The Battle for Clout

Social media is devouring the world, especially vulnerable teenagers desperate for gaining more clout (likes and followers). We may still be underestimating the harmful effects of social media apps on the young. Joe Rogan had a great YouTube episode with a professor who showed a direct correlation in the steep rise of self-harm and depression/anxiety rates among teenage girls since the boom of social media (FB +Instagram) in 2011-2012, when kids started using iPhones.

The reason may be that social media has brought strangers and neighbors closer together than ever before. But that heightened visibility doesn’t always equate to making more friends or feeling closer to people. Oftentimes, it breeds envy and contempt. It’s allowing yourself to be open to all kinds of content from strangers and neighbors popping up your in face all the time. And what do most people want? Attention. Likes. Approval. Fame. Success. And in the pursuit of that, the Creators might have actually lost the “needs” of its audience in mind. I wish Creators were posting content that the people NEED … instead of just posting to get attention.

The line is blurring between what it means to be a passive “Viewer/Audience” of TV/Online Media versus an active “Creator” of content, due to the explosion of channels like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and more. Back in the day, it was only those who were well-connected and handpicked by network TV execs that “made” it into the public spotlight through the power of media broadcasting. With the advancement of technology, “broadcasting,” literally the ability to broadly transmit your message, is becoming easier at an exponential rate. This is good news for some; not at all good news for others. With the power to be seen in front of thousands of people comes responsibility. The kind of responsibility rarely taught in schools or understood at all, because even adults often don’t grasp the neurological influence that visual media can have on you.

Take TikTok’s success as an example. I don’t just think of it as a fun app as they are marketing it to be. Isn’t it amazing how they are now everywhere in mainstream conversations with American teenagers? How were they so good at creating hype and gaining attention around its own creators? Perhaps the engineers designing its algorithms so that the videos that get the longest views and the highest number of views (addictive, provocative content) will get shown in front of people the most, to keep people coming back to TikTok everyday? Many teenagers, especially girls, are creating the kind of content that’s being exposed to people all over the world and actually suffering from hate comments, stalkers and more. Is that “good?” Is “TikTok Famous” a “good thing?”

In ancient East-Asian philosophy, there’s a saying that goes “a young kid who succeeds early will not die a good death.” It was known that when an extremely young person gains a prominent position in society (or perhaps in the “kingdom” at the time), that it’s very easy for them to become a target of hate, envy and detriment which derails their career later on. They end up creating enemies, making mistakes and stop growing, not fully grasping the preciousness of their success. Early success or becoming TikTok famous as a young person are seen as virtues here in the U.S, South Korea, and many other countries. There’s a problem there. Again, I hate to sound like a broken record, but the “definition of success” is being skewed because of these apps like TikTok.

I don’t think they had evil intentions in mind, whether it was Instagram, Facebook or TikTok. They were most of all engineers and tech entrepreneurs who made these apps. It’s not the fault of the “Technology Creators” that have made this possible. They are the last people who could have predicted that “bringing the world closer together” (FB’s mission) would not always be a good thing.

But the rules. The RULES and ETHICS of Responsible Media Sharing have to be rewritten and reenforced, even on social media. If you want to create on broadcasting platforms, every creator should know the responsibility to create the kind of content that people NEED … and will impact people in positive ways. And tech companies should not reward people for making addictive or shocking content just for the sake of gaining more attention or hype around it.

Because the content you share have an impact on the people around you. That’s not just for you to play with. To make yourself into a star. It means neurological impact for your audience. State of well-being. Self-talk. So We must provide the kind of story, narrative and visuals, that will improve people. Regardless of the number of likes and followers you gain from it.

“Territory” Battle of Comedy and Audience Attention

In a way, I think many people including myself have been doing the “comedy” game in the wrong way.

Sure, stand-up comedy is an amazing art form and has been around for decades. But in a world where everyone is fighting for attention to further their agenda, sometimes I think stand-up comedy itself is becoming another noise. Just like barkers in Times Square who come across as super annoying.

Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or even live comedy like stand-up, sketches and improv, we’ve always been kinda fighting against each other for attention in the name of entertainment. “Hey I can make you laugh! I can entertain you! Come watch us!” And sometimes for a nominal fee, there’s a fair exchange of money and entertainment. And hence the entertainment industry. And there’s fierce competition on all sides. Comics are not just competing against other stand-up comics but all kinds of entertainment out there. In certain cases, the Medium itself becomes more important than your talent level at any one comedic craft. For example, there’s talented veterans in the stand-up community who lack any audience on Instagram or YouTube. But if you are the kind of person who can hack a popular app, such as recent stars on TikTok, then you’ve just surpassed in popularity and influence more than anybody else.

Granted, a TikTok star never has any ambitions of competing against old stand-up comedians. But in a way, we all are fighting for attention. A teenager who becomes a fierce fan of a TikTok star will probably not switch to suddenly learning about stand-up comedy and following comedians.

So here’s my conclusion. You cannot afford to be pigeon-holed into one form or another. A comic should realize when he or she is turning into a one-trick pony. Even in history, there’s been performers and comics who engage in a rather antiquated form of comedy. The danger is not being able to evolve with changing audience tastes and gain new audiences. There are people out there and ways to reach those people. You have to create a new flavor there. Something different. A unique value proposition and positioning. And you can’t just be different in a small way. You have to create something that people so desperately want … that a small, janky version of that comedy made by an unknown commodity like you can create a popular reaction that serves a large group of people. It’s no different than opening up a business and having a MVP.

In a way, I’ve always wanted “mainstream” success. But how can I fit into that? That’s crazy. I wrote a little bit about Lilly Singh’s show yesterday and me trying to fit into the “mainstream” entertainment may be similar in concept to what’s happening there. I’ve never been the “mainstream” guy so why should I all of a sudden act proper, PC and do traditional kind of American humor? I am not a traditional American, traditional Korean, nor am I a traditional “anything.” Instead, there’s value in freedom and breaking the mold.

“Think Different.” Isn’t that what Steve Jobs and Apple used to say?