The commoditization of free time
Once upon a time, people would fill their spare time with hobbies, things they do because they enjoy doing it. They could be passive, like watching TV, or they could be active, like knitting or playing piano, or they could even be a side gig for extra income, like woodworking or painting.
When the Internet came about that made for many more varieties of things that people could do for their spare-time hobbies. They could make weird little videos for YouTube or they could record music and produce albums that other people could listen to (and maybe even buy), or they could stream their video game playing to hang out with others or to compete online.
Somewhere along the line, as a society we seem to have decided that all of those activities must be done as a source of income. You can’t just “make videos on YouTube” or “stream on Twitch,” you are expected to become “a YouTuber” or “a Twitch streamer.” If you make things as a hobby it’s expected that you set up an Etsy store to sell them online; if you collect books or figurines or old video games it’s for making a collection you can sell on eBay. If you record music and put it online you have to put it on all the streaming services and market yourself to make it worth your while, because otherwise how will anyone discover it? Oh, you want your friends to listen to it? Well they’re all using Spotify now, and they’re only going to listen if The Algorithm tells them to.
If you’re not spending all your time doing marketing or sales or producing Content for the Content Gods you are Doing It Wrong.
Every time you post a video to YouTube it goads you about how far you are from monetization. Every time you do a Twitch stream it follows up with an email about how far you are from making Affiliate. I don’t know what Affiliates get after their streams – probably something about their monetization stats or how far they are from Partner or something. I don’t know. I don’t think I care. But whenever I attend the local Twitch streamers meetup, invariably all of the discussion revolves around how recently everyone got Affiliate, or how far away everyone is, and how sad it is that I’ve been streaming on and off for years and don’t have it yet and I have got to Find My Audience. It feels like a cult.