Posts Tagged

Trends

Mechanical Keyboards

Elizabeth Technology February 4, 2022

If you like to watch streamers, or you’ve ever considered investing in a larger keyboard for gaming, you might have seen mechanical keyboards out in the wild before. They’re big. The keys are heavy. They make a lot of noise. They’re clunky. They can cost quite a bit as a hobby. And yet, they’re growing in popularity. What’s the deal?

Ever Slimmer

Perhaps it was rebellion against the difficult-to-clean and unsatisfactorily quiet keyboards of the laptops we started to see in the late 2010s. Especially Apple, which kept getting slimmer and slimmer until dropping it between the edge of your desk and the wall was a real concern.

Many of the portable, detachable keyboards designed to help solve this problem are not much better, designed to fit alongside a touchscreen device or laptop in the laptop’s bag. Slim, aluminum keyboards are designed for travel first and durability second, and this problem has become more apparent than ever when everybody has stopped travelling. Why sacrifice the convenience of a larger, easier-to-clean keyboard when you’re not going to get the benefits of that sacrifice?

Sensory Delight

In an article about Apple’s butterfly keyboards (cited below), the author discussed the sensation of trying to type on them. They were nearly flat, they were unfortunately delicate, and the key itself barely moved when pressed. It felt like typing on a touchscreen device, tapping your fingers onto solid aluminum and plastic over and over and over again with 100% resistance and no audible tell that you’d hit the key right. That’s fine for some – it was not fine for the people who’d grown up on clunky, solid, inch-thick Best Buy discount keyboards, those who were used to haptic input when typing.

Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, offer a wide array of sensory input. You can get them nearly silent, or you can simulate the sound of typing on a typewriter; you can get thin or thick keys; you can change how much resistance your keyboard gives you; you can even get keys that light up when you type, so if you type like me and your eyes drift between the screen and the keyboard, you’ll still be getting input even if you go for a quiet option.

They come in a number of colors and with a number of accessories, too, so you can get weird with your accent and functional keys. Notable examples include a tiny three dimensional cow for the tilde key, a Japanese-style pagoda, and many more – often hand-sculpted and easily searchable on Etsy.

It’s a Good Time

Someone on TikTok has been steadily sculpting smaller and smaller magnetic Kirbys for their keyboard’s ‘K’ key. Another has sculpted every key on the board into food using a combination of polymer clay and acrylic paint. As mentioned before, you can get a keyboard that lights up with your inputs, and you can get keys in a number of colors – any color you want, if you’re good at mixing and applying plastics paint. Really, the sky’s the limit. If you want it to feel like you’re sinking your fingers into butter every time you hit the keys on the left side of your keyboard, but you need to work the right side out because you need to build up picking strength for guitar or whatever, you can do that! Many mechanical keyboard bases are set up to accept the standard scissor switch keys that everybody but Apple from the years of 2014 to 2020 uses, so you could in theory even strip the keys from the Best Buy discount keyboard and slap them into a new frame, given it’s big enough to prevent crowding. Even that’s not really a concern – size standardization benefits everyone, so most sold-separately keys fit most bases.

Shapes and Sizes

Mechanical keyboards are also available in a wide range of shapes and sizes. If you need a small keyboard that only has certain characters? You can buy it, and customize the keys with separate parts (not included usually) when it comes in the mail. If you need a split keyboard, that’s on the market. If your needs are hyperspecific, a mechanical keyboard might just be the keyboard for you.

They also tend to be much easier to clean, as many of them are designed to be easy to take apart for customization – being able to strip the board down to the contacts means you can remove every crumb of anything that could get in, and the tools to do so are generally cheap now that the hobby’s hit the big time. Apple’s weird butterfly switches were incredibly easy to break and very difficult to replace, meaning a damaged switch could kill a laptop, but many other name-brand laptops have keys too small to get tools under. If you eat at your desk, a mechanical keyboard may be a welcome break from flipping the laptop over and still not getting the ‘G’ key free from whatever’s gotten under it.

Sources:

https://theoutline.com/post/2402/the-new-macbook-keyboard-is-ruining-my-life

Fast Fashion

Elizabeth Technology January 14, 2022

You’ve likely heard the term before – and for good reason. Fast fashion is bad for the environment, generates a ton of waste and discarded clothing, and more often than not uses sweatshop labor to keep production up and costs down simultaneously. Fast fashion also often rips off clothing from other, more sustainable, smaller brands, and idea theft in the fashion industry is becoming an increasing problem because of it.

Ultimately, well-made clothes don’t need to be replaced very often. Companies want you to replace them (because that’s how they make money). The clothes ‘got old’, so you should want something ‘new’, says advertising, even if there’s nothing wrong with the clothes themselves.

It’s an ugly thing to be a part of, ethically, environmentally, and monetarily. Fast fashion did exist in the past, but not to such extremes, and generally not for singular outfits and bizarre clothing with holes torn in the functional places. This couldn’t have happened without microtrends and the rise of social media.  

Fashion Nova, Shein, and ClickBait Fashion

Fast fashion produces strange results. Strappy sandals that go all the way up the shin combined with swimsuits in a similar fashion, pants with holes up and down the entirety of the leg and combined with ruffles, a denim bikini – not all of these are wearable, but they’re very eye catching on the website. ‘Fashion’ and ‘art’ and ‘clickbait’ all overlap with each other now in a way they didn’t used to.

Know that the website doesn’t need clothing to sell. It does not make all of these pieces to sell them; it makes them to make the other pieces that are actually wearable ‘pop’. When a fashion brand wants to unveil something controversial and exciting, the traditional play is to do it on the runway, and then tone it down for the actual line. When you see a model in an absurdly big hat, they don’t actually want to sell that hat, they just want to plant the idea of a big hat. The hat is an exaggeration of what they’re actually selling, a sort of caricature for the intended look. Fashion Nova and Shein have essentially started listing the giant hat alongside the real hats. The results are weird.

 Of the pieces that are wearable, they often don’t look as good on ordinary people – or they do, but only with a few other articles of clothing, meaning you’re always wearing one shirt with one set of pants or one pair of shoes to make it work and look good. This ultimately means that you’re not going to wear that item until the other items to go with it are clean and ready to wear, so it’s going to sit in the closet for much longer between wears – and it may be out of trend before you, the wearer, have truly gotten your money’s worth out of it.

Social Media And Cute Stuff

We know that art tends to get consumed and riffed on into unfamiliarity when there’s clout to snatch and money to make. A popular Mitski song about longing was turned into an anthem for strawberry animals, completely missing the point, and Saturn Eating His Son, one of Goya’s final paintings before he died (and a painting he did on the wall of his house, meaning he probably didn’t intend for anyone to actually see and document it before he passed) is sold on mugs and masks. Clothing, unfortunately, gets this treatment worse than most.

