The following is an unedited, stream-of-consciousness personal journal used to experiment with different subjects outside of assignments and to practice free-writing. It shouldn't (at all) be viewed as a portfolio of polished work.

To see examples of my professional writing, please visit ginabegin.contently.com. For photography, please visit eyeem.com/u/ginabegin or my Instagram channel @ginabegin.

We are Not Entitled: Internet Stardom & Reality

What is the perfect photograph? The perfect story, the perfect article? What's the perfect social media post? The perfect filter, the perfect selfie?

The world is chasing perfection. It's no longer an American fault of "keeping up with the Joneses;" it's a worldwide phenomenon, touching every area the internet reaches. The busyness of that network plays against our human need to be noticed, to belong, to feel important.

So we strive for perfection.

But is that perfection even attainable—especially now that we seek it with our crippled attention spans?

The Internet Made Us Do It


Twitter made us all think we were witty. Instagram made us all think we were photographers. Get your point across in 140 characters, apply this filter to that photo. Publish.

The platforms worked their way from early adopters' experiments into mass consumption in everyone's lives. The network got busier, and humans struggled to stand out.

We seek stardom because everyone can have it. Steps needed:

  1. Read a few tips
  2. Post a few pics
  3. Share it around
Right? 

The truth is, not everyone can. And though countless clickbait titles might tell us differently, anything lasting requires much more than those three steps.

But for the instant-gratification generation, it's just what we want to hear.  Our attention spans are cut short by Google-instancy, by digital camera playback, by that first double tap on our Instagram photos that comes in during the same second it was posted (and the tens or hundreds more that roll in afterward).

Did the person even look at the photo before giving it a like, by the way?

Values of the Past


I figure, without the internet, we'd be a generation defined by a set of very different qualities.

Those who went before us were people who worked on their craft. Film took time to develop. People applied filters using actual glass that was screwed onto the end of a lens. Words were published on paper, and before they were published, they were written on a typewriter without auto-correct. These people may have been pining for stardom, but not many expected it to come easy.

It takes years to hone skills in photography. It's not a matter of simply spinning it through Snapseed and slapping a final filter on it before pushing it out to Instagram, thinking that that's all it takes to get an assignment with National Geographic Adventure. Great shorts (films) take time. It's not a matter of applying a time-lapse to something mundane and expecting a Snapchat following to dig what we put down. And just because we've written a few blog posts and attached a "Follow this Formula for More Clicks" title doesn't mean The New Yorker should be taking notice by now.

But our generation doesn't have that patience. Maybe we don't have that depth. Sometimes I feel like it's been stolen from us because there's always been the instantaneousness of the internet. Combined with every human's need to be appreciated, we see others rising quickly to internet fame and think we deserve the same.

Internet fame.

We Don't Own Our Work


I'm no less guilty of these feelings of needing to be accepted. But we tend to forget that the internet is not necessarily an equal playing field. Neither is real life. The past generation knew that developing serious skills took time. It still does in this age. True skills. Things that make our work actually stand out from the noisiness of every other over-saturated, heavily-HDR'd photo. More than that quippy 140 character tweet, and more than that e-book download written in a matter of weeks instead of months, even years.

On the internet, we need to do this and more. Keep in mind that what we put out may never be seen because of ever-changing algorithms whose laws are shrouded behind a veil of mystery (thank you, Facebook). Platforms that we work to develop followings on one year may be consumed by a richer copycat the next year and leave us as the losers (thank you, Instagram video vs Vine).

Also, any fame we acquire in this age is fleeting. We don't own it. If our favorite channel goes down, there goes our status, because what can we point back to? There's no hard copy of our work, no brick and mortar gallery with sales to show that our skills were prized by others. We can only say we were Instagram stars, with xx(,xxx) amount of followers.

The Turning Point


We're a generation wanting perfection without the patience to work for it. And I'm one to speak; I'm part of it. But the realization is that we're reaching a point where we either return to tangible while benefitting from digital, or tangible will become obsolete.

I hope it's the former. How sad to never hold a print magazine again, read long-form journalism, or study photographs captured by a patient photographer in the field.

If we do return to some of the pre-internet values of life, we may finally gain the fulfillment that is impossible to attain when trying to keep up with the Joneses. We may never reach perfection, but I believe the striving for it—truly, with that "old-fashioned" trait of perseverance—will deepen our generation and give us back some of what the internet took from us.

4 comments:

  1. I love this article and the truisms within. I agree whole-heartedly. I would add that the "old-fashioned" trait of perseverance is often rewarded not so much by achievement of the goal, but by the processes learned through the journey of effort itself.

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    1. So true! Great point to bring into the discussion.

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  2. Nicely written. It's about quality over quantity, attention to detail, and the hard and careful work to produce something of substance. There's nothing quite like holding a tangible item in your hands - a book, magazine, photograph, etc. - and knowing the passion someone put into its creation. Thanks for sharing đź’›

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    1. Thanks, Liz! And yes--for example, I always loved discussing the process that Sidetracked Magazine was working through in getting started (the editor and I are online friends from before it came to fruition). The website itself is beautiful and always great to scroll through, but it wasn't until the editor sent me an issue in the mail so I could see it in person that I realized the magnitude of the work he'd put in. Web is (somewhat! ;) easier with template and no middle man needed. But printing something and shipping it to people worldwide is something entirely different. Thanks for chiming in!

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