On paying for everything you WANT to read, and others be damned


Does paying for almost everything you read put you at a distinct advantage? On one hand, yes, no doubt. On the other, I find certain propositions a bit troubling.

In Reading free writing is like eating McDonald’s D. Kadavy writes:

“Back when I did lots of free reading, I suffered similar ailments, but of my brain. I became paranoid and lonely. I had difficulty concentrating. The eyeball economy was frying my brain: Everybody became an enemy, because animosity attracts eyeballs. I couldn’t focus because the more you fragment someone’s attention, the more times per minute you can sell their eyeballs.”

“When I stopped reading free stuff and started paying for my reading, everything changed. I stopped being hooked on Facebook. I started thinking things through. I started to question my initial reactions to what I read.”

“As a reader, I now had an honest relationship with my writers. I paid them for their writing, and they wrote things I liked to read. Their writing wasn’t a tactic to hack my behavior. I took care of them, and they took care of me.”

Right now, I have no solution, or complete alternative to offer. But I find that proposition troubling because:

  • it feels to me a bit too much “the hell with the everybody else, I’ll think to myself only”. Altruism aside, not sure how long it can work. If the majority of people (see last point below) keep “reading McDonald’s” and vote (or not) accordingly, eventually even your life will suffer from it
  • at least in this historical moment, I fear that certain habits may create filter bubbles way thicker, and much more fragmented, than those created by Facebook & C. The kind of stuff that may let one wake up in shock when the next Brexit or Trump happen, but you and all your favourite writers were so convinced that it couldn’t possibly happen.
  • and of course, even if it had no downsides, it is a viable strategy only for the few who CAN afford to pay
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