See the strawberry dress by designer Lirika Matoshi. A 300$ dress (which sometimes arrived with broken zippers and hanging threads, but that’s another issue) got passed around social media alongside remixes of that Mitski song. Some people bought it, some tried to recreate it for cheaper, and the strawberry dress held TikTok’s attention for long enough that it started appearing in anime fanart. That’s pretty rare! Marketing-wise, this was bizarre but ultimately welcomed. People had Pavloved others into liking this dress because it was awfully cute and fairly easy to draw, and everyone else was into it. Make art with it, that art will get likes. Cute Stuff Trends.

A specific item was in the spotlight – not the designer, not the line, just this one item from her, and then when it faded it was barely seen again except for in the art that recirculates every now and again.

This is the essence of a microtrend.

MicroTrends

Microtrend clothing is identifiable by a few different factors:

1) It’s cute and unique – but not so unique it’s shocking

2) It’s reasonably accessible

3) It’s very easy to photograph on almost anyone

4) It has no substitute or ‘dupe’ – only one item will do

5) it comes and goes before outsiders realize it’s ‘in’

Here are the differences between ‘trending items’ and ‘microtrends’. I would classify the brief flash of half-open Hawaiian shirts on picture platforms like Pinterest, TikTok, and Tumblr as a trend, not a microtrend. If all of these pictures were of the same shirt, a shirt conveniently available at Target, or Amazon, then it would have been a microtrend. Even then, the only point it misses is 4 – if everyone had been seeking out a specific shirt to take pictures in, it would have been a bona fide microtrend. The strawberry dress hits all five – by the time people were working out dupes for it, the item was no longer hot.

Microtrends are all of the issues with fast fashion condensed into singular pieces of clothing. A sweater featuring a hillside with cows grazing on it hit the big time after a TikTok creator wore it for a video. The strawberry dress spawned strawberry button-up shirts that had an even shorter lifespan. Once it’s no longer hot for pictures, and all the buyer bought it for was the pictures, what happens to it? Having it was the trend, and now the trend is over.

Small businesses try their best to keep up with microtrends and make something fashionable that could also be ‘viral’, which is a tip taken from fast fashion’s vice grip on social media. I don’t blame small creators for it, because they often do their best to keep things clean and ethical in their production (not all do, but many try). I do blame the big companies who are trying to spark viral want for specific items.

Wanting Clothing? Or Wanting What the Clothing Represents?

Chasing fashion has always been exhausting, but now it’s even worse because other people are expecting their favorite style influencers to have an item and showcase it, but not too late and not in a way that’s obviously ethically questionable.

While clothes are often props for influencers, microtrends and fast fashion items bring it to the extreme. Clothing items are expected to set a scene – that strawberry dress was always out and about, people were twirling in it and frolicking in grass fields. It was a prop for influencers, something especially appealing in color and composition for photos. It wasn’t a very practical item to just… wear. You don’t exist in a 300$ dress, you wear it, take pictures, and then hang it back up.

The same went for the half-open Hawaiian shirts – while the style was very flattering, it could also turn very revealing if the wearer wore it out and about the wrong way. Just like the stuff on those fast fashion sites, it looked good in photos, but the reality of wearing a shirt like that is that you don’t, you wear it a few more buttons done up, not the way the model or the influencers have it on.

The dress, the shirt, the sweater does not exist outside of the scene. These things were being sold by the scene, the same way advertisements try and sell you a lifestyle. The thing this time around is that the influencers had tricked themselves into the marketing for the item instead of waiting to be sponsored for it, because it was so appealing as a prop.

The dress was a symbol of whimsy, bright pink and red and not casual at all. These weird Fashion Nova items are in the same camp – it’s whimsy, flirty, and not casual at all. It’s total unwearable-ness is only a problem when you consider what these microtrends are outside of the internet.  

Digital Clothing

While some see it as the next logical slip into NFT territory and a slow descent into The Emperor’s New Clothes digitally, others are excited by the possibility. Nobody owns the idea, after all, so if you can design your own digital clothing, you can wear it.

Many aspects of fashion are so fashionable and exciting because it involved someone hand-beading 70,000 Swarovski crystals onto a gown. The excess is what makes the runway. While younger folks with experience in digital art understand how difficult it is to sculpt beads in a program like Blender (or something more proprietary) the old guard often sees digital art as ‘art the computer made’, not ‘art someone made with a computer’. Still, digital clothing prevents people from buying things made with sweatshop labor, and it’s flexibility means that influencers don’t have to be under size ten to wear trendy, untailored items, so it does have a lot of appeal.

The appearance often also leaves something to be desired. DressX, the latest platform to try their hand at digital art, offers one-time-use Photoshopping of clothes onto pictures you submit to them. The effects are anywhere from ‘completely believable’ to ‘obviously edited in’. See Youtuber Safiya Nygaard, a Youtuber who tried the service. The first few days of wearing tame clothing with pretty designs went really well… and then she bought a hat to wear, and the hat was so poorly executed that her fans realized some of the previous items were also digital. Imagine buying an item that looks so bad that people who see your pics of it begin to question the reality of other stuff you wore – that’s not what an influencer wants!

Another major downside is that the clothes still cost quite a lot of money for being single-picture-use items. On DressX ( as of right now, September of 2021), you only get one picture for your purchase. If you want more pictures, you have to pay for them separately. Discovering that you don’t like the pose you struck for the outfit is going to cost money. While trendy and neat, spending 60$ every time you want to show off another angle of an item is… not as economical as just buying it, and so this only solves the ethical issues with fast fashion and microtrends for the influencers who can afford to go digital. Any innovation has hard spots, however, so only time will tell if this becomes more accessible and better-looking.

Sources: https://www.thelist.com/418037/what-is-a-micro-trend-and-how-can-it-affect-fashion-sustainability/

Folding Phones, and the Road to Get There

Elizabeth Uncategorized November 24, 2021

Brick Phones

The first portable phones were barely portable at all. A suitcase with a battery combined with an obnoxiously heavy phone apparatus made the first portable phones more of a novelty than an everyday item, useful only for the uber-important. The next step came with a battery packed right into the part you talked at and listened from, which could get exhausting to hold up if the call was especially long. Most phone manufacturers have some version of the infamous brick, and Samsung’s was both slightly later to the market and slightly smaller than many of them, a handheld phone released in 1988 called the SH-100. It’s the first mobile phone to be both designed and manufactured in Korea, but mobile devices weren’t particularly popular at the time. The perception was sort of like the Segway; why buy an entire mobile phone for X$ when you could simply use street- and building- phones? And who’s calling you, anyway? Obviously, this changed, but the initial launch was slow, each upgrade only adding tiny slivers of market share to Samsung’s slice up until they were able to compensate for Korea’s uniquely signal-blocking topography. They began to dominate other competitors (namely Motorola), and became a serious competitor in the emerging mobile phone market!

Folding Mobile Phones

Phone manufacturers knew that phones should reach both the ear and the mouth of the user at the same time. If it didn’t, the early microphones would make their voice indistinguishably staticky, or they’d have to shout. Phones had to have a minimum length to be comfortable to use, and they had to have a minimum size and thickness for the battery. Over time, batteries became flatter and smaller – Motorola releases the first folding phone in 1996, and the rest is history.

