April 14, 2019

Is IH a drug as bad as Facebook?

Matt Smith @QuaffAPint

There have been numerous articles about Facebook and its detriment to people's well-being as they try to compare themselves to the highlights of other's lives. Is IH just another Facebook in this regard?

There was an article on HN a couple months back. Not directly about IH, but in the comments many of the posters were saying IH was like a disease offering false hope. At the time I thought that's just trolls being trolls. More and more though I'm beginning to wonder. We're all capable of making our own decisions, but when you listen to the podcasts of the 1% of 1% of people that made it and you can't figure it out even after years of trying does that make you feel lesser? What if instead you realized that the vast majority won't make it as far and spent your time doing something else that actually made you happy and improved your life? Is this as bad as people offering stock tips saying do this and you'll be rich? Does IH need a big disclaimer at the top?

I don't think anyone at IH is out to get people. I think it's meant to provide support. But maybe some of those HN comments were true and we should see a lot more of the realistic things that happen and not just the gold at the end of the rainbow.


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    Well, the goal is certainly not to make you feel bad about yourself. It's to do the opposite — to show you what's possible by spotlighting success stories, and to help you accomplish your goals by connecting you to others who can help you out.

    It doesn't get talked about it enough, but a big part of this whole startup thing is raw persistence. Most of the past 10 years of my life were defined by startup failure. If I had quit 6 or 7 years in, there would be no Indie Hackers. That's true for most of the guests on the podcast, too. I try to ask them about their failure stories, and most of them have quite a few.

    That said, it's freaking hard. Failure sucks. It's embarrassing. It's an ego hit. It's demotivating. It's stressful. And financially, it's costly. There really is no sugar-coating it. The only real consolation is how common it is. When you read the forum or look at the products directory, most people haven't succeeded yet, and almost everyone has tasted failure.

    I interviewed somebody for the podcast this week, and they closed out by saying, "The journey is the destination. What you're doing right now, right this second, is the whole point." It's a cliche, I know, but it hit home for me.

    I love building stuff. I could probably fail for decades and keep going, as long as I can keep building. Even when I succeed, I just want to set the bar higher and try again. I'll play a video game and lose 1000x, just so I can eventually win and get that high score. That's just my personality. I get a lot of satisfaction from that frustrating process of striving. I've always thought that I was outcome-focused, but the reality is that I'm addicted to the process and the struggle itself.

    But that's not everybody. We're all different. And it's not necessarily healthy, either. Plus I don't have kids, and I don't have a mortgage, so all of this easy for me to say.

    If you can find a way to love the process without getting too caught up in the outcome, keep going! If not, take a break! Maybe even call it quits, at least for now. Your sanity comes first. I took two years off to just do contract work after one of my startups failed, because I was frustrated and tired and upset that my bank account was always empty.

    You're not alone. We've almost all been there. This stuff is hard.

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      I needed to read this right now. Thank you!

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    As a message board, I don't think IH offers false hope; many, many of the posters are asking questions, and a lot of those questions are along the lines of, "WTF am I doing?" That is definitely not false hope. It illustrates perfectly that we're all swimming around trying to figure it out. None of the posts I've seen on the site have been, "I made a million dollars overnight by working four hours a week. You can too. Yay, us."

    I love coming here to ask questions, and to answer questions to the best of my ability. The community has been great; wonderful questions, great responses, and absolutely no pissing contests. On the internet. That's awesome.

    I will say this, though: The emails that I got from IH were total Startup Porn.
    "From fireman to first-time founder making $65k/mo"
    "How solving a problem led me to 26% monthly growth"
    "Transforming my simple daily habit into $20,000 per month"

    These are actual subject lines from IndieHackers emails. I had to unsubscribe because these "how I one-in-a-million'd" stories didn't provide any insight into the realities of running or growing a successful business.

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    I think one of the advantages of IH is that it's somewhat anonymous i.e. mostly people here aren't your friends. This means that people call each other out on bad ideas, bullshit and false promise fairly often. On FB most people's close friends and family are just hitting 'like' and offering reassurance and validation for things which is not necessarily the way they really feel - because there's a social impetus to be nice.

