ANAHEIM, Calif. — When the first TikTok star is elected president, I hope she will save some room in her cabinet for older and more conventional bureaucrats, even if they don’t have millions of followers, great hair or amazing dance moves.
I say “when,” not “if,” because I just spent three days at VidCon, the annual social media convention in Anaheim, hanging out with a few thousand current and future internet celebrities. And it’s increasingly obvious to me that the teenagers and 20-somethings who have mastered these platforms — and who are often dismissed as shallow, preening narcissists by adults who don’t know any better — are going to dominate not just internet culture or the entertainment industry but society as a whole.
On the surface, this can be a terrifying proposition. One day at VidCon, I hung out with a crew of teenage Instagram stars, who seemed to spend most of their time filming “collabs” with other creators and complimenting one another on their “drip,” influencer-speak for clothes and accessories. (In their case, head-to-toe Gucci and Balenciaga outfits with diamond necklaces and designer sneakers.) Another day, I witnessed an awkward dance battle between two budding TikTok influencers, neither of whom could have been older than 10. (Adults who are just catching up: TikTok is a short-form video app owned by the Chinese internet company Bytedance.)
But if you can look past the silliness and status-seeking, many people at VidCon are hard at work. Being an influencer can be an exhausting, burnout-inducing job, and the people who are good at it have typically spent years working their way up the ladder. Many social media influencers are essentially one-person start-ups, and the best ones can spot trends, experiment relentlessly with new formats and platforms, build an authentic connection with an audience, pay close attention to their channel analytics, and figure out how to distinguish themselves in a crowded media environment — all while churning out a constant stream of new content…[ Read More ]
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