How TikTok Becomes a Community: From the Theatre to the Internet: How the Phone became a Platform for Organizing Information
The focus on the algorithm caused us to overlook a central part of TikTok’s operating logic: the phone. While the platform works with a medium and context that inform how we receive information through a given channel, there has been little appreciation of how it works due to a failure to explore its role in TikTok.
The transition from the cinema to TV during the mid-20th century allowed moving images to enter our homes. Once constrained to the theater, this content began to live alongside us—we watched it as we got ready in the mornings, ate dinner, hosted guests, spent time with family. Theorists like Marshall McLuhan noticed that as moving pictures were taken out of the dark, anonymous communes of the theater and placed within our domestic spaces, the foundational mechanics of how we received, processed, and related to them changed. As newly engrained features of our dwellings—which Heidegger recognizes as deeply intertwined with our sense of being in the world—they took on a familiar casualness. Donald Horton and Richard Wohl coin the term “parasocial” when they note in their paper that viewers developed relationships with the people they saw through the screens. Home audiences grew to see these mass media personas as confidants and friends, giving broadcasters the means to manipulate audiences at a more personal level.
Once platforms were device-agnostic, universal purveyors of content that could be found on any device. As Kyle Chayka notes, this allowed companies to promise users that they could use any device to transcend particularities like nationality, identity, or class and “follow anything or anyone” they wanted when on the site. Many of the ways in which the mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible is indicative of this logic. The instruments used, context and materiality are the most important aspects of our encounter with these platforms.
Why Did Lydia Millen Check in to the Savoy? How Fashion, Beauty, and Lifestyle Brands Are Interacting During the Black Friday Recession
When Lydia Millen’s heating broke in late November, she checked into Britain’s oldest luxury hotel, the Savoy, where gilded rooms go for anywhere from $700 to $5,500 a night. She said she was going to use the hot water.
The response—3.9 million views later—was predictably vehement. Many commenters compared Millen to Marie Antoinette; others cracked jokes like “My TV is broken so I’ve hired a private jet to fly me to Qatar so I can watch the footie.” One comment with more than 14,000 likes summed up the sentiment best, “The room that is very cold has not been read.”
Millen checked in to the Savoy six days before the UK inflation hit a 41-year high. Many families in Britain are choosing between heating and eating while some rail workers are planning to strike to get better wages.
Globally, the story is much the same, and economists fear that the world is on the brink of another recession. It raises an interesting question: what happens to influential people during times of economic hardship? What does content creation look like during a cost-of-living crisis, when more and more people are shut out of the lifestyle that luxury influencers flaunt? How will brands, agencies, and creators navigate this changing landscape?
When Black Friday happened, one of the most popular fashion, beauty, and lifestyle content creators in the world didn’t post any sales. “I think it’s kind of silly to be encouraging frivolous spending at a time like this, when so many people are getting laid off. I find it offensive that I am spending and showing items that I am buying.
Wood, who has previously done campaigns for Urban Outfitters, Crocs, HBO Max, and Google, says she has recently begun working with sustainable and ethical fashion brands who produce clothing that’s “built to last.” She asked companies to take her off their gift lists and she now posts fewer pictures of gifts and PR packages that she receives.
The head of an agency in London says brands are more conservative about the people they work with, opting for trusted voices.
She says that talking to your favorite creator during a really uncertain time is different from talking to brands. Zwirn believes that if the UK does enter a recession, companies will build trust with consumers by seeking out specific influencers to act as longe-term ambassadors, rather than doing ad hoc campaigns with numerous creators.
How Do Moms Get Their Feeds? A Video Interview with Evie Ebert on De-Impacting TikTok
Her tour is quite charming and very relatable, especially for urban apartment dwellers like me. The bed in the living room was put there by Fox to make space for her son to have a playroom. There are toys scattered here and there, shoe boxes in the kitchen and, she said, a “small mouse problem.” Evie Ebert observed that what Fox showed us isn’t the typical influencer content that offers brief moments of messiness in otherwise antiseptic TikTok feeds. Instead, Ebert mused, Fox would appreciate the “trash box” in Ebert’s own apartment, because Fox has curated “a cozy nest, where a single mom and her toddler have all they need and the whole city at their doorstep.”
In the video, Fox showed Emily Feret, the creator of the Tik Tok, talking about her diet and getting ready in her home, which made me think of her everyday life. Feret serves as a corrective to how the performance of certain momfluencers can affect your brain if you suspect that their online lives are a bit of a sham.
I think that moms online are moving away from the ideal of being glamorous and attractive to advertisers due to the fact that they no longer want to be seen with their perfect hair and makeup.
She says that she reaches for the same five products every night because there’s a graveyard of products staring at her in her bathroom. Palermino is hopeful that de-influencing will stop people from tying their identity to what they buy, but like many online, she has already noticed something strange: “De-influencing is already morphing to influencing.”
Enter: de-influencing, a trend that has taken over TikTok since January. While influencers tell you why you need a product, de-influencers convince you of the opposite. “Do not get the UGG Minis. Do not get the Dyson Airwrap. The Charlotte Tilbury wand is not for sale. Don’t get the Stanley Cup. Don’t buy Colleen Hoover books. One creator on TikTok posted a message saying not to get the AirPods Max.
“The same way there was backlash to photoshopped ads in magazines or the facetuning of selfies, people are burnt out,” says Charlotte Palermino, the 35-year-old, Brooklyn-based CEO of skincare brand Dieux. Palermino is not surprised by the rise of de-influencing. Being sold constantly is tiring. Being told everything is a miracle product is tiring.”
The TikTok felt real a few years ago. There wasn’t much investment into creators by brands. There was no pressure and there was a lot of fun. Now the pressure has hit a boiling point.” In November 2022, TikTok launched its TikTok Shop in the US, allowing users to make purchases directly on the app without being sent to a third-party retailer. Creators earn a commission by linking to Shop products in their videos. Must-have products are all over the app.
Alyssa Kromelis, a 26-year-old Marketing Consultant, Shot to 123,000 Followers by Directly De-influencing
Because influencers make their money by recommending purchases—and because many enjoy elaborate #gifted PR packages filled to the brim with new products—you might imagine they are fearful of the de-influencing trend. This isn’t really the case. Palermino herself is a “skinfluencer” with over 267,000 followers on Instagram.
Alyssa Kromelis is a 26-year-old marketing consultant from Dallas who created a popular de-influencing video in late January; she has now shot from 30,000 to 123,000 TikTok followers by making regular de-influencing clips.