I recently watched media critic Douglas Rushkoff's new Frontline documentary Generation Like, a well-made, but decidedly didactic piece of cautionary journalism about the social media addiction of "the kids these days." You should see it. It might convince you to shut down your computer an hour earlier tonight. But probably not. In it, he discusses "collabs" between high-profile YouTubers, bloggers, and other social media mavens. Social media superstars, I learned, have been combining their talents to wreak havoc on the general population, drawing in swarms of viewers by deftly employing the marketing techniques that major corporations have been using on them all their lives. Or at least, that's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is that social media users like to help each other out. Bloggers are an online community. We link to each other's sites. We promote each other's posts. Is that nefarious? Is that conspiratorial? Is that a cynical ploy to draw in more readers? Maybe. But people have always drawn from their personal networks to promote their business interests. It's called "networking." That, you see, is part—but just part—of what's going on here. I collaborated with Shana by taking pictures of her for her website which then link back to my website. I also have linked to her website up top if you didn't notice. That way, we drive traffic to each other's sites. We cross-promote. We co-brand. Are you mad yet?
Does this mean bloggers don't blog for "the love of blogging" anymore? Does this mean online creativity is jumping the shark? Cashing in? Selling out? No. "Selling out" was a Gen X thing. It was a claim against someone else's authenticity wielded by privileged, upper-middle class white kids against people who don't share their aesthetic anymore. "Not selling out" was always a luxury of people who don't actually need to make money off their passions. And it's an outdated idea. For today's bloggers there was never a choice between making money and doing "what they love." They are convinced they can do both.