Matt Perryman

The dilemma of the writer who must serve the braying crowd

By Matt Perryman

On social media there’s a strange phenomenon of these accounts that brand themselves around “philosophy”. I saw one spamming up Substack this morning.

What they do is take one- or two-line quotations and share them without comment.

This baffles my inner philosopher. You can’t get anything from any serious thinker by reading quotes taken out of context.

Half the quotes don’t even come from the original source. Aristotle talking about the internet, fgk outta here.

Short quotes can work with even a small value-add. Unpack it, explain what it means and where it fits, give your own thoughts about it.

Do something besides being a lazy POS chasing cheap likes, is what I’m getting at.

A quick scan of the replies shows the wrong end of the bell curve putting forth their best Ackshually game.

Not a crowd I’d want to attract, myself.

This is the end result of telling people to “write to the market”. Write to what the people want!

That’s fine advice.

Until your market is the “like” button.

I forget the exact quote, but Seth Godin once wrote that if marketers do enough testing, they’ll end up with a pr0n site.

Catering to “what people want” leads you straight to the bottom, and fast.

There’s a missing piece here. It might be better to say “write to serve your audience”.

Here’s an example.

If I’m your personal trainer and coach, I’m not serving you by giving you what you want. What you want is why you got out of shape and needed to hire a personal trainer in the first place.

You’re hiring me to diagnose the real cause of your troubles and prescribe the good medicine.

What you want only indirectly factors in to that. You want the result. The how is why I earn the big bucks.

Whatever, people gonna people.

Good news is, writing engagement-bait for likes and shares is dying out. I can’t wait for the day that the Terminator’s steel rictus grin smiles over the broken skulls of their accounts. Metaphorically. Sure.

The language machines are currently flooding the internet with so much garbage that the quote-spam accounts won’t survive it.

I’m not sure the concept of a social media platform or a search engine will survive.

Oppress social media.

As for writing to a crowd, sure. Find your people and love bomb them like the finest cult leader.

But keep that line between service and giving them what they want. Otherwise you may as well start that 0nly F$ns account.

Matt Perryman

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