#9: What Happens Next?

I’ve had time for approximately 3 posts this year (this being #3) so please enjoy while I hope to be back before the end of the year. I also did not edit this much so the trains of thought might go different directions at times. 😵‍💫

I’m realizing more and more that everything I’m passionate about revolves around a single concept, specifically the continuous refinement and exploration of that single concept. Realizing there is no final answer, there is no end goal, can make it unnerving but equally joyful. Although if there IS an end goal, I think it’s just being able to contribute to whatever that may be, being able to find the nucleus and add something of your own, not for egotistical reasons but just for the sake of joining the endless creation. It’s not about progress for the sake of progress. It’s about art. Creating something that might evoke a new behavior, thought, feeling, emotion in the person on the other side. 

And that for me is how technology and social platforms are leading to a shift in collective consciousness. It’s making us exponentially more self aware, it’s redefining what community and self-expression mean, and it’s challenging a good amount of our historically dormant tendencies and beliefs. Most of my writing has and will be around this idea. 

We’re in an age where the more we want to build for the external world, the more we have to understand our internal worlds. When computers first hit households, it forced people to think of their minds in the context of computers. Are we machines as well? Can machines think like us one day? When humans went to space, we pondered if there was life beyond the stars, what the universe actually was, and our importance here on Earth. Now these types of questions come up all the time and have splintered so many different ways it’s harder than ever to understand how our minds, and our spirits, are truly being influenced by the tech we use on a daily basis. 

One thing is for sure, technology and humans influence each other. This is no one way road. Just because we build it doesn’t mean we’re controlling how it influences us back. 

I’d like to dissect Tiktok, the heart of “social tech,”  for the Nth time to elaborate on this idea above and also play around with the question “what happens next?” 

TikTok, again.

Tiktok continues to blow my mind. Every single day. Just as much as it did when it first hit the scene. Even though the functionality itself has largely remained the same (yes I know there are cooler creative tools), the way people use it has changed drastically. I’m convinced it’s changed online expression more in the last 18 months (since the pandemic started) than IG or Snap did in the the last decade. And it keeps changing month by month by month. You can tell if a Tiktok video is from 2019 because it just *feels* old. It’s the same feeling as seeing someone story a meal on IG - it’s just an outdated way of expressing yourself - but that took almost a decade to get to that point. On Tiktok, every year the way people express themselves changes and behaviors/trends become outdated quickly. 

IG and Snapchat were like volcanoes. They exploded, forever changing the way people express themselves online, but then people used the platforms largely the same way for the next 5-10 years. The behaviors became standard. Functionality was added, designs were changed, users grew older, but the core behavior of how you express yourself and communicate on those platforms still remains largely the same to this day. 

Tiktok, on the other hand, is like a volcano that hasn’t stopped spewing. Functionality can stay the same, but the USERS change how it’s used. I honestly think Tiktok might be the first “evergreen” platform that literally never goes away. It’s like a blob that will grow and mutate and grow and mutate but not because Tiktok is adding cool new tools (obviously that helps), but because it’s a platform the users can influence so powerfully that it affects how everyone uses it. Tiktok represents what technology as a whole will do more and more of - influence us as we influence it. 

The question I pose now is what happens next? There’s always a next. And in order to predict the future you gotta understand the past, so let’s look at how tiktok has been used up to now. 

Self reflection → Self expression

Like I said earlier, all technology forces self reflection. The computer and the mind, space flight and our purpose on earth, the written word and the synthesis of our thoughts, the camera and the use of our eyes. 

So what type of self reflection is Tiktok causing? I think it’s something way deeper. It’s forcing us to look at our desires, our beliefs, our subconscious, and just our overall identity. Our soul. 

We keep sharing more and more of our internal worlds. We’ve already shared our external worlds. The external world is not infinite. We’ve exhausted that. Of course it will never go away but that type of sharing will only evolve incrementally from here on out (until maybe when we hit ubiquitous AR/VR use which is likely still a decade away). BUT, the internal world is arguably infinite. How people share their feelings, thoughts, emotions, ideas, stories can go on forever. An external world piece of content needs to be coupled with some internal expression as well now. Can the internal world EVER be exhausted? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. If that’s the case, then truly thinking about the post-tiktok era of expression is a trip. How much more open can we be online? How much more vulnerable? One could argue the next decade will be the current 16-21yo type of expression spreading to the mainstream. People outside of that core demographic becoming more open, more vulnerable, more expressive online. But then what about that core demo that’s driving this type of expression? How does their behavior evolve? 

I think the future of social is experimental. If social media is truly turning into a way to express a more authentic self, there will never be an end goal. One does not simply wake up and discover their authentic self one day. It’s a life long exercise, and it’s not linear. You bounce left and right and up and down. How far can you push your identity and what can you experiment with using these social tools. And through that experimentation, you will inevitably discover more about your authentic self, but again, there will never be a day where one reaches full satisfaction. Age is the only thing that might cause people to stop searching. 

