I have been following the bug bounty and security creator/influencer scenes since they started. And as someone in security who also creates content, I feel very close to it all. What I’ve seen in the last year has been troubling.
I keep seeing friends and associates—both in conversations and in social media—crumble under the relentless pressure to produce.
I might see someone publicly emote positivity and energy, and then ten minutes later—somewhere else on the internet—see them describe how unhappy they are.
What people don’t realize when they get into bounty and/or content creation is that the very reason you’re participating is also the thing that causes the suffering. Namely—the squirt of happiness and validation that comes when someone likes your bug, when you get paid for a bug, or when someone enjoys a piece of content you just released.
The rush starts wearing off immediately, and you start looking for the next one.
Spending too much time on Twitter is almost always a sign of unhealth.
People in the bounty and content creation games are deeply embedded in the community, so they’re constantly seeing the work of others. If they got a cool bug yesterday, and got praise from the community, then today they’ll see three of their colleagues get a new bug. And they’ll see them be praised for that.
Now their win from yesterday is gone, and they feel deflated and unloved.
Now they have to hurry up! What’s the next video they can make? What’s the next blog they can write? What’s the next bug they can find?
This takes the things they love most—hacking and sharing content—and turns them into weapons of self-harm.
Soon they’re finding themselves avoiding creating content at all, or looking for bugs, because the whole cycle of idea, creation, publish, and wait for praise has been tainted with negativity.
My advice to people considering a full-time job in content creation or bounty hunting is this: don’t just leap into it. You need to be sure that you’re so good at it that you can do it easily, and that you won’t be stressed for money when doing so.
Even if you are good enough, you still need to monitor your mental state.
If you are not sure you’re good enough yet…if you’re still learning…if your finances are precarious—I would say keep your day job and keep doing what you love on the side. Don’t let the jump to full-time turn the thing you love against you. Don’t let stress poison your favorite activities.
If you’re not having fun doing your favorite activities, it’s time to make changes.
And if you see someone struggling on this treadmill, try to help them. Remind them that these things should be fun, and that if they’re not they should make adjustments so that they are again.
Summary and practical takeaways
This doesn’t mean it’s not possible; it’s just not easy.
TL;DR: It’s essential to your happiness that you maintain a healthy relationship with your hobbies, and converting them to a full-time job is one of the fastest ways to mess that up.
Here’s what I recommend.
- Monitor your mental state closely, week to week and month to month. Consider journaling to accomplish this, so you can see what you were actually feeling vs. what you remember after the fact, and be honest with yourself when you write.
- Think about what is forcing you to hunt/create. If it’s stress around money, consider getting at least a part-time gig that can alleviate that financial burden. And if it’s feeling inadequate from watching all the other great hunters/creators out there, stop paying so much attention to what they’re doing and focus more on your own work and craft. Set a time limit for time on Twitter per day, say, 15 minutes to respond to direct queries and give some high-fives.
- Explore books and articles that are related to your space but not part of the scene. So if you’re into OSINT or Recon, learn about threading options in Go, or take a course on Python 3. Or get on YouTube and follow some people talking about Python, Bash, and Vim. In other words, do a deep dive on subjects that will enhance your craft without directly being part of it.
No matter what, make sure that you’re having fun. Never forget that your enjoyment of the activity is the true source of both your skill and your happiness.
Much love to you all, and thank you for doing what you do.