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Found/Saved/Subscribed/Shared - Steve Bryant
What content does Steve Bryant really notice, and why?
As we’ve said before, we are obsessed with audience behaviour. As an extension of our Scroll Stoppers research, we thought it would be interesting to investigate the flow of content in our modern working world. A good place to start, we thought, is by asking some creative people whose work we admire how they find and share their content. Think of them as influencers, if you will.
How does good content - content that catches their notice - come into their world (how is it found), what do they do with it (how do they share it/save it for later) and what makes them commit to allowing more of it into their world (what do they subscribe to)?
Kicking things off is Steve Bryant. Steve is an indie marketing consultant and amateur rally driver in Mexico City. He writes (delightfully) at stevebryant.substack.com.
Oh hmm. Well. I was standing in line at the immigration office in Mexico City the other day. They have this horrid system? Where you have to stand in line for three hours, from 6am to 9am, in order to get an appointment for the next day. This is because I am becoming a Mexican citizen. So while I was standing, and while my neck was hurting, and I was outside mind you, I started scrolling through the posts on a private Slack I belong to. "Private Slack" makes it sound like some exclusive corner of the internet, or a British comedy about a feckless militaryman. But it's just some friends! And anyway, one of those friends posted a New Yorker article by Ted Chiang about AI: "ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web". I love Ted Chiang. I enjoy reading about AI. So there I was, reading Ted Chiang on the philosophy of artificial intelligence, and wishing very much there was a naturally occurring intelligence that could fix this horrid, three-hour line.
I am very bad at this. I have Readwise. I have Pocket. I have the Evernote web clipper. Two decades ago I had a Netflix queue for DVDs. But I'm just so so so bad at using these apps to save things for later. Or, rather, pardon: I am *great* at saving things for later but *shit* at actually consuming those things in the future.
I realize there are several underlying, emotional reasons for this bad behaviour—and I do think it's bad behaviour, because I do very much wish that I made better use of my time, and a very good use of my time would be reading things I want to read instead of mindlessly scrolling Twitter when I have a free moment.
One of the underlying, emotional reasons for my inability to save things may be that I have formed a correspondence, in my soggy mind, between "save a thing for later" and "optimize every moment of your life forever" and THAT is so revolting an idea that I react, subconsciously, against it. Maybe mindlessly scrolling the internet is good, after all! It's probably not but still!
Regardless, here's another potential reason: I am intellectually attracted to a variety of topics ("you have a cavernous maw of a wide aperture", my therapist says) but some of those intellectual interests are introjected, so to speak, instead of naturally occurring within me. As in I *think* I should *feel* more interested in a topic than I actually am (because I want to be seen as intelligent!), and so I try to build systems that remind me to be interested—like saving an article to read for later. Of course, then I open the damned "read later" apps and I'm like ugggggh I don't want to read any of this *right now*, and instead I mindlessly scroll Twitter. Perhaps I just wish to relax.
Anyway, this is getting terribly long. So! Let me recommend three actual things:
1) The Microsoft To-Do app is a great way to track all your to-do's for everything, except I also use it to track upcoming movies and books and their release dates and set an alarm, and it's great, and I give myself permission when an alarm sounds to say "eh fuck that, don't care anymore".
2) Following podcasts on Spotify is a delight, and then at the end of the year you get that Spotify Wrapped thing? Where it tells you what you listened to most? Delightful.
3) And this is important: Be honest with yourself about what you truly enjoy! For example: Rashomon. I hear it's a phenomenal movie. Fuck if I'd know though, I've never seen it! Had it in my Netflix queue for years, though. The title just stared at me. How bout now, it seemed to say. How bout now. How bout now.
I don't! I can't! There are too many subscription products in this world! Did you know the average person has 17 digital subscriptions! Pays for something like $200 per month! It's madness. I cut most of my subs last year. I saw I was paying close to $300 for things. I even—and this is true!—decided to kill my NYTimes subscription. I mean it's $15! But then when I went to cancel, they offered me a *larger* subscription (including the cooking app and wirecutter) for only $4. So now I pay $4 for the world's best journalism and also recipes for pie.
I just shared a Big Think video on Stoicism with my girlfriend. It's about that grand ol' lesson: you can't control what happens to you, only how you react to it. Let's hope she reacts positively to this share! She's still asleep though. So I guess we'll see, won't we. I guess we'll see.
That’s it for this week. Next week, we’ll be back with another creative mind letting us know what they’ve found, shared, subscribed and saved recently. Don’t forget to share this post with friends if you like it, and ask them to subscribe if they haven’t. See you then!