Dear Content Producers,
Please stop using the “Open Letter to…” headline for all your random crap.
Listen, I can rant about this all day, but I won’t. I’ll rant about it for a few minutes, and then I will stop. Promise.
I just want to explain something about Medium and public pages on the Internet. Like, unless you stuff all your content behind a friends-only zone on Facebook, or hit that “Private Account” button or whatever it’s called on Twitter, or just write in Word Documents like this:
Your content IS open. You don’t have to tell people you are writing an “open letter”, you just publish it in a place where people don’t have to have an account or be friends with you to view it and VOILA, it’s out there on the open Internet. At least, until Medium decides to shut it down and delete your open letter. In which case, you should have been syndicating, but that’s another issue.
See that’s part of the innovation of the Internet, the fact that we can write and share with everyone in the world. We can do this without asking. We don’t have to say “PS Please share this with the rest of the family!” like they did in the days of yore. We can write things into the little boxes on our desks or in our pockets and push some buttons and BAM, the whole world knows that we’re pissed off at CompanyQs Customer Service because they had the gall to ask us if the device was plugged in.
Technology has become so pervasive in our lives that we have redefined the act of sharing. Our default used to be that we would share news with our friends and family. They would share the news with a few appropriate people, their trusted circles. Now our “friends” and our “family” are made up of hundreds, the “Trusted circles” expand into infinity and the network spreads our news to the outer reaches of humanity. Now, what we don’t share is ever so much more revealing than what we do.
The “Open Letter” format has been around for centuries, so don’t think I’m dissing the format itself. But I’m tired of reading “Open Letter to…” in your headlines. Some of your open letters are funny, some have wonderful points. Many of you, though, are using that fucking “Open Letter to…” for all kinds of irrelevant crap. The “Open Letter to…” headlines are no longer revealing anything to me, and I’m tired of reading ALL the open letters because it’s the only way I can know if what you’re saying is valuable.
Don’t you realize how much work it is to filter through the giant shitstorm that is the 21st Century Internet? People can publish anything they want. There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t want to read. There are a lot of opinions I no longer feel the need to consider. I rely on my ability to critically analyze words to determine which bits of content deserve a deeper look, and which ones do not. I’m relying on my fellow content producers to help me understand the deeper aspects of their writing, and using the “Open Letter to…” is a lazy copout.
Your headlines aren’t helping me sort, see? Your discussions and rants with random people and companies might be commenting on the social and cultural issues we’re facing in this challenging world, and there might be important and interesting things contained in that social commentary. Maybe.
9 times out of 10 your open letter isn’t an attempt to start a dialog, it’s just a bitch fest. You are already writing in public. You are writing in the open. Do you lack the ability to write a piece without addressing it to an imaginary person? Is that why there are so many “open letters”?
Thanks very much for considering this perspective.