Content Creation and Responsibility

Years ago, the concept of making a video or writing a blog, or recording a podcast wasn’t considered the best practice in terms of effective persuasion and marketing. How things have changed.

I fully fess up to trying new products based on the product reviews of someone on YouTube or reading about it on a blog. When I’m considering a purchase of basically anything from the mundane to the important, the first place I’ll start at Google and dive down the rabbit hole to content creators sharing their thoughts on whatever it is I’m considering buying at the time. I’ll try a product at a special deal when it pops up on my Instagram feed, I will save memes that inspire me and make me think—often sharing them with someone who would appreciate it.

I devote a block of time at the end of my workday to watch Tik Tok because I’ve found it to highly educational in addition to entertaining. Indeed, important ideas about politics, social justice, activism, and education have found a place to influence others on an app that first spawned a million dance interpretations. For me, as much as I appreciate entertainment value in digital content, their ability to provide new perspectives and food for thought is what has fascinated me, especially in the last couple of years.

But while finding new recipes, other people who share similar viewpoints, and innocent videos that do nothing more than provide laughter seem innocent, we are well aware of how easily the tide can turn.

One post that just hits wrong, and the wave of popularity and trustworthiness attached to leading influencers can evaporate in heartbeat. But the issues are about so much more than branding gone awry. Content creators have power. And with power comes great responsibility.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately—while I’m far from being a creator that is on anyone’s radar, someone in my small following surely gets something from what I put out. So, it’s entirely up to me to influence what it is that person is getting. I can depress someone. I can make someone laugh. I can encourage someone. I can give someone something to think about. I can build someone up, or I could potentially tear them down.

What I have appreciated most about blogging is that this little corner of the world is my place for sharing my thoughts. And for anyone who knows me well enough, they know I don’t mince words. When I’m feeling righteous indignation about a topic, I’ll spout off. I know what is in my heart, but perhaps others don’t. Do I come off like someone who really cares or am I just ranting? There’s a thin line between the two.

It is important to remember that when creating content to be shared with the public, it is important to be true to yourself, to be authentic. People smell fakes a mile away, so putting on pretenses is a foolish errand to go on. But remember and remind yourself of this audience—whatever the size—and acknowledge the power you have to do good or make things worse.

Knowledge is power. Content creators wield immense power in the knowledge they are supplying. Be wise. Be empathetic. Share well.

Photos by S O C I A L . C U T and dusan jovic on Unsplash

Canceling the Bell Peppa Lady

There’s this young, Staten Island mom on Tik Tok that amassed 2.7 million followers in a matter of months just from being herself.

With a strong Staten Island accent, she was unabashedly open about her life, her baby son and his health challenges, and the thing that put her over the top—her penchant for stuffing bell “peppas” with cream cheese and various other seasonings. She quickly moved on to noshing on her beloved mother-in-law’s chicken cutlets smothered in melted cheese and barbecue sauce, Valentina hot sauce, Tapatio sauce (which she couldn’t pronounce for the life of her), and Tajin seasoning.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I ordered Tajin (a Mexican lime and chili seasoning) solely on her recommendation. Her videos—part-mukbang/coffee addiction/real talk—quickly catapulted her to verified fame faster than most content creators. It wasn’t long before she ventured into POV territory as “Aunt Amanda,”—every teenager’s dream aunt—talking through tough topics over snacks and coffee with no judgment and total understanding.

Describing herself as decidedly unpolitical, followers found in her a safe space from the divided and toxic culture of election seasons, and her account was a place where she laughed at herself for her mispronunciations, lack of knowledge on some topics, and devotion to Dunkin Donuts iced coffees with their many flavor combos.

But election day changed everything. While the rest of America either voted through mail-in ballots or waiting in long early voting lines, Aunt Amanda stayed mum on the topic until November 3. In an emotional post from the morning, she agonized over voting because she didn’t want to engage in the judgment and toxicity of the democratic process of choosing new leadership, she said. In the end, she cast her vote, reported on it, and went her way. Until that night.

Loyal viewers—many of them from the LGBTQX, LatinX, and liberal communities—were appalled to catch her Live from a Trump election night watch party. With her boss dancing in the background clad in head to toe American flag and Trump gear, she laughed hysterically at comments calling her out for what many felt was a huge betrayal of trust. Later on, she flat out told people to just unfollow her if they had issues with her choices.

And that’s all it took—by the next day she had lost thousands of followers, other Tik Tok creators made videos “auditioning” for the new Aunt Amanda vacancy, and her husband took down his account altogether. The backlash went fast and furious with countless “#cancelamanda” -type hashtags popping up with record speed. In the two weeks since the debacle erupted, she turned her comments off and made a couple of videos trying to apologize and explain herself. To date, she has not been forgiven, let alone her gaff forgotten.

Possibly on track to have become a Tik Tok content creator with lucrative sponsorship deals of the kind that could have snowballed her to Tabitha Brown-level fame, Aunt Amanda appears to have been cancel culture’s latest brutal victim.

So, what exactly does cancel culture accomplish? For the wronged, it is swift vengeance. And for the wrongdoer, it can certainly be the kiss of death for a burgeoning influencer career. But is canceling a creator or other person of fame the best way to teach a lesson or make some sort of point? Or do those doing the canceling come off looking like unrepentant destroyers of someone’s reputation and livelihood?

In the case of criminals, vitriolic celebrities, and otherwise harmful people, cancel culture is justified, in my opinion. But what happens to ordinary people who happen to gain a following on social media who quickly turn into internet-famous villains? The domino effect is real for them. Sponsorships disappear, potential clients back away, and the hate comments explode causing some to experience severe challenges to their mental health. For these types of creators who don’t have the backing of an already famous name and body of work behind them, what happens can destroy lives.

Is that the goal of “canceling” people? Can those who offend be taught a better lesson in a better way? I’m not completely sure.

So, here are some questions I leave you with. Is cancel culture the way forward? Is it just cruel or tough love? Have you been part of canceling someone?