As people who make things and put our work out there, we’re in the middle of a lot of feelings. We want our work to be seen but it’s scary to be vulnerable. We want our work to be popular, but we also want it to be good.
What’s popular isn’t always good and what’s good isn’t always popular.
What you make often won’t be popular even if it is good. We want both and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. After all, if we work hard to make something great, we want as many people to experience it as possible.
I think the wrench in all of this is the time factor. We’re fond of saying the greatest artists often aren’t recognized in their time when looking back on history, but it seems as though our culture no longer thinks this way.
This is because of the connectivity of the internet. Discovery is now only a click away. In a world of viral videos, mind-blowing talent is something that we encounter on a daily basis.
It seems like such a tragedy when we work hard to make something and we don’t immediately get likes when we refresh the page 30 seconds later. It seems like an injustice when we work hard to make something and it doesn’t go viral the next day.
Good work isn’t always popular. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is immediately. Other times it’s not until years later. Many times, it’s never popular in the sense that we think of it.
What is the value of popularity? What is the value of a lot of attention? Is a viral video with 2 million views more valuable than one with 20,000? I think we should be looking at the impact of the work that we create on a single person.
That’s not 1 view, that’s 1 person. That’s not 10 likes, that’s 10 people. That’s not 100 subscribers, that’s 100 humans.
What is the impact of our work on human beings? Our work holds an inherent value that is not always represented by the views, likes, and share counts.
What if we started making our work for people rather than for popularity?
I think it’s a matter of misplaced identity. Our identity should not be wrapped up in the views that adhere to our work. Our identity should be in the depth of the impact we had on the people who do encounter what we made.
I don’t care if this video gets popular, I care if it resonates with the people that watch it—however many that is.
We should be creating good work that deserves to be popular and then not caring if it is.
The Impact on Future Generations
I was recording a live podcast recently and someone in Community chat said, “This is the sort of thing people are going to be listening to past the time we can even imagine right now. Our grandkids will be able to experience this and have it change their lives too.”
Isn’t that incredible? We forget about the longevity of our work. We’re so caught up in the now and the immediacy of the internet and whether things go viral the next day that we rob ourselves of seeing the value we’re creating for future generations who haven’t even discovered it yet.
Trends come and go, viral videos fade into the past, but the good work is what remains. The timeless content, the things we made, and the things we did to help the people we already reach—however few they are—are what will last.