This Week in Discourse: How Influencers Die
Plus: More moderation drama, more Twitter disinfo, and some good meta TikToks
Welcome to the weekend! I’m unsure if it was a cold, flu or COVID, but I’ve been feeling like this all week:
So this week’s discourse might be more ranty and unhinged than usual? I guess we’ll see!
Tom Scott retires
Tom Scott, one of the stars of early YouTube, has retired.
Scott’s Things You Might Not Know series catapulted him to internet fame, and he was one of the first, biggest and best of the ‘infotainment’ channels that delivered interesting and educational tidbits about the world for popular consumption. After 10 years, his burnout was enough that he felt compelled to say goodbye.
Social media is still young, as an ecosystem. The life-cycle of a content creator or an influencer is something we’re still figuring out. We know how they’re born, we’ve all seen in detail how someone can become an instant viral star. But how do they end?
Some just slowly fade into irrelevance. Smosh was one of the first mega-successes on YouTube. If you follow that link, and click the ‘Popular’ tab, you’ll see videos from 10-15 years ago pulling 50-100M views each. Those view counts were absolutely massive in that era of YouTube - Smosh was one of the biggest accounts on the site. Now their videos get around 300K views each. They never stopped making videos, but people stopped caring.
Some creators transition away from social content into more traditional media. Early YouTube had a viral hit called ‘David Blaine, Street Magic’ - a parody of magician David Blaine. But the star of that sketch didn’t stick around YouTube for years and years - they moved on to working in television, landing gigs writing and performing for MTV, Adult Swim, Showtime and ultimately NBC. You’d know him today as SNL cast member Mikey Day. For some, viral fame is just a springboard into mainstream stardom.
Some creators have their careers end explosively. They get cancelled, something dramatic happens, and it all goes to shit. Some die quietly - after their numbers begin to decline, they decide to quit. It seems rare for a content creator to leave on top, on their own terms. And that’s why I’m happy for Tom Scott.
Going out on your own terms is rarer than you’d think across most industries. Whether it’s famous actors, professional athletes or past-their-prime singers, most performers hang on too long. It’s painful to watch someone as you realize they’re only a shadow of what they used to be. As a fan of Scott’s, I’m glad he’s getting to quit while his quality is still high. And I hope that as we age deeper into the era of social media, more content creators, influencers, and internet personalities are able to find graceful ways to end their time on the public stage.
Twitch still struggling with moderation
Repeat the mantra: Content moderation is impossible to get right. Once again, live-streaming service Twitch is unable to make anyone happy.