Social Media

TikTok and The High of an Audience

Delaney Ruston, MD
February 24, 2020
Tiktok logo

Recently I was with a teen who was jumping up and down as she exclaimed how she now had 10,000 followers and some 400,000 views on a video she had posted on TikTok.

What does this increased chance of quickly getting a massive number of followers and views mean for our youth? Could it be that soon, 10,000 will lose its power, just like the once exciting 100 views did in the past? Or maybe not — maybe even if it is common, we will all be seduced by the high of a truly impressive sense of eyeballs on what we are doing.

Being seen does feel good. Teens tell me that being seen (getting views and likes) makes them feel appreciated. They say that if so many people see what they post, it implies that what they are doing is worth the other person’s time — and that can feel great.

What are the upsides and downsides of striving for online attention?

Why do some kids and teens spend so much time posting for online attention while others do not?

Today I'm sharing two stories of teens that I think will make for good conversations with young people in your lives. Both of these teens talk about the pros and cons of getting attention online.

A high school girl’s views on the pros and cons of online attention

Taylor Fang, a senior girl at Logan High School in Utah, recently won a writing contest. MIT Technology Review asked people 18 and under to respond to this question: "What do adults not know about my generation and technology?"

Fang writes, "Social-media platforms are among our only chances to create and shape our sense of self. Social media makes us feel seen. In our ‘Instagram biographies,' we curate a line of emojis that feature our passions: skiing, art, debate, racing. We post our greatest achievements and celebrations. We create fake "Finsta" accounts to share our daily moments and vulnerabilities with close friends."

She goes on to say, "When I got my first social-media account in middle school, about a year later than many of my classmates, I was primarily looking to fit in. Yet I soon discovered the sugar rush of likes and comments on my pictures. My life mattered! ...I was looking not only for validation, but also for a way to represent myself. ...Our selfies aren't just pictures; they represent our ideas of self. Only through "reimagining" the selfie as a meaningful mode of self-representation can adults understand how and why teenagers use social media."

Fang then writes about the cons of her online life. She says, "Yet by high school, this cycle of presenting polished versions of myself grew tiring... I was tired of adhering to hypervisible social codes and tokens."

So for her, she started to do more things to foster her self identity like creative writing.

A high school boy’s experience of the pros and cons of online attention

Not long ago, I read in The New York Times another teen's story about getting attention online. A 15-year-old boy from Pennsylvania, Rowan Winch, had been an avid social media user since middle school. He had big followings on several accounts, including his Instagram account @Zuccccccccccc with 1.2 million followers.

It took many hours a day to create these accounts – he started at 6 am, continued on the school bus, between classes, at lunch, during study hall, he would keep his social media empire running with new, memes, images and videos trying to get to 100 posts a day.

Rowen’s primary motivation for building these popular sites was to develop his "clout."

He explained to the reporter that this social currency is useful in ways like opening doors for jobs, getting internships, meeting a potential girlfriend, and more.

Another benefit Rowen discussed was the money generated from ads hosted on his accounts from other teens looking to garner more followers. Some months he made as much as $10K.

A third reason he said he loved the attention was "with @Zuccccccccccc, it felt like I had a purpose and was doing something that benefited a lot of people".

We, parents, worry about the many downsides of a story like this i.e., Rowan’s life was ruled by his obsession with clout, he wasn’t interacting much in person with people, mostly just online, and the list goes on.

The news story highlighted another big downside of Rowan's story, which was he was completely dependent upon one company. If that company suddenly decided to stop his accounts, there might be nothing he could do. That happened. One night he was trying to refresh his @Zuccccccccccc account when he got a message that it had been disabled. Instagram gave no reason other than the vague notice that he was “violating a policy.”

Rowan was devastated when his account shut down. "A lot of my friends think I've become depressed, and I think that's right," Rowan said. "I've been feeling insecure about a lot of things, like how I look and act and talk. I talk a lot less than I used to. I'm a lot less confident. Losing my account is the main reason I feel like this."

These teen stories bring up rich discussion points. So much of why teens are driven to post stems from this very basic human need to be seen. This reality warrants talking about personal values. For instance, what ways of being seen align with one’s core beliefs and which ones do not? As a society, how do we feel that we direct so much attention to people in entertainment, and far less to those who do amazing things to help people and help the planet, for example?  

Here are a few questions to get a conversation going. (*Consider printing this out for your discussion so the quotes in the stories can be shared while tech is away — maybe share it at a meal, during a car ride, or with your students in a classroom.)

  1. Do you know anyone who has made a viral video or who is famous on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube?
  2. What do you think are all the upsides for them?
  3. What do you think would be the upsides for you? How about the downsides?

If you want to host a screening of the movie in your community, please fill out this form.

