I spent ten years building up a following on Tumblr. I had 30k+ followers, great engagement, it helped my career thrive like nothing else. I could quit my day job and live off the fan base I’d accrued.
Then, their policies changed. Half my work was no longer allowed. People left the site in droves. I left too, for awhile. I came back to a ghost town. I still have 25k followers, but I don’t think more than 10% are active anymore. I’m followed by ghosts. Same with DeviantArt, although I was never quite as big there, and I’ve been gone so much longer.
This disallowed half of my work was never allowed on Facebook in the first place, or Instagram, but their algorithms are such that my stuff rarely makes it to anyone’s feeds, and if I post a link to where people could actually pay me for my content, it’s hidden unless I pay for it. Patreon swept my work away to a dark corner where no one could see it unless I personally guided them there. Twitch is so strict you can’t even show bare feet. The death of Google Reader means nobody follows RSS feeds anymore, so I can’t direct people to my own site.
So there’s Twitter I guess, where I can post whatever I want, but again, algorithms. But more than that, I don’t have the energy to build up a following once again on a site I don’t own that can delete my career on a whim. The thought of spending time jumping around through hoops for attention just to have it taken away again has stripped any motivation I had to try.
The internet has been gentrified. All the small cute houses and mom & pop shops have been shut down and replaced by big corporations that control everything. I’ve been making webcomics for twenty years, and at the start, the internet was a beautiful wild place. Everyone had a home page. It was like having a house and people came to visit you and you would visit other people in their houses. Now, we don’t visit each other in personal spaces anymore. It’s like we have to visit each other in the aisles of a megamart. Everything is clean and sanitized and the weirdos who made the internet what it was are no longer welcome. No space for freaks anymore.
People still ask me for advice on how to break into comics, and I don’t have any wisdom because I don’t recognize the internet anymore. I don’t feel comfortable working within its boundaries which seems to be getting smaller and smaller and smaller. None of the tools I used when I started exist anymore. They’ve been replaced by things I don’t know how to use. I don’t think I could break into comics today. 2002 had so few barriers compared to now. You might have started on Keenspace, but you could reach a point where you could break away to your own site and people would go to it. Now, you start on Webtoon or Patreon and I guess you just stay there? It feels so much like owning a hardware store for years and then having to go work as a cashier at the Home Depot that put you out of business. I’m looking at my career trajectory and it all points to being a Wal-Mart greeter with uncontrolled arthritis.
I don’t want to make “content,” I want to make comics, I want to make art, and I want to do it in a space that is mine. I’m not sure there’s a place for that anymore.
… I will say as I said before, this is yet another reason why it’s
appalling that websites like Twitter and Tumblr make it so posts with external links are invisible to searches;
and why I fucking hate what smartphones have done to the internet in terms of this gentrification.
It’s weird, thinking about how David Wong fucking called it when talking about the end of internet anonymity all those years ago on Cracked, but of course because he’s a fucking neoliberal coward he accepted it as inevitable and even a good thing.
But it’s not a good thing, and it’s not inevitable. And the more I see that sentiment spreading, the more I think we need to fight back.
To give some advice, tho I’ll welcome it from others, I’ve heard from @nepeta-apologist that Squarespace is quite good for hosting a personal website and, if you want something with more coding involved for an old-web feel, @bogleech will sing Neociites’ praises to the heavens.
Also, while it had some… security holes, so I’d urge y’all to use it with utmost caution (And maybe look for holes if you’re the Greyhat type), Pillowfort was a great platform for hosting art when it was up, and I’m willing to provide keys when it opens back up (In April, they say at least), doubly so if you want to poke around for security stuff so that it can be reported so they don’t face the shit they did last time they publicly opened.
Tho, as a finale I will say; the fact that people keep citing how “oh, this is why we need Ao3,” which is… not a good take, are honestly why I think we still need an active movement for online de-gentrification to produce more spaces actively safe for creators, so we have more options for sites than the fuckers who say “We have to let child porn on otherwise THEY’LL COME FOR YOU NEXT”
I mean yeah you can moan about the lack of options and complain about “the fuckers who say ‘We have to let child porn on otherwise THEY’LL COME FOR YOU NEXT’“
Or you could just stop bloviating and do what we did in the old days of the internet when you didn’t like a website and set up your own. Yeah you’re gonna have to figure out how to drive traffic to it especially now that google is terrible.
Nothing is gonna change if we don’t make it change.