#1. You Reward People for Stealing Content
We are all naked on the Internet. If not literally, then at least figuratively. In the real world, we have the luxury of showcasing our style through what we choose to wear, allowing our clothes to define our identity. If that sounds shallow, remember that the most popular song on the radio right now is about a guy digging through thrift store bins and having sex with women because they like his fashion. But online, we lose that important indicator of taste, so how does an ordinary person like you stand out and prove that you're interesting without a full-length fur coat to do the job? The answer is in videos, pictures, infographics, and every other undiscovered Internet gem you can dig up. The Internet is not unlike a massive thrift store bin: It's full of a whole lot of useless garbage and a few amazing finds that no one else has seen for probably a decade. You can pride yourself on your ability to discover something interesting and then wear it on your Facebook and Tumblr and Pintrest pages. The things you choose to post on social media define your online persona, and naturally, above all else, you want to be cool.
This is how we all look online, even the ladies.
But when you're looking through a thrift store and you happen to find a shirt with UFOs chasing an Uzi-wielding minotaur, rarely will your first thought be, "I wonder who the designer is?" because the original creator lost his or her relevance the minute this item ended up in a secondhand store; now the discoverer deserves the credit.
Maybe you see where this is headed.
When people try to apply the same rules to content they find online, it ends up screwing the creator. While you may not be the type of person who would crop someone's logo or watermark out of a picture, or cut someone else's byline from an article before posting it yourself, I assure you that you are at least the type of person who would like it, retweet it, or reblog it after someone else removed all mention of the source. We are all that type of person, and we prove it every day, because we rarely take a minute to really hunt for the original creator of anything we casually enjoy while scrolling through a news feed. We've accidentally encouraged the discoverers of content to feel a sense of accomplishment when they find something new and then cover their tracks to the place they found it. It's a bizarre and counterintuitive form of fandom built into our culture where we only like a comic, a video, a song, or a website as long we're one of the first to discover it. If we aren't the news breakers, then we lose interest.
Oh, this? My ears just wrote an awesome new song. You should check it out on my blog.
Unfortunately, what can only earn that secondhand poster a handful of thumbs-up icons is actually costing the original creator a whole lot more. Those people are stealing the success of the thing they love and actively trying to tuck the artist away in their own personal dark corner of the Internet. While they may not realize it, those fans are creating their own little sweatshops of creativity and then selling it to the public for the arbitrary awards of likes and reblogs. Worst of all, you're perpetuating it each time you give them what they want. Granted, none of it actually means we're doomed, but it would sure be nice if you cut that shit out.