A few days ago, I committed to write one post per day. I noted that my goal isn’t to get likes or followers. (Though I won’t turn them away.) It’s to write one post per day. That’s success.
Why not use likes, follows, visits or similar metrics to optimize what I write about? I fear this will stifle my creativity. I envision myself writing about narrower topics in more sensationalistic ways. Striving for ever greater positive feedback.
There’s support for this fear. Research on social product design, for example, shows:
[R]eceiving feedback from other community members on initial self-designs leads to less unique final self-designs, lower satisfaction with self-designed products, lower product usage frequency, and lower monetary product valuations.
This is because extrinsic motivation yields worse creative output than intrinsic motivation. Daniel Pink’s book Drive provides many examples (here’s his TED talk on motivation). There have also been studies on writing. For example, extrinsic motivation yields worse poetry. “Poems written under an extrinsic orientation were significantly less creative,” that study found.
There may, of course, be a safe way to get feedback without undermining creativity. But right now, I’m being cautious. Intrinsic motivation is hard to find and easy to lose.