How in the world did we get to a future where a website featuring kids singing and dancing in short video clips could become a politicized headline that may shape the future of media and technology?
The clock is ticking on the sale of U.S. operations for TikTok, and everyone seems to be in the mix.
The bidders range from Microsoft to Walmart. Our President is requiring it to be sold in order for it to remain live, while China is putting in place regulations that would essentially block the sale.
Meanwhile, 14-year-olds across the country are panicking because they won’t be able to post their music videos for the world to see and might be forced to migrate to some other platform.
The irony is that they will probably transition to another platform in the next year or two regardless of what happens (see also Myspace, Snapchat, Vine).
Teenagers are fickle and fads are fleeting. Teenagers' tastes can change at the drop of a hat. All of this attention on their platform-of-choice for the moment may actually lead to its own demise.
Kids like to feel rebellious almost as much as they like to feel they are one step ahead of their parents. We all were that way at one point or another, so we can see it and recognize it in this generation.
Coupled with a pandemic, TikTok has been a lifeline for teenagers and creates viral opportunity quickly, but when the spotlight is shining down on something, kids will abandon that something quickly and move on to the next big thing.
TikTok is the flavor of the moment, but along will come something equally exciting and interesting, and it will be replaced.
So what are the long-term implications of the battle for TikTok? There is an inherent conflict at play between globalization and the removal of international boundaries for technology and media versus global politics and ideologies.
I don't like the government getting in the way of capitalism in technology, and I have trouble understanding why anyone who favors “small” government would be supportive of such a move.
It sets a dangerous precedent for the future, where government can step in and make demands of large corporate entities, both private and public.
It also sets a dangerous precedent in media for the same reason.
If you extrapolate out the precedent to a semi-logical conclusion, you could imagine a world where government demands the closure or sale of a media platform that consistently criticizes their policies (fyi -- this is censorship).
You could imagine a world where a U.S. entity that has expanded globally is forced to divest itself of international profits because a current administration wants to divest itself from relationships with a specific foreign entity (fyi -- this is borderline fascism). This is exactly the same argument being used to push the sale of TikTok.
Kevin Mayer recognized this and decided to leave after only 3 months. Can you blame him? Who would want to be part of this situation? Who wants to be bullied by two governments at odds with one another for politicizing a platform that kids use to stay connected and entertain themselves?
It’s not like TikTok is a threat to democracy, or communism, for that matter. I know that some pundits can make the case that it is, but it’s a stretch. These kids may change the world, but it won’t be because they did the electric slide on their phones at 2 in the afternoon.
Earlier this year, we saw kids connect and thwart a Republican rally by snatching up the tickets and ghosting on the attendance. That is motivation, and that was something to watch.
Maybe that was where this idea came from? Maybe the current administration is simply retaliating to an attack of the TikTok kids. Maybe this is really just a petty response to an ego-bruising event.
I guess we will see what happens.
All I know is, I can’t wait to see what platform emerges after the pandemic and when TikTok is a remembrance of the past.