Manufacturers and designers soon realize that this is an excellent opportunity for customers to showcase their tastes and individuality, and so optimal design took many forms: phones could rotate. They could slide. They could simply flip open, or they could pivot. The world was an oyster, and the possibilities were unlimited.

Samsung had a number of worthy entries; some were classical flip phones with num-pads, some had tiny folding joints for an especially sleek profile when closed, some slid up to reveal tiny keyboards beneath large screens, one was a slide-up with both a 9-Key and a qwerty keyboard, nothing especially special in a world dominated by physical buttons. One phone managed to mix all of the actions, and featured both physical buttons and a tilt-a-whirl screen that could make watching videos easier. Phone manufacturers were all over the place trying to make the optimal shape… and all of that changed in 2006.

The First Smartphones – A Cultural Shift

Smartphones were revolutionary. Apple was the first to make one with the touchscreen as we know it today (previous models were too big for mobile devices or not sensitive enough to work under a light touch). But as their popularity grew, so did complaints about the system. Scratches, freezing, getting hacked, having so much info in one spot, breaking easily, expense – and yet, none of the foretellings of Apple’s doom came true. The product became a must-have. Competitors now knew the tech was possible and began pouring funds into R&D.

Samsung soon released their own smartphone (unfortunately timed right around the 2008 financial collapse) called the Behold, and took off in the arms race against Apple with different touchscreen technology – a resistive screen that could be used with styluses instead of Apple’s capacitive screen.

Gradually, smartphones become the default instead of an expensive VIP gadget. As such, features were constantly improving in a never-ending arms race among competitors. The easiest to measure and the easiest to achieve was screen size, and Samsung was a determined competitor. Screen size got bigger, and bigger.

Skinny Jeans – And A Desire for Smaller Phones

There’s a reason they stopped! There was a period of time where skinny jeans and ultra-giant screens from Samsung intersected. This may not seem it, but it turned into a huge problem: the pockets were physically too small to actually hold the phone. People with backpacks and purses were fine – most everyone else was not. They’d end up holding the phone in their hand or losing it out of their back pocket when they sat, across brands. (Apple’s iPhone 6 bent under the pressure of back pockets around this same time period, although part of that was a switch to an aluminum case, not just the device’s size.) Samsung, while not famous for bending, became famous for being too large to use effectively.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 in 2014 featured a screen that was 5.7 inches tall. Women’s pockets are often smaller than men’s – it’s a legitimate phenomenon, and skinny jeans only amplified the trend. In 2019, Aberdeen research discovered that only 40% of women could fit an iPhone X in their pocket, a phone with a screen size of 5.65 inches, barely smaller than the Note 4.

 The size also made using the phone with one hand difficult, even if you did have pockets. Many people hold their phone either with their pinky beneath the bottom of the device, or with it held tight against the heel of their palm. The size of the phone meant that many people could barely navigate half of the screen with their thumb if they only had one hand available.

Between skinny jeans for everyone and an oversized phone that was difficult to use and retrieve, marketers were beginning to realize that sometimes users wanted functionality over a device that could serve as a TV. Phone size stopped increasing, and things like cameras and wrap-around screens started appearing on top of the better hardware inside Samsung’s devices. Phones also continued to ratchet up in price.

Apple – And the Death of Steve Jobs

Samsung had a battery quality control issue first identified in 2016. Many people, some experts, some not, claim that this is all that kept Apple from becoming the minority in the market during the awkward transitional period of Apple’s new leadership. Jobs’s legendary ability to see beyond what was possible and market it made him the soul of the company; without him, Apple entered a long downwards trend of hiking costs on mundane items and selling it as a lifestyle instead of an innovation. Customers noticed, many promised to switch. Surely, Samsung could now take over?

The only issue was that Apple had just stumbled, not fallen – their marketing was the issue, not the products, and re-aligning their marketing to their products (which were now more about comfort and ‘luxury’ than innovation) kept them relevant while they sorted their organizational issues out. Apple and Samsung are arguably the two most recognizable smartphone brands out there – Motorolas have more of a reputation for ‘sturdy and cheap’, and Microsoft’s smartphone failed to launch.

Still, there was desire for innovation beyond better cameras and bigger screens.

Full Circle

Samsung made a folding phone. But wait – it made a touchscreen folding phone, something previously thought infeasible! Now that customers had warmed up to incredibly expensive new phones, the price needed to make that tech possible to sell was no longer such a deterrent. You can fold your phone again, and it only costs nearly a thousand dollars to do so. You can’t protect the screen as effectively while it’s open (the fold prevents most kinds of screen protectors from being useful), and it’s still honkin’ huge, but you can fold it and keep the screen away from your keys or rocks on the ground while it’s closed.

The only thing that prevented it happening earlier is a lack of flexible material that also behaved itself right as a resistive screen, the kind of touchscreen Samsung uses. Resistive screens work by including layers of material under the glass that, when pushed together by your finger, communicate the touch to the phone. Capacitives, on the other hand, work by your hand’s interference with the screen’s capacitance field, detecting the touch that way. Resistive screens will work when you’re wearing gloves, but capacitive ones won’t. Resistive screens also work with styluses – capacitive ones need their own special kind. Whether or not Apple, who uses capacitive screens, will be able to follow along, remains to be seen.

How Did They Do It?

Firstly, all of the mechanisms that other smartphones use have to be modified – that doesn’t matter so much for the CPU, but it matters tremendously for the battery, which is now below-par for other smartphones in the same price range.

Secondly, the phone is thicker – and now it has a joint in the middle. Earlier versions of the concept didn’t want to go back to the folding joint seen in flip phones, but they also didn’t want to compromise on size. The result was usually something too thin to drop or squeeze – remember, most phones are made out of aluminum or some kind of alloy, and the average person can already bend a smartphone with their bare hands. Samsung’s leaning towards ‘rectangular prism’ instead of ‘sheet of paper’ makes the device sturdy enough to withstand opening and closing over and over, even though the screen is soft.

Thirdly, the screen is soft! And still capable of operating as a resistive screen. This is possibly the biggest issue facing the screens themselves, and earlier versions of Samsung’s folding phones faced frequent complaints of scratches and dust ‘leaks’ inside the device, both of which were only made worse due to the lack of screen protectors available for their devices. Finding something tolerably soft and yet tolerably resistant to scratches required quite a bit of legwork by Samsung. Only now is the special polymer both cost-effective (as much as it can be for a thousand-dollar phone) and functional.

Sources:

https://www.pcmag.com/news/samsungs-smartphone-history-from-zero-to-galaxy-s4

https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/14/22231954/samsung-to-gradually-remove-chargers-earbuds-from-future-phones

https://www.cnet.com/tech/mobile/samsung-galaxy-z-flip-3-review-the-first-foldable-you-may-actually-want-to-buy/

https://georgiasouthern.libguides.com/c.php?g=612229&p=4545365

Why So Much Criticism?

