February 7th 2023 – Karina Lafayette
In a plot twist that almost every person with a social media account saw coming, Tiktok staff admitted earlier last month that they can boost accounts, either for business partnerships or simply because they can. Because like every other app, it tried to sell us a fever dream. The good news, you can officially stop comparing your likes and followers to everyone else, since it’s just an illusion anyway.
Around 2020, Tiktok almost seemed like the solution to Facebook and Instagram, apps more interested in boosting people who are either already famous or who have had large platforms for awhile. Tiktok was the place where an average person could make a video without having to worry about the way they look or how perfectly curated their account is. As long as they had something that caught people’s attention, it was enough to potentially make it big.
However, within the past year or so, we’ve seen even bigger creators like Cailen, who runs @caileneasely on Tiktok, complain about how they get shadowbanned anytime they speak on issues like racism, or how at times people will have videos deleted without specific reason. Most recently, Allie Priestley, who runs the Tiktok @alliestartsacult, experienced harassment from some New Age creators after she began making videos talking about some of the harmful effects of modern spirituality. People accused her of starting a witchhunt, even though she herself admitted that she isn’t fully against spirituality. Despite dealing with trolling and mass reporting, Tiktok staff didn’t do anything to alleviate her issue.
On Instagram, things aren’t much better. For a while now, there’s the issue of bot accounts cloning the accounts of astrologers and psychics in order to get people to send them money. Then you have Facebook, where everyday is a game of chance when it comes to post engagement. Some days you get interactions, others none.
In my case, there was a period on Instagram where my posts would get anywhere from 30-60 reactions a day and over 1000 views per reel, and now most of the time, almost nada. My account doesn’t have anything reported, and I don’t post nudity or any swear words. Nevermind the new followers I get on IG are mostly bots, which I rather just block, thank you very much. I’ve also recently noticed that a lot of my poetry videos on Tiktok don’t do as well as other videos, despite the fact that people love poetry and anyone who knows me, knows what I’m about. At one point, I almost wondered if there was something I did wrong. My other videos do well, even the silly thirty second ones, so what gives?
Well, another issue on social media is the idea that you have to have a niche. In other words, if you upload mostly sports content, you’re automatically going to be a sports account. If you share music, you’re a music account. If you’re someone who isn’t looking to promote anything specific, it won’t be a big deal, but for those of us who are artists, being able to share our ideas is frustrating, because most have several skills we’re good at. It’s rare you come across someone who only has one skill. Once you’ve been on a platform long enough, you get treated like a one-trick pony, and even if you have the audience that wants to see your work, they likely won’t be able to see it, because of the algorithm.
And believe me, I’ve tried to push my content. Some people who follow me complain that a lot of my content doesn’t show on their feed unless they look up my name. There’s also the issue with advertisements. Tiktok has been pushing account ads to a point where I don’t even want to scroll at all. Meanwhile on Facebook, the home section is often filled with suggested pages instead of posts from actual friends. You could think that someone either unfriended you or hasn’t been posting, only to find that it’s the algorithm that’s at fault.
As for Twitter, I’ve barely been on there, and as someone who had my first MySpace at thirteen, I’m actually tired of social media. I’m tired of having to build a following when I could use that time to write or maybe you know, even work on a novel. Time is precious. The fact that Elon bought Twitter seems like a blessing in disguise, because him being an embarrassment online only proves further how meaningless social media has slowly become. If it wasn’t for the people we meet, it would’ve all ended a long time ago.
To make matters worse, there’s such a thing called shadowbanning, which a handful of marketing experts have consistently claimed to be a myth. One wonders if those apps even pay them to say this, that way we can feel like we’re all crazy anytime certain posts or videos don’t get viewed for days at a time. Shadowbanning is very much real, and it’s basically a situation where your account will literally not show up for your followers, or on the navigation page.
There’s a number of reasons a person can be shadowbanned. At times, models and actors deal with this if they post anything with a bit of nudity. In other cases, as mentioned before, political topics can also be a trigger, since apparently we live in a world that would rather pretend social issues don’t exist. Another reason why artists like myself experience a shadowban, is if we decide to share something that’s outside the box, outside the perceived niche an app has put you in.
And sure, to an extent, a niche makes sense. When it comes to scrolling on Tiktok’s “for you”, it’s fair that you would see content that’s similar to what you watch the most. However, just because I haven’t shared much of my poetry on Tiktok in the past, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t start doing that now. It’s common sense that people who like similar content have the right to access what I do. People grow and change, and deciding to limit who sees their content just because they won’t conform is not only a selfish motive, it also borders on censorship.
Going back to Tiktok admitting that they push certain creators, only proves how much we’re still wrapped up in a system that’s all about hierarchies and this idea that only some people deserve to be successful, a.k.a. the 1%. As soon as we allowed every A-list celebrity and CEO to have a platform, that’s when the game became rigged. When social media first became popularized in the days of MySpace, it was about giving common people a voice. When it became about profit, the meaning got lost.
The minute we start telling people what they can and can’t share on social media, and who can and can’t get their work appreciated, that’s when apps start losing people. If you aren’t racist, sexist, or discriminating in any kind of way, there should be no issue. What’s the point in using an app when my content won’t get noticed anyway? So I can buy ads? Because I’ve bought ads in the past and that didn’t change a damn thing. It isn’t necessary for every person to go viral, but at least, let us enjoy our communities. If apps like Tiktok and Instagram continue on this path, it won’t be long before social media officially becomes a thing of the past, and people return to the good old days of Tumblr, blogs, and forums. At least there, we can be ourselves.
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To follow on social media, you can find me on Tiktok and Instagram @karina_thatwitch and Facebook at Persephone’s Lounge.
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i have been thinking heavily about the role of social media in our current sociopolitical context for a while now. i got off social media completely about three years ago and i’ve had a mixed experience. on one hand, i have enjoyed having that time and brain-space back, no more doom-scrolling and endless advertisements, no more comparing myself to others online. my mental health is so much better, and it has been nice to make more deliberate efforts to engage with artists and writers on more long-form, personal platforms like this blog. on the other hand, our current world is so social media-centric that i constantly feel behind the times. the attention span of the internet has never felt more rapid to me. by the time i have taken the time to formulate my own opinion on something, everyone has moved on. it’s also so much harder to keep up with artists and writers that i want to support. i am really hoping you are right that this exodus to blogs, forums, and other more fluid and authentic platforms continues!
thank you for writing!