03 March 2021

Hunter Walk: “Instagram, YouTube & TikTok are burning out their Creators. Here’s how to fix that.”

Being a modern creator is, for many, exhausting. The falling economic costs of production and distribution have been replaced by a new set of taxes — physical, emotional, psychological — as your community expects new content, accessibility to their heroes and open book authenticity. Paired with the social media platform algorithms, which in themselves reward frequency and engagement, this combination saps joy and agency from the creative process and burns out the creators. Having to perform 24/7 comes with costs, and that’s only dealing with fans let alone the trolls.

PTO — Ok, hear me out. What if each year, creators who cross X-threshold of success (views, dollars, whatever) were given PTO from the platform. You get to take a week off from engaging and (a) are not penalized in the algo and (b) you get paid the average amount of your earnings from the preceding 52 weeks. And when you take it, there’s a special “On PTO” account status visible to your community, which activates some feature like “best of content” or other system-provided interaction mode while the creator is on their break.

Hunter Walk

A great complement to another article with suggestions for improving the ‘creator economy’, to stimulate and support creativity on digital networks. The current relationship with platforms is extremely one-sided, with Instagram, for example, having high and specific requirements for the amount of content that generates sufficient exposure in the feed. As soon as creators interrupt this schedule, they risk being demoted and losing followers and revenue, so there is an inherent pressure to constantly be present and active. From this structural perspective, the creator economy resembles the gig economy, where you only earn money while you’re driving/delivering, without any of the benefits of regular employment like medical insurance or paid time off.

I fear a similar pressure to perform will shape Twitter’s Super Follows, especially if each account is expected to generate content for its own paid followers. When the person takes a longer break from tweeting, his super followers could cancel their subscription and move to another creator who is currently active; then the first would have to attempt to win them back, losing valuable time and revenue in the process.

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