailed and beautiful. I don’t know where writing online will take me or if I’ll ever break out of this funk and have my words on more sites, but I hope and pray that I will work with editors again to be better at my craft. I do not believe in accepting the new normal of easy controversy and reaction bait; I still believe being a good writer is worth it and the words of the best of us will last when all the disposable content has been forgotten.

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I was 24 the first time it dawned on me that I will never be cool. I don’t mean cool in a general sense of course, but cool in the way that all people want to secretly believe themselves to be: in a way that says I exude attitude and mystery everywhere I go and you can’t help but want to follow. When I was a kid, I knew that when I grew up I was going to Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Denzel Washington and Andre 3000 rolled up into one human being–it was going to be against the law to be me.

No matter how old I got, I always clinged to the belief that at some point I would pull it off eventually. My arms just needed to be a little bigger, I just needed to be a little taller, my beard just needed to connect a little better, my walk had to be just a little more evocative, my one-liners had to be just a little cleaner and sharper; I just needed to be a little more believable. At 24, I accepted that I was who I was and I could be bummed about that or I could embrace it and make it work for me in any way possible: I’ve been trapped somewhere in between these two options for the past two years. Nobody wants to believe they aren’t cool in that old-fashioned Hollywood way but the majority of us just aren’t and, for me, the internet was the first thing to let me know this harsh truth.

When I was a junior in high school, I joined Myspace and my entire reality would shatter before my feet. Before social media, I had no real perspective on my self or my place in people’s lives: I got along with most people and as a result, I considered them all to be close friends of mine. I can look back at this and see how stupid it was but I fancied myself important purely out of my commitment to being incredibly friendly. Then Myspace and the “top 8” came into my life and nothing was the same. The top 8 became my judge and jury, the only authority that could tell me my fate; more than the fact that I was in nobody’s top 8 at first, I was mad at myself for how much power I gave it over me. It meant everything, it dictated my behavior for the rest of high school–be it trying to hard to be friends with people or living with even more resentment–and it was my nightly obsession.

My one saving grace was message boards: more specifically the Simpson’s message boards I was a member of. They ultimately became the friends I always wanted by giving me a safe space to be a true dork, while also putting me onto music, movies and books that would change my life. I had finally achieved a comfortable online existence and tried to use my new knowledge and online confidence in my actual life. I don’t know how successful it truly was but I felt cool and maybe that’s good enough, or it was at least.

Someday we’ll tell our kids that twitter used to be really fun. They’ll laugh and laugh and laugh and you’ll laugh with them because it sounds just as ridiculous to you, even though you know it was fun. Twitter was the heir apparent to the internet message board in a way neither myspace nor facebook ever tried to be; it was fun, goofy, insightful and full of community in a way that was inviting. But then attention became the new preferred currency and being right on the internet was the best high you could get without actually using drugs. Either you were doing the “reading” or you the one being “read” or “blooped” or “dragged for filth”. Corporations took advantage of our lust for attention and used our own hashtags to sell shit to us and then people started getting famous for their tweets which made a whole bunch more people try to get famous for their tweets the same way. Suddenly, this place full of flawed but personable people became a shark pit and what’s most annoying about the whole thing is: nobody actually cares about learning or growing on here. The idea of being the smartest, loudest, funniest, most correct person all the time is so intoxicating for a lot of people that they don’t even bother actually trying to be any of those things. They just declare themselves as such and move on.

I’ve been trapped in this web myself from time to time and I’ve broken out because honestly fuck all of it. Whatever good comes out of it seems to be more of an outlier than the standard. I came to be obsessed with the internet because I was a lonely, uncool kid trying to find some self-confidence and knowledge; ultimately, it turned into all the things I was running from: high school, parental figures, the real world, jobs and people who’d never love me.

In a way, I feel like we let the internet down. This was supposed to be a place for the real people to express themselves and seek a refuge from the depression of real life but where there are enough people, there’s enough confrontation and brands there to sell you shit and turn you into a product for consumption. The internet is not your friend, it doesn’t love you and to be honest, it has no reason to. We take everything wonderful and turn it into trash. Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like to destroy this thing and build something new and better, but then I remember that that would just be another excuse to destroy something beautiful by indulging in our worser selves.

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