Elizabeth Uncategorized November 17, 2021

The Internet

The internet, once a source of incredible interconnectivity, has slowly turned into a terrible source of interconnectivity. Much like the TV of the past used to unite the baby boomers, memes could be recognized by any millennial as long as they were online. Things were still sort of separated into cubbies, but you could find things if you looked for them. And just like TV, those memes gave way to splinter cells upon splinter cells of image memes and communities until everything is small, and everyone is in everyone else’s business unwillingly. The cubby walls no longer exist. Certain online groups are downright offended by the sight of an Among Us crewmate or Sans from Undertale. People who aren’t interested in calculus get shown Tweets of calculus equations with lively discussions in the subtweets, and clutter it with ‘lmao I can’t do math why did I get this in my feed’. Young Earth Creationists are encouraged to offer their take on a recently unearthed fossil, whose picture has been tweeted by a museum. Atheists and fundamentalists get shown each other’s worst examples until both are convinced that the other is beyond saving… but not beyond arguing with.

The entire world is an open-concept office on Twitter, and different departments with no mutual interest are getting shown eachother’s work by the big boss, the algorithm. “Why am I seeing something from Marketing?” Accounting asks. “What, am I not interesting enough for you? I’m sorry you don’t understand it. Loser,” Marketing replies. Everyone laughs. Marketing is subliminally encouraged to be hostile because the feeling of everyone else laughing at their ‘joke’ now overrides the politeness they would normally use if they and Accounting were alone. Twitter’s algorithm might not have been made to cause strife, but strife is really good for engagement – and so it does it’s darnedest to keep that strife and the hot takes coming alongside inspirational posts and posts that get you to linger.

Hot takes are easiest to execute on smaller creators who don’t have a large fanbase to rally behind them in defense, leading to endless streams of arguing in their comment sections or Twitter feeds.

Frosting

For example, the channels frosting cakes. Cake is delightful. Cake is a joy. Many people, maybe even the majority of people, like cake. Cake decorating used to be its own little ecosystem, until content aggregators turned it into an industry alongside ‘life hacks’ and ‘recipes’. This content generation creates some pretty strange outcomes, not all of them edible, and understandably people grew concerned with food waste. Channels like HowToBasic (famous for incredibly messy, foul ‘recipes’) compensate for the food they use by only purchasing clearanced-out, about-to-expire food from places like dollar stores, which aren’t exactly bastions of freshness anyway. Larger commercial channels simply ignore the comments, make some donations, and eventually the comments go away.

 The inbetweeners, the content generators who also run side businesses alongside their demonstrations for decorating techniques, get caught in a pinch-point – they want to engage with the audience to please the almighty algorithm, but some of the comments demand things that don’t align with reality. Considering day-old, already-mixed frosting “food waste” and then asking the creator to stop making so much of it is one of those demands. The small amount of butter, eggs and sugar that went into the video-portion of frosting could have been something besides frosting – but who gets to decide what other people do with food products they purchased? Especially when those food products also serve as advertising, and may create excess that can be used in other batches of edible food, the way royal icing and the like often does? Content creators use cake forms and frozen, weeks-old cakes that nobody wanted to demonstrate certain techniques, which cuts edible waste down to nearly nothing.Food waste is a complex, multi-faceted issue that comes with every stage of food processing, so boiling it down to “people throw away too much frosting”, and correcting with “make less frosting”, is not the way the country is going to solve this problem.

Paranoia And Bad Faith

Somewhere along the line, commentors began asking questions. That’s totally fair. There’s been a large push to consume content critically, and analyze what motivations a piece of content may have for being a certain way so you don’t accidentally consume propaganda. Ads, for example, will never show the downsides of their product, because they’re trying to sell it to you; big tobacco paid money to look harmless until the law said it had to admit nicotine was addictive. Ads are very convincing. And now they’re everywhere.

However, consuming content critically doesn’t mean consuming it with the intent to critique no matter what, like so many people interpreted that to mean in the late 2010’s. Articles talk about paranoid readings vs. reparative readings, or the idea that even bad content can have good notes in it and vice versa (PDF link). Paranoid readings assume the worst about the author, and hunt for clues that the author intended bad things with their work; reparative readings search for the good intentions behind a piece of media, even if it’s clumsy, even if it’s not a masterpiece. Even if the author didn’t intend any deeper readings!

Paranoid reading makes experiencing the online world harder. It’s so exhausting to critique every piece of media that the quality of these criticisms degrades into criticizing people for making simpler and simpler mistakes, until they’re attacking things that aren’t actually issues at all (or are so minor compared to other, bigger issues that they may as well be meaningless). The internet has watched as paranoid readings start to come as a knee-jerk reaction – the first thing they can identify as a ‘problem’ is what they comment, and then they move on, leaving a petty argument missing context and nuance behind, ironically completely missing the point of critical consumption in the first place.

This is also why they don’t go out of their way to comment on the megacorps that are responsible for the largest amounts of edible food being wasted or research shelters with serious animal husbandry issues – these organizations aren’t putting out content, and so they’re invisible to the casual critic who only sees what the feed wants them to see. Someone else would have to shine a light on it for them to actually see it.

“I Didn’t Ask”

Before social media, you only had so many outlets to discuss things. You could talk to your friends; you could write to an editor for a local paper; you could read what the critics said about it. Conversely, there was only so much to consume. There was news, and there was TV and magazines, and games. Now, everyone is consuming everything. And I do mean everything, even things they aren’t interested in. Combined with the above point, the internet has turned into a nightmare!

In the case of the cake decorating videos, part of the issue is that those videos come into the harshest critic’s content consumption unwillingly. Especially on TikTok, algorithms will occasionally toss a video or piece of content that’s doing well in its own circle into other circles, and so it ends up in front of someone who has no context or familiarity with cake decorating.

 They might not even really want to be negative – but they’ve been trained by social media to comment on everything, and especially to find harm in things that didn’t mean any. “What’s the catch? Where’s the downside? How Is This Bad TM?”It’s not exactly slacktivism – they just don’t want to encourage bad things by accidentally dismissing something that might be harmful even if other content is caught in the crossfire, to everyone’s detriment.

They also didn’t want to see things that they weren’t interested in, and innocent hobbies with smaller, more insulated communities are being forcibly shown to the entire rest of the internet ecosystem with no say – and no way to stop it.

Sources:

https://www.curbed.com/2021/08/p-e-moskowitz-parallel-parking.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201411/the-science-why-good-people-do-bad-things

http://willpowered.com/learn/feeling-good-justifies-doing-bad

https://www.ias.edu/sites/default/files/sss/pdfs/Critique/sedgwick-paranoid-reading.pdf

https://www.rts.com/resources/guides/food-waste-america/

Internet Phenomena: the CopyPasta

Elizabeth Uncategorized November 10, 2021

What makes a good CopyPasta?

Copypasta is a term invented for the internet phenomenon of text that goes ‘viral’ and gets spread via copy/pasting. However, not everything can be a copypasta – many obnoxious failed attempts to start one in Youtube comment sections prove that. So why do some succeed in blasting off while others die out immediately?

