I remember the very first appearances of Facebook on the internet, and I happened to be working at a university when it first started making waves on campuses around the world. In our particular case, some students posted pictures of some other under-age students consuming alcohol, and this particular campus was (and still is) famously “dry”. I’d only heard about it because leadership prepped me for a conversation with some concerned parents about privacy and what exactly the university was going to do about it. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I wasn’t able to offer much assurance to anyone at the time. Even back then (Facebook started in 2004), the internet and social media were well on their way to being out of anyone’s control. Fast forward nearly 20 years, and we have companies who are literally able to thumb their noses at just about any governing body, and has been proven time and again, literally able to influence elections and who is supposed to be in charge of policing themselves.
The trap is already sprung. We are in the net.
Unfortunately for everyone (including those of us who try to keep social media at arm’s length) the various platforms have become deeply embedded in our daily lives, to the point where we believe we could not survive without them, and for those brought up on it or who have made careers on these platforms, this might be actual a dreaded reality. A recent article published in Forbes shined a rare light on an internal practice at TikTok – already under fire for various privacy and security concerns – called “heating” which essentially is a button select folks at TikTok can push to make a video go viral. I’m sure some of you suspected that the notion of things going “viral” has long been controllable on the various platforms on which this can occur, but this particular article also details the why “heating” would be used strategically to secure the platforms dominance in the market. It’s an old carny trick – hook a bunch of suckers by letting someone win a big, showy stuffed animal in a rigged carnival game early in the day. The prize-winner walks around the carnival, happily advertising the game – in this case, perhaps you are an upcoming streamer on a different platform. Someone at TikTok has determined you would be a good investment and “heats” your video, causing it to go viral. The newly popular TikTokker tells his other platform audiences about his blow-up on the platform, and all of a sudden TikTok has thousands more eyeballs. You see how this goes? The insidious part is next: without the rush of a “heated” video, the TikTok creator is now chasing a high that was artificially created. Imagine this is also something that Facebook or Twitter does for its most popular creators, except when that creator’s views seem lackluster, they offer a little help in form of letting them pay to promote their content. Sound familiar? The first hit from a drug dealer is always free, and once you are hooked, it’s hard shaking that addiction. Meanwhile the drug dealer quietly pockets the cash while tsk-tsking about fickle viewers. This next hit will fix you right up, eh?
Image courtesy of TAW4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net