In other words, social has gone from sharing your external world (this is what I saw today) to your internal world (this is how I felt today) and I think we’re entering a new era where it’s about new worlds (this is what I wonder, this is what I dream, let me try this etc). Social media becomes less of a representation and more of a playground (which paradoxically becomes more of a representation). And that can go on forever. 

Think about how meme culture has evolved in tandem with this. The format of memes has of course evolved, but it’s the content itself more so. The wittier humor, the deeper reasons, the absurd sarcasm, the total nonsense that actually does make sense, THAT’S what has evolved. Everything is DEEPER now, more and more meaning to be discovered under the surface. More layers, more perspectives. Sometimes that meaning can’t be expressed with words. The internet at this point is an overflow of relatable content. The classic IG meme isn’t funny anymore because it’s too obvious. Relatable situations 10 years ago that caused people to be like “woah you feel that way too?” are now just a given. Now people want you to tap into their souls, to really step inside their mind. It’s about the unspoken, and being able to understand the unspoken. That’s what intrigues the young generation. 

People didn’t stop using Instagram solely because it became toxic. It just became boring. It’s too expected. One did everything they could do on that platform. I’m not saying it’s NOT toxic, because it clearly is, but Gen Z is too aware to be affected by that as much anymore. If anything, millennials are the ones still stuck in that toxic goop. 

This again all comes back to the human spirit. The first step in the spiritual journey is becoming aware of the nature of your mind and reality. Now I’m convinced this is happening on a universal level fueled by technology. We globalized the external world, now we’re globalizing the internal world. Which is A LOT more complex. Isn’t that funny? Tech is often thought as the furthest thing away from the human spirit. Something that exists on the outside of us. Something that would take us out of physical reality, but I actually think it’s forcing us to do the opposite - to take a hard look at this reality we call “real.” Really tech is forcing all of us to do the most human thing one can do - become fully self aware.  

What happens next? 

So anyways, yes what happens next? 

Well, I don’t think a platform will literally ever replace Tiktok. The only thing that would is a paradigm shift to AR that they somehow fuck up. But honestly even then I’m not convinced people will fully ditch their phones. I think social platforms can co-exist with different purposes, but I think we’ve reached the end of the platform era in general. To create an impactful social product now it needs to live on top of platforms. Within platforms. Layers. 

Which is also why the so called metaverse has to grow from Tiktok-like behavior or somehow be interconnected with it. The metaverse isn’t the metaverse without Gen Z, the users that will actually bring those behaviors mainstream. The majority of Gen Z is nowhere near any type of present day metaverse talk or action right now. It doesn’t matter if they see or hear about something, where is the action and investment? Tiktok is still their metaverse. I love NFTs, but it’s so early in that game and the proper incentives are still not in place to onboard Gen Z (the incentives cannot be monetary). Playing video games is also not “metaverse” behavior. Big virtual worlds have been around for decades. Connecting some of those worlds isn’t revolutionary. And the Oasis will only ever exist, if at all, as a Netflix-like platform - something you set aside time for. People do care about seeing other people. Physically. You can’t replace that, but you can build with that in mind. 

Unless something drastic changes in the next 3-5 years from a social perspective, which I highly doubt will happen because Tiktok is stronger than ever, the true metaverse behaviors will spawn from Tiktok. Treating it as just the decade’s “Instagram” or “YouTube” is missing the point entirely. Tiktok is Gen Z. Gen Z is Tiktok. And the genius is that Gen Z KNOWS that no one else really knows what true Tiktok is about, because if you’re not Gen Z your experience is probably more like an IG Reels or a Youtube/Vine.  Gen Z tiktok is about sharing a secret language and basking in the absurdities of life together. Communicating in fucking code. It’s not just slang. It’s a collective understanding of the unspoken. Triple layered meanings. Breaking through the simulation. Precise vibes and moods. Extreme sarcasm no one else would understand. 1 of 1 aesthetics. Etc. It’s a new language. It’s communicating with art, but not art as typically understood. Art’s not the painting on your wall, or the song you made in your bedroom. It’s a way of communicating. Expressing your innermost emotions, thoughts, ideas that can’t be expressed with words. Millennials aren’t just “older.” They don’t even speak the same language. 

I could go on about this forever. I think the human race is in for a crazy shift in collective consciousness in the coming decades. It’s already happening. We’re becoming more and more aware of ourselves, others, and society/existence as a whole, and the crazy part is it’s JUST STARTED. 

Think of it like this. As a millennial growing up, we took computer classes. So we learned how to type at the speed of thought early on. Second nature. Our parents still poke at keyboards with their pointer fingers because they didn’t learn young.

With Gen Z, the camera is their keyboard, and just as how a whole generation of typists flipped the world on its head, this will continue to do the same. It’s impossible to predict how, but it will. 

P.s. I still ❤️ my millennial generation sorry for shitting on u above