I discovered Linktree yesterday, and I’ll find a place to put this on the site somewhere that’s fairly prominent, but for now, here is everywhere you might wish to find me on the Interwebs.
So, yeah, I threatened everybody with writing this post yesterday, and as of right now it’s still percolating in my head, so screw it; we’re officially in “my blog” territory here and I strongly suggest that no one bother reading this as I intend to simply dump the contents of my brain into this blank text box and then go about my day.
Y’all might remember a web service by the name of Vine that shut down a couple of years ago. Vine was the Twitter of video; your videos couldn’t be more than something like six or seven seconds long, and somehow even given that restriction Vine was frequently hilarious. It takes quite a bit of creativity and talent to manage to be consistently interesting in six-second bites, and unfortunately I didn’t find out about the service until too close to it going away; I never actually posted any videos (I am funny in certain contexts; seven-second videos is not one of them) but I enjoyed browsing the site before it got turned off.
Enter TikTok. I first downloaded the app … I dunno, a month ago, maybe, thinking that it might be a worthy replacement for Vine. And, well, it’s not, if only because it’s doing entirely different things. TikTok, you see, exists solely to generate memetic content. The interesting thing about the app is that it allows you to copy the audio from any other posted Vine and use that audio with your own visual content. You can also “duet” another video, which plays that original video alongside yours with the audio from the original video; you can add your own text if you like.
What this means is that TikTok is literally the worst earworm generator on the entire Internet. And while it doesn’t have Vine’s restrictions, the videos are usually short, somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-30 seconds, maybe, although most of them are on the shorter end. Huge numbers of TikTok videos are either people lip-synching audio that other people originally recorded or sometimes putting it in another context. It can be hilarious, but when you’ve heard different spins on the “Her Name is Margo” audio from twenty-five different accounts over the course of a single day it’s going to start infecting your dreams, and God help you when a snippet of a song that you actually hear on the radio goes viral. It’ll melt your brain.
There are, near as I can tell, two components to the app. The first is the For You page, which is an endless stream of videos that I assume have been curated by an algorithm and may or may not differ in some way from user to user. The goal of any video is to make it to the For You page, because most people (I believe) interact with the app by mindlessly scrolling through those videos and that’s the best way for any individual video to get a lot of attention. You can like individual videos, which adds them to a list in the app, and you can follow individual creators, which creates a second list that is just of those creators, but doesn’t appear to be sequential or anything like that. It’ll just go on forever, repeating videos if necessary, until you die or close the app. It is terrible for those of us with mildly addictive personalities because it never ends and there’s no way to get shunted off into an article or something that causes you to accidentally learn something and get off the site for a few minutes. Just hours of the same five audio clips repeated until you die.
And then there’s Charli D’Amelio.
Charli is a fifteen-year-old high school freshman who has, as of this exact moment, twenty-seven point nine million followers on TikTok, the current high-water mark for the service, and I don’t believe second place is very close. By comparison, Barack Obama has about 113 million followers on Twitter, a much older and more established service, and oh also he was President of the United States.
Charli is a dancer. She dances. That’s basically it. She has a bunch of short dances that she’s (mostly? I assume?) made up for various songs (or, rather, parts of them) and she does her little dances and that’s the end of the video. She doesn’t speak in most of her videos. Now, don’t get me wrong, the kid is talented; I know she wants to dance professionally in the future and she’s absolutely going to be able to do that if the Social Media Queen thing doesn’t work out for her.
But I’m not just mentioning her for the hell of it. Remember how this site works. It works by other people taking audio from your videos and then either repurposing it or duetting you, where their video appears next to yours. And every single time Charli releases a video literally millions of people record their own videos either doing the dance alongside her, reusing the audio for something else, or issuing commentaries at varying levels of societal acceptability. And a quick look at her feed reveals that she’s done six videos just today. And every single one is going to end up being memetic content in some way or another. There is an entire account dedicated to finding out where she bought her clothes and posting where to get them and how much she spent. (Her family seems to be reasonably well-off, but the clothes aren’t expensive enough to warrant commenting on, for the record, much less creating an entire account for.)
I did a little experiment earlier, counting videos on the For You page and checking how many were either Charli’s videos or Charli-adjacent somehow. Each time I went through 100 videos, which takes less time than it sounds like it does since it only takes a second or so to figure out if she’s in the video or not. I did some of them logged in as me and some completely logged out to see if the app was deliberately steering Charli videos to me.