1) It has an emotional response attached to it – and it’s not a feeling of defeat

This is part of why getting new copypastas started is so difficult. If the target stops reacting, and just ignores or accepts it, it stops propagating.  Many copypastas feature a lot of emojis or swearing as a result. For example, when EA made it’s famous ‘pride and accomplishment’ comment on Reddit, the copy-pastes of it featured moneybag emojis between every word. It’s hard to feel defeated when a copy-pasta is calling you names or telling you things that defy reality. Defeat? No, make everyone else feel vaguely irritated too! Irritating emojis and turns-of-phrase litter emerging copypastas.

2) It has to be obnoxious

The Navy SEAL copypasta, a famous rant where an alleged Navy SEAL who specializes in “gorilla warfare” and has “over 300 confirmed kills” tells someone they’re arguing with online that they’re going to wipe them from the face of the Earth with a drone strike, is several paragraphs long.

I Miss the Rage?!, a line from a song with an emoji added to the end, is just four words.

Why are they both copypastas? Easy! They can both be used to wall-out chats and forums. “I Miss the Rage?!” is used during live-streams, meaning that it’s posted so many times in a row that nobody else can post any visible text. This is tough to achieve, but because the text itself is so short, it’s easy for other people to copy/paste and join in.

The Navy SEAL rant is better suited to forums for the same purpose – since it’s long and since most forums don’t auto-scroll like live chats do, this can still be used to wall-out.

3) But not too obnoxious – or too bland.

It’s in a copypasta’s nature to be annoying, but if it’s too annoying, the people who are posting it don’t get eyerolls, they get banned. Examples of this are admittedly difficult to find – like I said, they get banned before they can spark off and don’t leave a trace. If the Navy SEAL copypasta were posted today, completely fresh, and nobody had any memory of it, the person posting it would almost certainly get kicked from wherever they were for hostility. It would be too much. Things that would be copy-pasta-able aren’t anymore, because the internet is no longer a Wild West like it once was.

Alternatively, there’s posting something that’s milquetoast. Something that asks too politely to be copy/pasted. Those are still scattered everywhere. Remember early 2000s humor? You could name something “Bob” or say, “I’m a potato” and get laughs. Now, that humor is outdated. Cringey.

“This is Bob. Copy and paste him so he can take over Youtube.” Was a copypasta that first appeared some time in the 2008/2009 range. Soon, it died there. Occasionally older videos about Nyan Cat or He-Man will have a Bob (or sometimes a Bob-tank) in the comments, but he’s been left behind for the next generation of children to laugh at as their parents rediscover the artifacts. The generation that first copy-pasted him has moved on to fried images and Instagram accounts packed with stolen memes.

4) It can’t assign an identity unless it’s ironic

On TikTok, copypastas come and go in the blink of an eye, but some fare noticeably worse than others. A copypasta requesting that readers change their profile pic to a blue-tinted image of some girl named Melissa and spread the message of the “Step-Chickens” appeared one day and scattered most of the videos on TikTok’s For You page (the For You page is generated for each user, but certain sorts of videos often get recommended to entire communities of people). The reason “Step-Chicken” flared and then died on TikTok was because the people posting it realized it was sort of cringey. The people who started posting it were requesting that other people call themselves step-chickens.

Remember that era where Youtubers used to name their audience? Subscribers weren’t just a fan of a Youtuber, they were a ‘Sparklenaut’ or a ‘Bro’ or something. Part of an ‘Army’. You don’t see that so much anymore, because inevitably someone who called themselves by the fanbase name was going to do something that was embarrassing for the fandom by proxy. Law of large numbers, it just happens – eventually someone throws a fit outside a McDonalds wearing merch or causes issues at a fan-meet. Step-chickens was much the same, as the cool people doing it ironically found out that other people didn’t know they were doing it ironically – they were a “step-chicken” indistinguishable from other, less-socially-aware “step-chickens” commenting the copypasta on videos where it was inappropriate or unwelcome. It was difficult to explain that no, I’m doing this as a joke in the moment when being criticized, especially because that’s exactly what someone who wasn’t doing it ironically would say to save face. If it assigns an identity, someone who has taken that identity is going to create issues for everyone.

5) It can make fun of something if that something is at the tipping point of popular and too popular

Rick and Morty is a TV show. Objectively, it’s a TV show aimed at adults with a record-breaking renewal contract from Adult Swim. More subjectively, it’s a pretty funny TV show with well-written jokes that span a range of comedy beyond just slapstick. Adult animated comedy shows often default to slapstick, so Rick and Morty was a welcome break in the monotony of Family Guy, American Dad, and others in that bandwidth.

However, just because it’s better-written than those shows doesn’t mean someone is smarter for enjoying it. To be clear – there isn’t any science or math in the show that the average American doesn’t learn in middle school. Rick resents being the smartest man in the universe and copes by self-destructing, which – while deeper than Family Guy – is not a new concept. Liking a smart fictional character with a smidge of depth doesn’t mean becoming smart yourself, but some of the worse fans seemed to think that’s how it worked, and even went so far as to say so on public forums.

The copypasta spawned when someone patted themselves on the back for understanding the high-brow concepts of the show. I’m certain it’s parody, but the attitude that Rick and Morty was “too smart” for the people who didn’t watch it was unfortunately more common than you’d think, on Reddit especially.

Via Reddit

6) Or unpopular, but well-known

Too popular, and there might not be a big enough countermovement to get the copy-pasta going. Too obscure, and people might not understand what the copypasta is referencing. However, if it’s unpopular, but well-known, the copy/pasting practically writes itself. See Dixie D’amelio’s music.

Most of the videos about her that get tossed my way by the algorithms of Youtube and TikTok are videos critiquing the music. Unfortunately, Dixie is still a teen, and she didn’t seem to have much experience with music before her sister got big on TikTok – they’re dancers first, anything else second. Her lack of experience with writing music is obvious upon listening, but she doesn’t seem to get feedback that could fix the mediocre lyrics and boring beats from her friends and producers. Instead, critique comes from outside, and most people would ignore strangers telling them their stuff is bad over friends and followers who seem to like it. Even saying that, I cannot honestly believe that anyone is listening to “One Day” because they stumbled upon her on Spotify.

Anyway, in the critique videos’ comment sections, lyrics to the song get posted over and over. Who could forget such lines as “Bueeyh sometimes I don’ wanna be happy!” and “One day, one day, I was really really really really sad”? Of course this turned into a copypasta, scattered with emojis and mocking misspellings of the actual words – her indie-slurring sounds together is not helping critics take her seriously, and the age and misplaced enthusiasm of her fans are not helping them take her in good faith.

Sources:

Be warned, some of the copypastas mentioned are unsuitable for work due to foul language and the site they’re hosted on.

