Debord and TikTok

“The alienated production of abstract commodities becomes secondary to commodity consumption. With the arrival of the ‘Information Revolution’, alienated consumption has become as much a duty for the working class as alienated production. The sum total of industrial production and consumer consumption is then sold as complete commodity, whose production must continue at all costs – the reproduction of the spectacle.”

“The Society of Spectacle” Guy Debord 1967
Page 38

This quote has me thinking about the new movement of social media platforms to make short videos a big part of their content delivery.

Vine was the first to use short (6-second) videos to create engagement. Today we have TikTok, with its catchy songs and sound bites. It is undeniable the success of TikTok among the younger crowd. I had a person tell me that they’ve spent 4h scrolling through TikTok in a day.

Seeing this success with the younger generations, Meta and Google did not want to be left behind. Google launched Shorts on YouTube and Meta added Reels to Instagram. Of these two additions, Instagram’s has become the most insidious. As of this month, once you start scrolling through your Instagram feed you will see reels, videos, and posts from people you do not follow and a lot of sponsored content which have made the candid images from your friends become rare to find.

Based on these strategies of adding short-videos to feeds, it is safe to say that companies have found a way to keep users’ eyes on their platforms for longer, therefore, exposing them to more targeted ads.

This is where I find the connection between TikTok and Debord’s quote where alienated consumption has become the duty of the working class.

Scrolling through countless amounts of content just to get shown more ads that might increase your probability of engaging in capital exchange is the final goal of the internet today. It has become another vector for consumption and mindless entertainment and, given its newness, there’s much to be studied on the effects of this user experience in cognitive development. After all, these experiences are designed to be addicting.