It’s no secret, Tech Juggernauts make money from people’s online usage. With present-day computing power dissecting an individual’s data, marketers can hack people thus manipulate them in our digital economy. Thanks to the power of social media, a new breed of people hackers (a.k.a. online creators) is flourishing.
As I shared in my 2021 post Social Allurement, America runs on social media. According to a Pew Research Center 2021 survey of U.S. adults:
- Seven-in-ten Americans have used social media sites. Note: Share data has remained relatively stable over the past five year
- YouTube and Facebook are the dominate platforms with 81% and 69% of respondents reported using these platforms respectively.
- Younger adults (18-to-29-year-olds) indicated they use Instagram (71%) or Snapchat (65%), while roughly half say the same for TikTok.
Social media platforms make money selling advertising. I want to focus on TikTok which shares their user data more than any other social media app and their sub-culture of online internet creators. Some females are known as a BimboTok. They create daily videos considered promotional incorporating products or songs companies hope will go viral thanks to their massive followings. One leading BimboTok who posts on Instagram and TikTok has a combined 4.5 million followers. Young males obsessed with bodybuilding and high protein diets, a disorder defined as bigorexia, are posting workout videos #teenbodybuilding. Their followers are fixated by the thought there is something wrong with the way their body looks. From a marketing perspective, these online creators are a new breed of White Hat “ethical hackers” who have permission from the platforms users to collect marketing data. Another example of how the digital advertising ecosystem is morphing.
The selling of personal data and the marketing side of this story is one thing, but there is a darker side dressed up in puppy videos and the latest zany TikTok challenge.
It’s kind of ironic that Metaverse is emerging now since, in my opinion, most of the social media platforms have been operating in a parallel universe for quite some time. In the “virtual” world, these platforms appear to be innocuous fun social communities, while in the “real” world, they are increasingly political, censoring bodies that allow users to see and express only the content and views that fit their narrative. They are increasingly suppressing a free exchange of ideas, discussion, debate and critical thinking. Civil liberties are being eroded and people seem unfazed… that is until it is their post that gets deleted or their account that gets shut down.
A good example of that was this week’s “Special Briefing” for TikTok Influencers. I don’t fault the White House for trying to get a message out to this audience, but the forum lacks balance. There are scant few “journalists” in this group to question or even be bothered to get more context for the information the White House shared with them. Most did as exactly expected serving up the White House narrative… some might say propaganda.