StepChickens “”Cult””: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/26/style/step-chickens-tiktok-cult-wars.html

(I was also on TikTok during this event)

A Navy SEAL shares a piece of his mind: https://genius.com/Copypasta-navy-seal-copypasta-annotated (Genius Lyrics has better hosting than KnowYourMeme – I found them less difficult to navigate and less riddled with ads)

I Miss the Rage ?!: Screenshotted directly from comment sections of [email protected] 2021-06-01 post titled “I Miss the Rage (?! Emojis)”

Rick and Morty Is a Show for Smart People, first posted by user Niekisch in r/CringeAnarchy  https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/to-be-fair-you-have-to-have-a-very-high-iq-to-understand-rick-and-morty (please note – Know Your Meme may be difficult to navigate due to formatting and ads)

Assorted D’amelio Lyrics – screenshotted directly from comment sections of Charlie’s 2020-07-01 post titled “Be Happy music video out now link in bio dc @haleygilchrist_ (heart emojis)”

Twitch Quotes: https://www.twitchquotes.com/copypastas/labels/i-hate-twitch-chat

Bob and Tank Bob: https://www.reddit.com/r/copypasta/comments/3tihez/this_tank_bob_are_against_google/

What is -Core? Why is it All Online?

Elizabeth Uncategorized November 5, 2021

Subcultures: The Big Ones

Alternative, Goth, Emo, and Punk may be indistinguishable to someone outside those scenes, but the people within them know exactly what they’re looking at. A crow isn’t going to confuse a grackle or a raven for another crow.

All of these counter-culture movements have stuff in common – they all have music genres associated with them, they were all pointedly against whatever mainstream culture was doing, and they were all made for people who didn’t fit in or didn’t want to. Punks were anti-war and anti-establishment. Emos were frustrated with a society that put looking perfect above genuine human connection. Goths don’t want the relationship with death and tragedy to be so strained.  

All of these big ones have also been around for so long that they’ve earned mainstream acknowledgement – punk music written post-Vietnam is as relevant today as it was then, Hot Topic is proof that emo is still around, and older goth stuff may look dated, but it’s not uncool, Addams Family style, all the way back to black and white TV.

Splitting

All of these subcultures being this old and this popular means that they’re changing as the next generations build their own subcultures within them. See E-Girls and E-Boys, a more recent offshoot of Emo that uses modern fashion to craft the look. It’s also escaped some of the negative associations of Emo, which included self-harm and untreated mental illness. Meanwhile, within goth, there’s now stuff like nature goth and pastel goth alongside trad goths – the focus is still on being goth, and it has the same roots, but it’s all different colors. Cyber-goths and vampire goths live in two different worlds, and they go to two different shows with wildly different music, even though both are technically goth.

Many of these counter-cultures eventually bleed into mainstream, at least a little – popular music from a genre is usually popular because it’s good! See Evanescence, Paramour, My Chemical Romance, Rage Against the Machine, Green Day, Linkin Park, etc. etc. and when it gets exposed to mainstream culture, the subculture grows and splits naturally.

And then social media began connecting people with pictures and music instead of just forums, and the world got both bigger and smaller. Here we see “core” stuff begin to form.

Sub-Subculture

Labeling things helps people identify that thing.

Nightcore is a genre of music characterized by speeding up songs until the singer is very high-pitched and the beat is double or triple what it used to be, so it was more danceable. The term “core” here was coined by the band because they’re the ‘core of the night’, according to Dictionary.com, who also states that “core” was frequently used in reference to music genres – as the band that started the trend was Norwegian, it’s possible they just superimposed their own meaning onto the word so they had something to go by when asked. Nightcore is the first time I remember seeing “core” used as a descriptor alone. Nightcore isn’t the only root for the trend, but it’s a notable one because it came with aesthetics attached.

Years passed, and a movement slowly formed. Before you could just call something ‘weebcore’ or ‘nerdcore’ or anything else, you had to assemble the look the hard way. You want to build mood boards for Tumblr, and you want to find clothes that fit the look you like? If that’s not already named by popular online culture or style magazines, you have to seek out individual bits and bobs to make your style a living thing. What’s really annoying is when other people like it too, but you can’t find each other on a platform because you’re calling your stuff “Celestial” and they’re calling their stuff “Midnight Chic”. Or Blue Goth and Night Goth. Or Night Faerie and Starlight. You get the picture. If the names that blogs made up for their style didn’t catch on or didn’t get popular, well – neither did their looks, and it never turned into something bigger. Tumblr’s search function is notoriously horrible, and tags are the only real way to navigate the site, even now. Pinterest isn’t much better. Having a name for a style makes connecting online so much easier.

Cottagecore took off on Tumblr in 2018, and others followed it. While it wasn’t the first, it was very popular and easy to add to. Others followed suit.

If you like fairies, magic, and all of the feelings that come with them, and you like pictures of green woods – boom, fairycore, now you find more of it. If you really like the aesthetic of candy, and you like brightly colored clothing, you could be called candy-core, and other people in the know can put together what you mean. This naming scheme is very convenient, and it makes searching easy once you understand it – it’s also easier to tag and easier to navigate once people cotton on to the trend. Other, older subcultures that already had names didn’t need to adapt, but this made it easier to make new ones.

In the beginning, that was great, but now it’s turning into a nightmare.

Sub-Sub-Subculture

You can be freed by a label in the same way you’re constricted by it. People want more of something they think is really cool, and as a result you get hyper specific ___cores, stuff that’s identifiable by one or two things alone. See Glitchcore: Glitchcore comes down to anime girls and glitchy, psychedelic rainbows – at least, that’s all you can find of it on Google. The music, too, often sounds pretty similar across bands, because if it doesn’t hit certain points, it’s hyperpop or electronic instead of glitchcore. It’s so unique that it’s difficult to make more of.

Alternatively, look at metal bands that made it big – their fans usually have a pretty clear style, and if the band’s not deliberately inviting, the hardcore fandom will do everything in it’s power to sort out “posers” who want new stuff from the band, cutting off creativity at the knees to keep the style ‘pure’.

Now, you have a name for what you like, but you’ve pigeonholed yourself, and the style is so small it’s tough to connect with people who really get it.

Insensitivity

Besides, trends that piggyback off of other, older stuff can create issues in different ways when all of their context is online. Cottagecore clothes and retro-style clothes are only recognizable as ‘old-fashioned’ to anyone who’s not in-the-know on sites like TikTok or Instagram. People online know that traditional clothing doesn’t equal “traditional” views on women and society… people offline might not, and that can lead to some unwanted attention for the wearer.

Similarly, wearing a cowboy hat and bolo tie when you’ve never ridden a horse isn’t going to be met with ‘oh, wow, cowboycore, huh?’ offline, especially in the South or Southwest.

Certain ‘aesthetics’ also ignore the roots of a look. To use cottagecore again, cute farm animals are common items in mood boards and on cottagecore-themed clothing. Notice I said items – the reality of taking care of these animals isn’t a crucial part of the board, because why would it be? Cottagecore creates a fantasyland where the people out in the sticks who actually own chickens are living like Snow White, not getting up at 5 AM with the rooster to feed them, not getting pecked for eggs, never having to clean out a smelly roost, and never having to worry about coyote or fox attacks in the night, or vet visits. There are no spiders for horse riders to accidentally run into, and no power outages or spotty internet. The weather is always somewhere between temperate and cold. This romanticized version of how people on farms live is obviously incorrect to anyone who’s actually lived on one – to the point that it’s almost insulting.

