Making TikToks for no one
Embracing the era of performance media
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, by Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.
The seed of this post was planted in a conversation I had with Charlie Warzel over the summer. —Kate
This morning, I typed “vlogmas” into YouTube, and told the platform to sort the videos by view count. The top result, a four year-old video from The Ingham Family, had 10 million views. I scrolled. And scrolled. And scrolled, until I got to what I really wanted, which was the much larger percentage of the list: holiday vlogs, from people around the world, that are being watched by basically no one.
I was the first viewer of many of these videos. Yet there wasn’t much that distinguished them from the ones at the top of the page. I still heard holiday music under shots of snowfalls and get-ready-with-mes, watched friends gather for gift exchanges, and even went to Dave & Buster’s with a 13-year-old and her family. These videos were only differentiated by their creators’ follower counts, and the fact that YouTube’s algorithm Gods hadn’t chosen them to be catapulted into people’s recommendations. A majority of the creators were people of color.
If your brain has, like mine, been warped by sustained, unfettered social media use, you may see a video with 13 views and consider it a failure. But the more I’ve been writing about how social media has changed over the past few years—the transition from social media to performance media—the more I’ve become convinced that content created for essentially no one is a more authentic snapshot of the human experience than anything that ends up boosted by TikTok onto For You Pages.