Are you content?

I can’t escape the word “content” lately.

Maybe because I’ve been listening to a media podcast for the past few months.

When journalists, PR people, social media companies refer to stuff on the internet, they usually call it “content”.

This grinds my gear so much! What is content? It’s this blog post I spent so much time writing, reading and re-reading. It is a video game several people spent several years working their ass off to get it into a playable state. It’s music, video essays, fun, human emotions.

“Content” as a word strips all those things of what make them worth existing. “Content” is just a row in a database, some bits on a server. Yet those bits exist because they have a meaning beyond the magnetization of Ångström-sized mechanical pieces.

Talking about human creative output as “content” is like talking about the economy as a large graphs where “objects” interacts with other “objects”. It makes no sense! And it hides an aspect of the object of study that, if apparent, would expose severely deficient reasoning.

What will happen to the economy if we remove 20% of objects?

What will happen to the economy if we kill 20% of human beings?

There is an ocean of differences between those two sentences, yet, on a pure technical level, they describe the same thing.

A piece of investigative journalism is not “content”. Labelling it “content” only serves to destroy meaning. “Content” erases that critical property that helps us place “investigative journalism” in our society and understand its purpose.

From the point of view of a social media owner (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), sure, “investigative journalism” and “cat video” are really just the same thing. For Facebook they both are just an ordered collection of bits whose sole impact on Facebook is cost to store and transmit, and how much it gets people to watch ads.

This isn’t a constructive model of reality, even for Facebook. It might help guide short term cost analysis, but reality is multifaceted and complex, and the distinction between “investigative journalism” and “cat videos” will have a strong impact on the economics or survival of the website. Complex relations take time to resolve, but they exist.

Deleting a cat video won’t have the same effect as deleting a piece of investigative journalism.

But here we are regardless. Social media is obsessed with content, and it transmitted this obsession to media outlets, through hollow promises of mountains of gold, in a bid to foster more content.

Now people who should know better are obsessed with “content” and are debasing their own beautiful creative output.

When talking about your work, don’t use “content”, you may as well invite an artisan cabinetmaker to call their creation “wooden objects”.

“Content” should be limited, confined rather, to the ticket board and meeting rooms of Facebook. It’s only for them (and other social media developers) that it is actually not completely counter-productive to talk about “content”. You ain’t making a social media website, you are just using them, your “content” has value beyond being an ordered collection of bits.

Your post is not just filler to get people to waste time on Facebook (or your own website for that mater), it’s a piece of yourself, twisted so that others may enjoy it and welcome it in their heart. A lovingly backed cake, that an infinite amount of people can eat.

Your creative production is more than a collection of bits to trap eyeballs to sell to Coke. It’s something meaningful or beautiful that can change the world. You wouldn’t be creating it otherwise.