Aaaaand We’re Back On Microtrends

If you look at it – really look at it – sometimes aesthetics are just shopping lists of items because you can’t achieve the look with other items you already have. This is a problem. Look at punk jackets – each one is unique because it was made special, not bought special. Look at E-Girls and E-Boys – stripes and black clothes stick out, but the items are generally bought because they can be cut to shreds and stitched or pinned back together in interesting ways. It doesn’t have to be new to be E-Girl/E-Boy stuff. OG Cottagecore often encourages wearers to buy old dresses and tailor them to custom-fit, making them new again. All of these styles are A) accessible, and B) possible to buy for ethically, meaning buying second-hand clothes or buying from sources that don’t use sweatshops. Of course, some consumption from bad sources happens with any trend, but the point is that the option exists.

The issues with microaesthetics/__cores are much worse when the options are limited and there’s no other way to get the look but buying new items. You’ve heard of Retro/50’s style, but what about RetroFuturism? Specifically, Retro-Space-Core? If only one company makes see through plastic shoes, that company just hit the jackpot when Retro-Space-Core becomes the next hot micro-aesthetic, even if it’s issues with plastic waste and worker treatment are well-documented. People will buy them anyway.

Because of this, it is much worse that small aesthetics and __core clubs can be so small that new unique items constitute a major development in the style space. You can make something that nobody wants, but everyone will buy and discard, just because it’s aesthetic. See the frog chair that got big and then died out. Frogs are cute, and the frog chair was very cute, but TikTok cottagecore latched onto it as a shortcut to cottage vibes… and then gradually came to realize it was difficult to actually decorate with because it was aimed at kids. The same goes for wicker furniture – you do actually have to take care of wicker, or it deteriorates, but the people buying wicker stuff for the first time when it was hot often didn’t know that. Or, you could look at any number of boots, sweaters, and jackets that flash into aesthetic ‘must-have’ lists like magnesium in a pond before fading back into the background noise.

Ultimately, doing research on products and the microaesthetics themselves can stop most of the issues associated with them. The rest comes down to maybe accepting that sometimes, things look unique because they are unique, and asking for more of it or trying to make a whole style out of it is going to suck the fun out of the inspiration. If the movie, or music, or whatever isn’t broad enough to style around, that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be. Not every aspect of media has to be drawn out and analyzed into an aesthetic.

Sources:

https://www.dictionary.com/e/pop-culture/nightcore/

https://www.thelist.com/418037/what-is-a-micro-trend-and-how-can-it-affect-fashion-sustainability/

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/what-exactly-is-cottagecore

https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/is-glitchcore-a-tiktok-aesthetic-a-new-microgenre-or-the-latest-iteration-of-glitch-art/

Apple’s Cameras are Becoming Too Delicate for Consumers

Elizabeth Uncategorized November 3, 2021

Do consumers want photography equipment, or a regular small camera with worse quality?

Apple

Apple is known for having the best in-phone cameras in the industry – they have been for quite some time, even as other companies like Samsung and Microsoft try to catch up and take that title for themselves. The phones are quite pricey, and things like the OS and the hardware inside the device are rarely fully appreciated for how much they cost in R&D and rare earth metals.

Apple, during it’s time under Jobs, pushed to create value for the consumer that could justify the price of a device that shattered its screen easily, but had to go to a proprietary repair shop afterwards (and still cost hundreds of dollars used). Cameras are one of the most visible and most used parts of a phone – Instagram, TikTok, and a number of other social media and content-sharing websites rely on phones with cameras for their user’s content to the point that they wouldn’t exist without them. These apps, of course, reward better cameras, which starts a feedback loop of demand.

Jobs made sure the camera was at least a little bit better with every new edition of the iPhone, and the people who took over when he left didn’t buck the trend.

Cameras

Photo via The Verge

On professional equipment, certain lenses give better results at certain distances. The curvature of the lens directly affects the way the subject looks at the end! Bigger cameras that take in more data also give AI more to work with – and if they want to keep slapping in features that rely on AI, they’re going to need it.  

The camera on the last two iPhones boasts three lenses, and each serves a different purpose – one is long-distance, one is an all-rounder, and one is for closeups. It switches automatically between the three as the user uses the camera app. As said before, different lenses produce different results, and by allowing two of these lenses to specialize, they’ve made the iPhone even better at taking pictures. Additional features including internal gyroscopes and vibration sensors keep the camera focused on the right thing and reduce the effect of user movement, further improving the image. These tiny, delicate machinery parts have to be incredibly small to fit inside the phone – which, surprisingly, is somehow only 0.5 mm thicker than the iPhone 6, which was notorious for bending under pressure due to its aluminum frame. It’s incredible engineering!

All of this adds up to a phone that is easy to take and edit pictures with, better than what Samsung or Android offers most of the time. However, these gigantic, hyper-specialized cameras are beginning to present issues for the consumer – stuff that Apple can’t simply program away.

The Issue

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZM8SJxQMA

This video demonstrates the damage it does to the phone.

Motorcycle vibrations are damaging the internal components of the device necessary to keep the camera focused in the right place – those little gyroscopes and vibration sensors are extremely fine and delicate. Other phones have things like these too, but they’re bigger, and clunkier; their job is simpler than the iPhone counterpart. The phone mounts available on the market don’t compensate for these new tools, and allow too much vibration to travel up from the engine and into the phone. Even if you don’t own or use a motorcycle, weaker vibrations are also suspect: Apple recommends a vibration-dampening mount even for cars.

This is a problem for Apple’s long-term plans. Internal items become more delicate in the vicious cycle of thinner and thinner phones – as mentioned earlier, the iPhone 6 was only 0.5 mm thinner than the new iPhone 12, even though the amount of hardware inside has increased by quite a lot. Apple is pushing its devices to the limit of what the materials it’s made out of can do!

Obsolescence

Watching Apple go through this process is really fascinating. It’s like watching a tapir turn into a dolphin. They’ve hyperspecialized so hard that new phones can take over as hobbyist items! They took out the aux cord; in-brand accessories are wildly expensive; it takes special mounts to use; it’s resistant to viruses but downloading a different browser means violating warranty; the camera is phenomenal; it’s faster than ever; the battery promises 22 hours’ worth of video playback; the outside is rock hard now. All for around a thousand dollars. Really, it’s a photography tool with phone capabilities, not the other way around!

Unfortunately, for the casuals, this overdeveloped camera and its vestigial phone material means that the iPhones 12 and 13 are actually less sturdy than they used to be, in spite of the harder ceramic shell on the outside. It’s designed to be dropped on adventures, not hooked up to a windshield for daily driving with it’s GPS. Is that what consumers want? Either way, it’s what they’re getting – Apple has never made the camera worse on the main line. That’s always relegated to the secondary line, the iPhone minis and pros, which are also weaker devices (and sometimes the camera isn’t smaller or less powerful anyway, just the device). While it’s not a pressing split now, it could turn into one if the trend continues and Apple doesn’t thicken back out for longevity’s sake.

