The Creator Paradox

8th January 2024
6 min read

I have an extreme dislike for social media.

This does not come from a place of ignorance. Years ago I was big into Twitter, and left because I got sick of everyone being cranky at everything. I was big into Instagram too, before Facebook bought it and when you still saw posts in chronological order from people you followed. Until I realised the constant comparing of lives (real or staged) was making me miserable. There were others too, over the years, but since leaving all of them behind my outlook on life, and my mental health, has significantly improved.

Ignorance truly is bliss.

In the time since, my opinion of social media has not improved. I've said for years that in 20 years from now, social media will be written about the same way cigarettes are now.

So when I started my own gig, it was with reluctance that I dusted off my LinkedIn profile and slowly started posting more stuff to it. For much of last year I was posting three times a week, and for the last quarter started adding my blog post to the mix.

Over that time I've discovered a few things about myself and the LinkedIn sphere. Here is what I found.

Something About Myself

My response to LinkedIn over the last year in particular has unsurprisingly been nearly identical to all the social networks before it. Almost like an allergic reaction, I feel myself getting agitated the longer I spend scrolling The Feed.

On reflection, this could be a personality thing. Social media's imperative to seek external validation grates against my sense of self. Some people love it and thrive in that type of environment. More power to them. But for me, a day I don't have to be on LinkedIn is a good day.

Something About LinkedIn

LinkedIn isn't meritocratic.

It isn't special just because it's a "professional" social network.

In the pursuit of engagement, by both Creators and the platform, the content formula has slowly distilled into the same quick-take, lizard-brain-triggering content as all the other networks. This is made all the more evident by the notable increase over the last year of short-form video content, a la, TikTok (and by extension; IG, YT et al).

The most successful content is instantaneous to consume, doesn't require any cerebral functions, and easy to like. I think of it as "junk posts", in the same way we refer to junk food. It's cheap to make, makes you feel good in the moment, and has little in the way of nutrition.

Further, growing a following from scratch on LinkedIn is only somewhat connected to the content you post. By actively seeking people to connect with, you can artificially grow your follower count until you reach critical mass. And this would be my pro tip: If you want to grow a following on LinkedIn, spend your time prospecting for followers (through comments and DMs), and only the bare minimum on creating content.

Sadly (for me) though, social media is a large part of this industry. Being active on social media and having an active following unquestionably has value.

Some of the big players have so completely insinuated themselves into the sector that they've almost become the default. Yet I believe very strongly that for a specific portion of the medical device design and development sector, I am a better match. My biggest challenge is being discovered. Social media is the second best way to achieve that.

Something About Creating

Dan Koe has a course called the Two Hour Writer. It's a course aimed to help you set up a weekly content system. Blog, newsletter, social posts, etc. He covers the writing process, and formatting the content delivery for each platform. As with all of these types of courses however, it is someone teaching you how to be them.

The course is great. If you want to be a writer. And while Dan argues that writing is the basis for all forms of content, I will disagree. It's not the basis of art, and it's not the basis of design.

As the name suggests, Dan's Two Hour Writer is about spending two hours creating content. Two hours per day. Including Saturdays, that's 12 hours a week. As a "solopreneur", spending an hour or more a day writing blog and LinkedIn posts plus working a full week on paid design work, was getting the better of me.

I get it that by creating a following, and therefore social proof, one can charge more and work less. This frees up time to create more content (and eventually products to sell). But as I said, LinkedIn isn't meritocratic. Charging more because you're big on LinkedIn isn't the same as charging more because you're really good at your job.

The Paradox

Good Industrial Design does not meaningfully package into small, likeable, snippets for social media that can be churned out every one or two days. Even weekly. Industrial Design is hard: it takes a long time (years), much of it isn't glamourous, and it is almost certainly confidential.

Any Industrial Designer creating regular content for LinkedIn and spending the time to cultivate a following and doing the paid work they actually love doing is on the road to burnout. Or one or more of these things suffers for it.

There are only so many hours in a day.

I'd rather design stuff.

The Journey of (to?) Discovery

After a year of experimenting, this year I feel I may have some clarity around what brings me joy, and what is needed as part of business growth.

For someone that was mediocre in English at school, I quite enjoy writing these ~1000-word posts each week. Granted, it's not design, but I feel this is the concession I'm most happy with. The posts are long enough to actually get some way into a meaningful subject, but short enough that committing 5 minutes to reading them isn't a big ask. I'll continue writing and publishing them here on my own blog, on the hosting I pay for, over which I have full control.

I'm likely one of the few people who still use RSS feeds to follow new content. A feed where you actually get the content you subscribe to, in amazing chronological order. If you're also an RSS user you can copy/paste this link to add your feed. For everyone else I will continue to share these articles on LinkedIn, as unfortunately this is how most people discover and stay up to date on all forms of content.

During December I did notice a complete drop off in new LinkedIn followers as I stopped posting my low-value junk posts during the week. I'll likely not take this back up again, as I value my time and feel it is better spent on work that actually enriches my life. If I have anything worth sharing, and it isn't going to take up my time, then I'll post it. I'm not going to force it.

But the rest of my time I plan to be creative, not a Creator.

I post every week on the topics of design, medtech, and my journey in it. If you'd like to follow along, feel free to either subscribe to the newsletter or give me a follow on LinkedIn.

ⓒ Lincoln Black 2024

Get some free design thinking, fresh every week. Straight to your inbox.

I respect your privacy and will only send you the fresh design thinking you've asked for.


Virtimachi Pty Ltd

ABN 31 651 760 762

PO Box 7156 Kariong

NSW 2250 Australia