Words by Luke Alland.
The rise of TikTok changed the game for everyone. Already long gone were the days where your feed was populated with people you actually knew, replaced with celebrities or pseudo-celebrities vying for your likes and comments. With TikTok entering the fold, virality entered its fast and furious phase.
Trends came at you like objects being thrown down a wind tunnel. Every five seconds, a new video seemed to be doing the rounds of strange dance routines to the latest trending song, just for someone else to interpret and change a tiny aspect leading into a new deluge of the same. Copy-Paste-Content-Culture is well and truly alive, my friends.
The problem with this is that you'll get a content creator that goes viral for one specific form of comedy or impression, for example, which then becomes the modus operandi for their online presence and subsequently leads to the inevitable watering down of that first, possibly brilliant video. The lead time for content creators to actually get things out is astounding. Compare it to music for example. There are years between albums which allows a band or an artist to grow and develop their range and repertoire. The same goes for stand ups also. People still remember and quote Eddie Murphy's iconic 'Delirious' set, and that's almost 40-years-old. Content creators are expected to produce every single day, if not for their 'fans', for the algorithm. It's better to get a few thousand page views for a poorer quality video than it is to not post at all.
Whilst I understand the argument that can be made for social media removing the shackles of the gatekeepers to provide egalitarianism in producing content, and getting people closer to celebrities and even providing opportunities, I think we are drowning ourselves in so much content, that we've forgotten how to appreciate things that take a bit longer than 15 seconds to consume.
There is of course the over-produced and sterile existence that many influencers seem to push onto us, which I think has had its day. Don't get me wrong, there is a difference between someone who actually endorses a product, in comparison to someone who is blatantly picking up a paycheque. As our phones get better, more and more idealistic lifestyle/holiday videos are being uploaded to give us our daily serving of Instagram, whilst in reality, we're sat on the bus watching it hammer it down outside knowing we have to get off at the next stop.
I'd be interested to know even after how much everyone rebels against all of the major players, how much time we actually spend on each platform. How much we don't want to play into their hands—they have the data. For every ten minutes we spend on reels or for every time we share something that made us smirk, all that's doing is backing up their theory that whilst we think we know what we want, it's actually them that do.
I'm not against 'non-creators' getting in on the act, but it does help perpetuate the Instagram vs Reality rhetoric that everyone seems to be trying to distance themselves from. Even I as a photographer am guilty of possibly adding to the problem, but then, couldn't we say that about every photographer? It's down to their eye and how they have perceived and experienced the world. Sometimes this can mean we only focus on the beautiful or the moments where things are actually happening.
The trouble with social media is that everyone is searching for those viral moments. Even when they aren't there.