Sources:

https://www.theverge.com/2020/10/14/21515158/iphone-12-pro-max-best-camera-biggest-phone

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT212803

https://backlightblog.com/iphone-12-pro-camera

https://www.theverge.com/2020/10/14/21515158/iphone-12-pro-max-best-camera-biggest-phone

Stop Asking For Free Labor In Your Ads

Elizabeth Uncategorized November 1, 2021

It’s one thing when a corporation’s business account asks for interaction.

It’s another when they’re literally asking the fans to produce lyrics for them.

The Nature Of TikTok

Corporations, especially ones with mascots, want to be friends with you. They want you to love them, they want you to choose them over the store brand, and they want you to get warm fuzzies when you think of them. To do this, they want to distance themselves from their abstract representation (some corporation with an office in Illinois, some corporation with an office in Silicon Valley, some corporation…) and present you with the substitute. When older millennials think of McDonalds, they think of Ronald McDonald. When almost anyone pictures Wendy’s, they’re usually picturing the girl on the sign. The same goes for any number of products. Mascots represent the good parts of the brand, the part that customers interact with. It’s only natural that in a world with more and more visual media, the mascots would become a bigger and bigger part of campaign advertising.

Unfortunately, sometimes the brand overestimates the love for said mascot, and by extension, the brand – consumers are increasingly aware of the tactics brands use to get people to love them, and Mr. Peanut found this out the hard way when it asked fans to duet their mascot on TikTok… with real, serious labor.   

Interaction on TikTok

Bad campaigns happen on TikTok. Ironically, they often come from the companies with the most money to spend on advertising.

Small companies got it immediately, and companies with a reputation for subversive and unusual advertising got it immediately – TikTok is for interaction. Comments, “sounds”, duets, stitches, hashtags and more make TikTok an interaction paradise. Anything they produce for their account has to consider interaction. Meanwhile, corporate-giant marketing campaigns are really struggling to grasp the idea of an app that allows viewers to make fun of ads in real time, in front of other potential customers. Even now, the biggest companies are releasing ad campaigns that show a fundamental misunderstanding of the TikTok ecosystem.

The best example is McDonalds’ chicken sandwich campaign. Users were asked to repeat a phrase in time with the primary video, an attempt at encouraging interaction after a slew of plain, TV-ad style videos. This went off the rails almost immediately! The issue is that they asked for interaction, but didn’t consider what that interaction would look like – what is the other side getting out of duetting that video? Just repeating the phrase wasn’t fun. Users come to TikTok for a number of reasons, but the primary one is entertainment. When something isn’t entertaining, they make their own fun, and screw up the campaign by making videos too crass to show to children. You might say any advertising is good advertising – that is not always true.

Free Labor

When people make dances or duets to songs, they’re doing it because they like the song – they aren’t doing it for the singer or producer. If the singer asks people to participate, and they don’t do it carefully enough, it can come across as desperate, and have the exact opposite of the intended effect (it’s an open secret that some influencers can be sponsored to make dances for music, so it’s doubly desperate-looking to beg for interaction for free). One singer who comes to mind was comparing her music to Billie Eilish, and was upset that she wasn’t getting the views/streams she felt she deserved. While that by itself is just harmless kvetching, making said complaint online is likely to turn indifferent onlookers into spiteful non-fans. TikTok is surprisingly meritocratic – nobody owes you views for mediocre content, so why are you begging if your content is supposedly good?

The same goes for asking for free stuff from fans when the account itself is part of a megacorporation conglomerate. The issue is not in asking for interaction – it’s in how they ask for it, and what they ask for. If you could pay them… why are you begging creatives for free stuff?

Believe it or not, most not-chronically-online people do like it when big brands interact in good faith, or at least with the idea of profits tucked away behind good faith. See Gatorade’s community efforts in developing countries. Obviously, building those kids a better outdoor area entirely Gatorade-branded is good for profits in the long run, but in the short run, the company spent money so that kids could have something nice. Branded fun is supposed to at least pretend like the corporation cares about its customers beyond the money they spend.

When you take this principle online, it looks like ‘having fun’ coming before ‘brand exposure’. For example, one TikToker “redesigned” a bunch of brands using MSPaint, making them deliberately badly. Brands offered themselves up in her comments section for “Redesign”, and some even swapped out their profile pic for her updated version. The exposure to the brand name is happening in a way that’s not icky to the anti-big-business segment of TikTok. From a marketing perspective, that’s fantastic! Interacting with a willing, popular, grassroots account in a fun way is really the best you can ask for.

Mr. Peanut

All that said, TikTok’s young, artistic demographic doesn’t like it when a brand asks them to make them things for free. Artists are very aware that companies rely on art, but don’t value it – there’s a joke about “exposure bucks” because it’s so common to try and switch out money for something the company is already going to give the artist when they use the art in question, exposure.

Mr. Peanut’s account asked fans to produce lyrics for them over a simple piano track playing in the background. The caption reads “It’s National Nut Day, so naturally we’re gonna do something nuts, like letting you write our jingle [emojis of a whacky face and a peanut] Duet this to show us what you got [emoji of a microphone]”. https://vm.tiktok.com/ZM8u3VSS4/

Notice the phrasing: we’ll let you write a jingle for us. It echoes the sentiment that it is a privilege to create the art they demand.

Again, users who make stuff voluntarily are not doing it because the original asked them to remix or write lyrics for them, they’re doing it for themselves, because doing it is fun, and the fans like it. Duet chains of opera singers and musicians adding on to a video that wouldn’t otherwise be music are totally different from doing that for a brand that could ask and exchange money, that could sponsor written lyrics… but wants people to do it for them for free. Of course, because it was a TikTok, nobody can tell what exactly they planned to do with the duets, or if they even planned to do anything with them – but the way copyright works, nobody wanted to make something good that they should have been compensated for only to have Mr. Peanut steal it.

It took some time, but once marketing professionals unearthed their contracts for jingles, duets made them look even worse – one Tik Toker revealed that she was paid 10,000$ and still owned 50% of a jingle she was professionally commissioned to create. Jingles take work. Sounding carefree is work. Mr. Peanut asking people to make them something useful and usable for free when the going rate is so high is just gross:

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZM8uTfveK/

The worst part is that plenty of companies ask for fan contribution, they just do it with compensation. This is the kind of thing that sweepstakes used to be for: if we use your song, you can win money. An exchange of value is believed to have taken place, and fans who didn’t get their lyrics used still get to keep what they made most of the time. Mr. Peanut did not set up a reward system, leaving fans wondering what they would get out of it, much like the McDonald’s campaign but worse.

Even if they planned, cynically, for fans to write crass and unusable lyrics, they likely overestimated the benefits of TikTok users turning the campaign into a joke. The comments are laughing with the creator duetting with something too foul to use, at Mr. Peanut. The general sensation is that the company is not in on the joke, even when they think they are. Even if you think almost any brand exposure is good exposure… this is inefficient.

Mr. Peanut brand peanuts should have known better.

Sources: https://www.pepsico.com/sustainability/philanthropy

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZM8uTfveK/

ttps://vm.tiktok.com/ZM8u3VSS4/