In the last few decades, it’s become easier and easier for folks to turn a little talent or skill into a business. You like baking or decorating cakes? You can sell those! You enjoy woodworking? Take it on down to the Saturday market! You have a knack for knitting? We can whip up a website in no time, and you can turn that into a full-time job.
For some people, especially moms, this has been a godsend. It allows them to make a little money, or a lot of money, doing something they love, and it means they have flexibility and satisfaction that they’d never find in some workaday office job.
But for some people, it just turned into yet another ball and chain. Monetizing their talents just sucked all the joy out of it and made the thing they used to love into a slog. The activity that once relaxed their frazzled nerves and restored their psyches turned into a new source of anxiety and frustration, and robbed them of anything to fall back on in their free time.
So there is now a well-established backlash against turning everything you love into a side gig. This is a good and healthy thing, and it’s gratifying to see talented people making beautiful things simply because they want to, without hoping to turn it into a profitable empire.
However! (There’s always a “however.”) Maybe it’s a 21st-century disease, or maybe it’s a specifically American thing, but I’ve noticed that the “you can monetize that” pressure has given way to something superficially different, but just as insidious: The pressure to become super knowledgeable about anything you happen to like. You can be an amateur, but you have to be an expert amateur, or you will pay.
This is undoubtedly a fruit of the internet and social media (and maybe mostly a problem for people who are very active on social media; but it’s bled into “real life” as well.). Folks like to share little scenes from their everyday life, and other folks like to chip in bits and pieces of knowledge they happen to have (or think they have) about it. Sometimes they’re right; sometimes they’re wrong. Sometimes they’re helpful, sometimes they’re interesting, sometimes they’re just trying to show off. But it has become standard to know a lot about just about anything you share about your life, even casually.
If you mention there’s a bird at your feeder, you better know the exact species and subvariant, and whether it’s acting normally or unusually, and whether it’s common in your area, and if that’s good for your environment or bad; and if there is any bird seed included in the photo, it’s almost certainly going to be the wrong kind, and you’re going to hear about it. These days, you can no longer buy a packet of seeds, dig a hole, and put them in the ground. It’s not that simple! Long before the actual plant ever pokes its shy head above the earth, the discourse about it will flower, including hot debates about native vs. endemic vs. indigenous vs. invasive species, diatomaceous earth vs. natural zeolites, and whether or not you’re doing enough to support your local bees.
It’s gotten to the point where people are genuinely afraid to share anything at all, because they know that someone, somewhere, is going to be more of an expert about it than they are, and they are going to get yelled at. … Read the rest of my latest for Our Sunday Visitor.
Photo of “Image of Smiling Man Looking Up” by Homer page, from The Family of Man by Edward Steichen