Reddit has "Karma" while Twitter and TikTok have likes, saves, and view counts. Spotify has "Monthly Listeners" prominently displayed on the profile of every musician on the platform... Metrics are increasingly being used to drive creators and contributors to sites to work harder, and in return often offers little value or reward to them.
First let's take a look at what many of these sites provide to us... We have different perspectives on this often based on what our stake is within using each platform, and many platforms each offer a different aspect f operation/use, but a common trend in social-driven IT business today is that metrics shown to us on these platforms often drive intense and unrewarding labor in content creators for the benefit of Company employees and Listeners/Viewers.
Consider that there are multiple perspectives involved in the operation of each service...
Listeners/Viewers: Site users that create an account to hear and view content on the platforms. In many cases (Spotify, YouTube, Twitch, Netflix, etc...), these users pay a monthly subscription for premium service.
Content Creators: These accounts contribute content (regularly) to platforms as content creators (music, video, photos, games, products, live events, etc..). They are often the most active people on the platforms (also as Listeners/Viewers) because they frequently monitor what is trending and investigate how things work.
Company Employees/Executives: The people that build platforms, make decisions about how things work, and support the business model and direction that affects the prior two listed perspectives.
For the sake of this personal opinion piece (purely opinion, not presented as fact of course), Netflix is included, because it is a content creator driven platform... Many films displayed on it are made by independent film studios and individuals that pitch their work to the company. Although perhaps public comments related to and reviewing the content may be hosted elsewhere, Netflix very much works like an online community when you consider that placement (recommendation and ranking) of films is a political process, as well as the rating system within the application, which often may not properly indicate a film's true value to potential audiences.
Look, there is indeed a lot of content that is not quite "desirable" floating around on the Internet, arguing the merits of poorly composed, offensive, or otherwise low quality is not what I'm trying to establish here, but ratings are only fair when they are fairly presented, and right now that's a big problem. Added to that are the metrics that are displayed on many sites to encourage undiscovered content creators to either embrace their obscurity, to pay platforms for promotion (after already creating usually costly and labor-intensive content for the platform), or to learn marketing and manually struggle through the process of marketing or promoting their content/brand themselves.
Now we can take a look at metrics displayed on profiles of a few sites to further demonstrate the point of this post....
Spotify for many years has prominently displayed a number for "monthly users" and sometimes displays a count for "followers" on profiles of every contributor to the platform. In speaking with musicians and podcasters I've found this is a recurring frustration for most aspiring and undiscovered contributor, as the number fluctuates often, and in many cases, the platform does little to nothing to help contributors improve these numbers beyond offering a "pitch" service, where creators can request inclusion into playlists maintained by Spotify, or to offer them the opportunity to pay Spotify to advertise their music. Those two options are very convenient for Spotify as a company, as users are the ones required to carefully organize their releases and provide all the metadata involved, and then the creator must also pay for the opportunity to be seen on the platform... In this case, Spotify offers undiscovered contributors a basic car without windows, lights, or even a steering wheel and mirrors and then tells them they can either buy those features, or burn a lot of time in figuring out that they have to somehow buy those features... This also "drives" the culture of "botting" that many creators leverage in order to raise the "monthly users" statistic on their profiles, because it can be quite embarrassing to have low numbers displayed on your Spotify profile (prominently above your audio) in stark comparison to others who are well established on the platform.
YouTube's "embarrassment metrics" leveraged are found in the "view count" and "subscriber" metrics prominently displayed on many videos across the site. The view metric can be verily easily manipulated by a platform to either encourage users to promote their work harder, or to generate more income for the company within the platform by encouraging creators to pay for advertising. It drives embarrassment metrics being displayed for users because it places that metric on everything content-wise on the site. For well known artists, celebrities, controversial figures, and even wealthy contributors, being displayed on the front pages of YouTube may be as simple as having an in-person meeting with YouTube reps, and cutting a check... The difference in views for independent/undiscovered creators versus those of celebrity creators is vast in disparity now, and that's the first indication that YouTube is not helping content discovery anywhere near what they'd publicly represent. The platform does VERY LITTLE now for new creators beyond permitting them to upload videos and share them elsewhere, while often inserting ads into that content, and collecting all of the profit from that advertising revenue until the creator figures out how to be a prominent creator on the platform, if they don't give up out of sheer frustration.
A huge amount of users on TikTok are aspiring content creators... On their videos, TikTok also shows view counts, likes, bookmarks/saves as metrics to drive creators towards working furiously to create content daily if not more. Several of the "content creator advice" videos that play repeatedly on the platform (if one is a creator) emphasize that these numbers are the most vital part of being discovered on the platform, while also recommending that creators forgo their own audio to use audio to use popular (trending) audio, and even to do prescribed dance moves or to make scripted (and often personal) confessions to raise their metrics and "go viral". If content creators do not follow conventions like the ones cited prior, they often do not get promoted, and don't get promoted by the famous algorithm... This aspect of using the platform also discredits their work because their work is often displayed as not being like and/or viewed... One of the key aspects of this discussion.