Out of a hundred videos, the high mark was eighteen having something to do with Charli– four in a row, at one point– and the minimum was three. Which means that even on a signed-out, no-algorithm account a minimum of three percent of the videos this site was serving to me were from one person, on a site with hundreds of millions of users.
Think about that. This kid is fifteen and she is basically running this entire social media network. TikTok, at least partially because of the way it’s built– you could never have something like this happen on Facebook or Twitter because of the way people interact with them, and while Instagram influencers are a thing nothing Kylie Jenner has ever done has accidentally made it into my feed– has unintentionally (?) created a situation where one user is driving an enormous amount of their traffic– either from people watching her or reacting to her with their own videos. It’s nuts. Babygirl was at the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star game, for God’s sake. How do I know that? Dozens and dozens of videos of her, from enough users that it literally couldn’t be avoided.
I don’t know if this is a sensible way to create a social media network, but it’s certainly interesting.
…on the one hand, I haven’t posted in two days, although I meant to today and the day totally got away from me. I was startlingly busy for a day off.
On the other hand, you’ve not had to read the essay/rant (I haven’t quite nailed the tone down yet) about TikTok that’s been rattling around in my head for the last several days, and I think you should probably thank me for that.
I hate Facebook.
I feel like I have to have started a dozen posts with that sentence by now. I hate Facebook, I’ve always hated Facebook, I resisted having a Facebook page for years after most of my friends were already on the service, and my tenure there was characterized by frequently shutting my account down for a while and occasionally deleting every single thing I’d ever posted to the site. I finally permanently shut my Clark Kent account down … a year ago? Two? Longer? I dunno, it’s gone, and my only presence there now is as Luther. Luther rarely posts anything other than the automatic notifications of new posts, although I do comment occasionally on other people’s stuff.
Here’s the thing: Facebook does allow me to at least nominally keep an eye on some people who I’d have fallen out of touch with otherwise. But the site in the last couple of years has transitioned from Something What I Don’t Like to, like, actually genuinely becoming evil, and it’s getting harder and harder to justify having a presence there. The problem is (and I’ve said this before) that I do get a decent amount of traffic driven my way from there (I am not unaware that many of you are seeing the first couple of paragraphs of my I-still-don’t-like-Facebook post on Facebook), and while it’s not like I make any money from the blog I do like the idea that people look at it every now and again. The other problem, and this is a bit more serious, is that many of the shows that I go to to sell books basically only have a presence on Facebook. They have websites, but the websites are static, and the number of important updates from conventions that I’ve only seen because I was following them on Facebook is quite a bit larger than it should be.
I’m able to justify remaining on the site because I block nearly all of their ads (I saw an unaltered Facebook page not too long ago and was shocked at how much clutter and advertising I’ve been avoiding with my adblocker) and, well, nearly everything the site thinks it knows about me isn’t true. Facebook isn’t making any money off of mining my data. My name, birthday, home city and a bunch of other stuff are all either at best sorta-true (Luther, as a pseudonym, exists, I suppose) or utter lies. I have tagging turned off in photos and most of my privacy settings turned up to 12 so even if someone were to put my picture up somewhere they can’t tag me in it, and if they did, it would be under the wrong name.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish other people would stop using Facebook, and I wish these cons would have more robust websites so that I didn’t have to have a Facebook account to interact with them. If the site shriveled up and died I wouldn’t miss it at all. But I still have one because right now I feel like to a certain extent at least I have to, and the second I no longer think that’s true will be a happy day around here.
I’m Luther Siler. I’m an author. Welcome to my blog, infinitefreetime.com.
I’ve written several books you might be interested in, ranging from short story collections to near-future science fiction to fantasy space opera to nonfiction, all available as ebooks or in print from Amazon. Autographed books can be ordered straight from me as well.
I can be found in several different places on the Internet. Here are the important ones:
- Support me on Patreon! Just a dollar a month gets you access to exclusive stories, early access to new books as they come out, and more! $2 or more a month gets you access to CLICK, an entire exclusive book!
- You can follow me on Twitter, @nfinitefreetime, here or just click the “follow” button on the right side of the page. Warning: Twitter is where Politics Luther hangs out, and Politics Luther is usually angry and profane. I generally follow back if I can tell you’re a human being.
- My author page on Goodreads is here. I accept any and all friend requests.
- My official Author page on Amazon is located here.
- Feel free to Like the (sadly underutilized) Luther Siler Facebook page here. It’s mostly used as a reblogger for posts.
- And, of course, you’re already at infinitefreetime.com, my blog. You can click here to be taken to a random post.
Thanks for reading!