Ghostwriting and content creation are just some bedazzles on a resume. A thing I can do is write. I’ll do it for cheap and, because I have no education or reputation, I’ll let you put your name on it. It’s lying, but we’re cool with it. We’re in the age of the Icon. Not even politicians write their own speeches. Not even actors write their own books.
It makes sense for web sites to outsource content from people that they don’t care aren’t experts or authorities. They have to keep content flowing for consistency and brand awareness and whatever else. What that leads to is a lot of misinformation on the internet and lower standards for what we consider truth.
What about the ghosts, though?
I’ve done a lot of reputation management pieces. I’ve written away bad deeds and unethical business decisions 600 words at a time more times than I can count. I’ve told people how to use honey to it’s maximum effectiveness. I have given advice on how to fix cars and refrigerators. I have given detailed real estate climate descriptions for towns I never even heard of or visited. I have made pennies at a time for all kinds of articles, blog posts, and product reviews.
One thing threads all of these creations: They’re all bullshit.
I can no longer consume content on the internet.
I have written fake news. I have written those “studies show” fluff pieces that take one piece of newly discovered data and blow what “scientists could think” way out of proportion. Knowing what I know about internet content, I am truly thankful for print publications.
There was no vetting process for me. The people that buy and commission this content are not worried about validity. Maybe it goes to a room with a fact check department, maybe it goes to the inbox of a stranger that will literally copy and paste it (drunk spelling errors and all) into a wordpress that will get clicks.
When I see those “I made thousands with my online business!” ads, I gag. I have worked for 1 cent a word on articles that might have made that person hundreds of dollars. There is no ethical consumption blah blah blah.
I started writing content when I was 14 years old. I was asked to submit a few sample articles (which is a red flag, but I didn’t know that) and then I was granted access to an anonymous network of orders. I didn’t know who I was writing for, I was just writing. For years, I’d log in and crank out some garbage for barely any money. This was technically my first job.
If I said I was good at it, I’d probably be lying. I learned a lot when I was writing content, though, and it kept me interested in coming back. I’d research things I knew nothing about in order to sound like a leading expert in whatever the fuck.
I usually wrote for content mills. There would be topics and then lists of orders and then descriptions of what the client wanted. They had a little internet username that had nothing to do with the thing they wanted written. While most of my orders were anonymous, I would occasionally get private messages from people I’d written for asking for more.
When I was 18, a mommy-blog direct messaged me. I read her stuff, learned her voice, and wrote as if I was her. That was my first and only long-running private client. The only time I had deadlines and rewrites.
I was pretending I’d done these amazing things that day. I was pretending I made crafts and spent time with my kids and was giving cleaning and cooking and childcare advice. All things that interested me and I had some polished opinions about so it was actually quite fun while it lasted.
The truth remains: It was me.
I was a ghost writer inhabiting the body of a real person. The people reading that blog will never know that an 18 year old run-away wrote to them from her tiny, messy, sad one bedroom apartment. They might never know they were lied to.
I have a huge problem with something I never would have thought about. “Content Culture” has destroyed my trust in the internet and pretty much every other way one can consume information because I was a part of this culture. I am a part of it and a victim of it. It is a new head on the dragon of capitalism that is eating truth and trust alive for the sake of money.
It puts me in an ethical conundrum.
I am an online resource and I am almost always making it up.