One of the better aspects of Reddit is that it was primarily geared towards putting content first. It reveled in anonymity for the contributors, and (historically) for allowing honest and objective rating of content by Listener/Viewers. The community used to reject reposted and low-value content posts, and BOTH numbers for upvotes and downvotes were displayed on every post to highlight controversy and brigading on the site. Once the metrics shown and heavy rules for contribution came into play, Reddit changed dramatically. Now in many cases, many Redditors will tell you that the content that is found on the front page of the site is highly repetitive; often (subtly) suggestively marketing products, companies, services and personalities within each content post... While behind the scenes, many of the most viewed subreddits (sub-forums) on the site carefully delete, ban, and mute posts from independent creators in effort to drive sales of paid marketing services the site provides, or perhaps to completely control what users see when they use the site... Its exceptionally tragic for people who can recall, citing the vibrance of the old Reddit that many people like me once knew when the community was smaller, less restrictive, and more open to seeing everything before it gracefully exited the site's front page.
Ahh Twitter... well we know Twitter's usual "embarrassment metrics" if we haven't already started to act as if the platform is not alien to the entire Internet... Twitter prominently displays metrics on how many followers each user has, likes and retweets on each post, and even who has commented. I think it's safe to assume that the majority of accounts on Twitter are getting very few likes, retweets, followers, and comments, and that's been going on since the site began because of the extremely large user base perhaps, but also because the frustration with not being seen and heard often drives people to speak more loudly, to do controversial things, and to buy advertising... All activities that drive profit and notoriety for Twitter. It would be likely impossible to catalogue how much benefit a platform like Twitter generates off of the contributions made by users (for no pay and little reward) on the site daily, but one thing's for certain, employees of Twitter and leadership make far more than the ones most dedicated to posting on Twitter, and even when Twitter as a company is not profitable, there is still that small handful of people in platform ownership that make the majority of the profit garnered from the actual creator community. The creator community gets rewarded with relatively useless metrics, as many posters with tens of thousands of followers or even more followers often only show 5 (max) likes on posts... WOW! That's quite embarrassing to someone with a huge volume of followers... as it's almost impossible to tell which followers one has are truly active/online/engaged and even possibly real human beings in nature, even when you look at your own back-end metrics on the platform. Some accounts are viewed on Twitter regularly, and they do benefit from healthy metrics being displayed, these are the accounts we see ALL THE TIME if we do follow them, which always makes me question whether they are paying for promotion, something there is no way to tell is occurring on the platform (of course).
The common thread here is that modern platforms are often set up to win popularity and profit first on the backs of the struggle that creators face in working to be discovered and sustain their careers. Life is made vastly less complex and far more profitable for (often already wealthy) individuals within companies that run platforms rather than for creators within their communities, while life becomes far more complex and unrewardingly stressful for creators seeking opportunity when platforms are run in this manner. Creators are driven subconsciously by stress when the display of these metrics are shown on their posts, when if the figures weren't displayed, less bias would be presented to potential viewers. The logical ones of us know well that the value of creator content is not best judged by the popularity of it any more, now that bots and brigading are rampant across the Internet. Independent and undiscovered creators on major platforms now are placed directly in competition for attention with corporations and personalities that often have much better (often behind the scenes) funding and backing.
It is unusually (and increasingly) becoming disadvantageous for independent creators to contribute work to major online platforms that display these kinds of "peer pressure metrics" up-front on their user contributed content. The odds and favor of success as an undiscovered creator work against them now, more than ever, on many major platforms. I recommend starting and cultivating your own web site, and building an audience of people and platforms that put substance first over pressure for popularity, that way originality and individuality of expression are also less threatened and better rewarded.
The "Peer pressure metrics" displayed on creator-based platforms are a big problem now for everyone. They often add artificial value to posts, they also cause content creators to burn out or to be de-valued. These metrics are often supplemented by agenda, illusion, and deception. With all the discussion concerning how bot accounts are overwhelming social platforms, our future is constantly under a competitive threat to our ability to find new opportunities for success. Social platforms were based upon creating opportunity, but in so many ways, they under-delivered, and burnt a lot of our time during that process in false hope. It's well beyond the point where we need to better focus on where real opportunity lies. It might even reduce the need for desperate souls to endlessly spam us and to deploy bots (with their terribly generic, often off-topic, and mostly useless comment spam) upon all of us.
It's an interesting time to consider whether removing the easily compromised "stress metrics" altogether would be a better move, but in order for that to work fairness needs major reorganization and absolute transparency as well. Until that happens, identifying platforms that subject us to peer pressure metrics, and not wasting time in contributing content to enrich them is wise, and highly recommended.
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