    If you think that hearing stories about the success of others can lead to people having lower self worth or higher anxiety then I think you're right, that is a common issue with the internet/internet culture nowadays - fetishising success like it's the natural end point for everyone if you 'just keep at it, just work hard'. But I certainly don't think IH is any more of a catalyst for that than anywhere else online.

    That's actually one of the reasons I've decided to try and focus on building a non-profit rather than a 'startup/tech' thing - I just wasn't motivated enough to complete on projects (like some of my fellow IHers), I know/knew that I have the skills but I just felt what is the point as I'm just another chaos monkey, unless I strike gold this time. Then I thought 'well, why don't I just try something that might be good for people/the earth generally. that will be more motivating than just hope that x, y, or z SaaS idea hits the big time' - it's funny, it's only a slight change, and it's still extremely early in the project, but what a big difference it makes already. Like there's no false hope for me at the moment, there isn't some #startuplife, or pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that I'm hoping for. I'm just hoping to make a difference doing something meaningful, and if I fail I'll be glad just for trying.

    I think you could take that same sentiment and apply it to whatever ideas you may have. Like it doesn't have to be 'start a non-profit' - it can be like 'what could I do with my skills to genuinely enrich the lives of others'. it could be a startup, who knows, but at least your core motivation would be helping others lives rather than creating a lifestyle for yourself (which I worry is what some people trying to build a business really want, but each to their own I guess).

    Anyway, my one paragraph answer really snowballed here, apologies if you think I'm talking nonsense haha. Ultimately if an online platform makes you feel shitty then get out of there, I quite facebook 2 years ago and never looked back :)

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    Thanks for everyone's thoughts. I agree this is not an IH 'problem' per say but more of a modern social media way of thinking that we must all be so perfect. I for one would like to hear more about the journeys including the lows along with the highs.
    I'm glad this post at least allowed a conversation and some therapy (at least for me anyway 🙂).

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    Hah, just felt kinda the same a few days ago.

    But I don’t think IH is the problem here — on the contrary, IH is more like a support group, "Entrepreneurs Anonymous". If anything, the fact that our world is now much more connected is the real culprit behind such dissatisfaction. Our parents and grandparents simply didn’t have the means to see so many successful and "made it" people worldwide as we do now. And they were happier for it, not aspiring for much. Their understanding of success was limited as well — a stable job, a family, a house and a car etc — whatever their circle of contacts considered a success. Once in a while they would read about millionaires and celebrities, but those were considered a totally different league, unattainable for a run-of-the-mill person.

    And now that we have Internet, we can witness so many ordinary people getting rich and successful, some working hard and some because of sheer luck or being born into wealth. We see all those rich instagram kids, popular bloggers, $1m-valued 21-year old founders, influencers etc, all glorified by mass media. Naturally this all makes us envious. But it’s not going anywhere. And you can’t unsee it either — once attained, the envy won’t go away no matter how many websites you block.

    There’s two approaches to dealing with envy. You can be spiteful, or you can see it as a motivation to do better.

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    A lot of the worst parts of Facebook come from the algorithmic timeline and their willingness to do almost anything to increase engagement.

    IH has done a bit of the later, but Stripe's goal of "growing the GDP of the internet (and earning fees on some %)" is fundamentally different than "selling as much advertising as possible". If IH addicts everyone into spending as much time on it as Netflix or Instagram, it fails its task of getting more businesses started and growing them. If IH encourages occasional usage that's super valuable for getting entrepreneurs started or unstuck, then it wins even at low engagement levels that would send an ad-driven social media company into panic.

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      FWIW, and if it helps, I'm still fairly new to the job here at IH, but a bit part of what I do is manually moderate which posts go where. Sure, some of this may change over time as the tech matures, but right now my goal is to put the most useful posts out to the front page.

      Every post I ask the question: is this truly useful to indie hackers? or how can I help this indie hacker?

      Another part of my job is to help and guide the posts to be the best they can. I'm always open to feedback on how IH can be improved from a community perspective. I welcome criticism as well positivity and ideas on how to improve. A lot of this is about experimentation and getting to know the whole community as best as we can.

      I honestly joined IH because of Courtland and what I see as him trying to do the best he can for the community. I did this for the company/community I founded previously, I know it's hard work. I'm really enjoying and appreciating how IH is trying to put the community first.

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