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

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Social Media

TikTok and The High of an Audience

Delaney Ruston, MD
February 24, 2020
Tiktok logo

Recently I was with a teen who was jumping up and down as she exclaimed how she now had 10,000 followers and some 400,000 views on a video she had posted on TikTok.

What does this increased chance of quickly getting a massive number of followers and views mean for our youth? Could it be that soon, 10,000 will lose its power, just like the once exciting 100 views did in the past? Or maybe not — maybe even if it is common, we will all be seduced by the high of a truly impressive sense of eyeballs on what we are doing.

Being seen does feel good. Teens tell me that being seen (getting views and likes) makes them feel appreciated. They say that if so many people see what they post, it implies that what they are doing is worth the other person’s time — and that can feel great.

What are the upsides and downsides of striving for online attention?

Why do some kids and teens spend so much time posting for online attention while others do not?

Today I'm sharing two stories of teens that I think will make for good conversations with young people in your lives. Both of these teens talk about the pros and cons of getting attention online.

A high school girl’s views on the pros and cons of online attention

Taylor Fang, a senior girl at Logan High School in Utah, recently won a writing contest. MIT Technology Review asked people 18 and under to respond to this question: "What do adults not know about my generation and technology?"

Fang writes, "Social-media platforms are among our only chances to create and shape our sense of self. Social media makes us feel seen. In our ‘Instagram biographies,' we curate a line of emojis that feature our passions: skiing, art, debate, racing. We post our greatest achievements and celebrations. We create fake "Finsta" accounts to share our daily moments and vulnerabilities with close friends."

She goes on to say, "When I got my first social-media account in middle school, about a year later than many of my classmates, I was primarily looking to fit in. Yet I soon discovered the sugar rush of likes and comments on my pictures. My life mattered! ...I was looking not only for validation, but also for a way to represent myself. ...Our selfies aren't just pictures; they represent our ideas of self. Only through "reimagining" the selfie as a meaningful mode of self-representation can adults understand how and why teenagers use social media."

Fang then writes about the cons of her online life. She says, "Yet by high school, this cycle of presenting polished versions of myself grew tiring... I was tired of adhering to hypervisible social codes and tokens."

So for her, she started to do more things to foster her self identity like creative writing.

A high school boy’s experience of the pros and cons of online attention

Not long ago, I read in The New York Times another teen's story about getting attention online. A 15-year-old boy from Pennsylvania, Rowan Winch, had been an avid social media user since middle school. He had big followings on several accounts, including his Instagram account @Zuccccccccccc with 1.2 million followers.

It took many hours a day to create these accounts – he started at 6 am, continued on the school bus, between classes, at lunch, during study hall, he would keep his social media empire running with new, memes, images and videos trying to get to 100 posts a day.

Rowen’s primary motivation for building these popular sites was to develop his "clout."

He explained to the reporter that this social currency is useful in ways like opening doors for jobs, getting internships, meeting a potential girlfriend, and more.

Another benefit Rowen discussed was the money generated from ads hosted on his accounts from other teens looking to garner more followers. Some months he made as much as $10K.

A third reason he said he loved the attention was "with @Zuccccccccccc, it felt like I had a purpose and was doing something that benefited a lot of people".

We, parents, worry about the many downsides of a story like this i.e., Rowan’s life was ruled by his obsession with clout, he wasn’t interacting much in person with people, mostly just online, and the list goes on.

The news story highlighted another big downside of Rowan's story, which was he was completely dependent upon one company. If that company suddenly decided to stop his accounts, there might be nothing he could do. That happened. One night he was trying to refresh his @Zuccccccccccc account when he got a message that it had been disabled. Instagram gave no reason other than the vague notice that he was “violating a policy.”

Rowan was devastated when his account shut down. "A lot of my friends think I've become depressed, and I think that's right," Rowan said. "I've been feeling insecure about a lot of things, like how I look and act and talk. I talk a lot less than I used to. I'm a lot less confident. Losing my account is the main reason I feel like this."

These teen stories bring up rich discussion points. So much of why teens are driven to post stems from this very basic human need to be seen. This reality warrants talking about personal values. For instance, what ways of being seen align with one’s core beliefs and which ones do not? As a society, how do we feel that we direct so much attention to people in entertainment, and far less to those who do amazing things to help people and help the planet, for example?  

Here are a few questions to get a conversation going. (*Consider printing this out for your discussion so the quotes in the stories can be shared while tech is away — maybe share it at a meal, during a car ride, or with your students in a classroom.)

  1. Do you know anyone who has made a viral video or who is famous on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube?
  2. What do you think are all the upsides for them?
  3. What do you think would be the upsides for you? How about the downsides?

If you want to host a screening of the movie in your community, please fill out this form.

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

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