TikTokers, as F. Scott Fitzgerald might have put it, are “different from you and me”.
If you’re not from an era when telephones served one purpose and an hour-long call to New York could cost you the equivalent of a monthly payment on an AT&T i-Phone when he was known as Ma Bell, perhaps a little explanation is in order.
A pen you say? It’s a low-tech device once used to communicate over long distances when you used your hand to press it against paper.
And if it was something that had a significant impact on lives, deep or witty, it would eventually find its way into the thousands, if not millions.
As for who F. Scott Fitzgerald was, he was a quaint forerunner of social media influencers/bloggers who were called essayists, short story writers, and novelists.
He tried to make a living by enlightening humanity to the flamboyance – and excess – of the Jazz Age.
No, the Jazz Age is not when point guard John Stockton took the Utah Jazz to the promised land of the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998 only to fail both times.
It refers to a time when America was turned upside down by the deployment of instant communication to the masses better known as commercial radio.
“Influencers” could reach thousands of people who turned a button with devices connected to wireless technology known as radio frequency instead of those within earshot.
You no longer need to go to a jazz club in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles to listen to trendy music. You could turn on your radio in Peoria and enjoy it all.
This paved the way for the creation and standardization of cultural tastes and discourse patterns that ignored regional and local holds.
Radio was a medium that spread racial stereotypes like wildfire across the country with shows like “Amos ‘n Andy.”
People didn’t have to leave the comfort of their living room to engage – albeit in a way back then – with complete strangers
The radio, as it matured, introduced demagoguery to the airwaves.
Extravagant outfits according to the mores of the time were adopted by young people.
Flapper dresses – long, form-fitting flapper dresses – which today’s Kardashians would consider frumpy burlap sacks – were all the rage much to the chagrin of old morons.
The shocking 1920s equivalent of the crack addiction of many young men today was wide, pleated, deep-turned trousers.
Fitzgerald would spend a field day in the age of the internet exploring the excesses, superficiality, and interplay of the self-proclaimed enlightened that masks emptiness and becomes boring due to its repetitiveness.
This goes even for those on the cutting edge of technology who need to push the envelope to stay relevant in the digital world they move in.
Consider the evolution of social media as an idea of the potential for the shallowness and vast void of face-to-face human interconnection as a precursor to Mark Zuckerburg’s coming meta-universe.
Turn to TikTok to see where we’re going in the journey that began on November 2, 1920 when KDKA in Pittsburgh became the first commercial radio station to broadcast.
This is where you’ll see stunts that made John Belushi’s “Animal House” character appear restrained and channeled by Emily Post.
It’s also where Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame theory is whittled down to just 15 seconds, if that.
It’s a place where a sucker isn’t born every minute, but at a frequency of about a dozen every second.
Facebook’s younger cousin, TikTok – the latest tech refinement that took man to the moon – has given us risque dances to moving dance floors and slumber influencers.
First the moving dance floor. We’re not talking about the gymnasium floor retracting into the high school dance scene in “It’s A Wonderful Life” as the Charleston is played sending revelers diving into the pool below.
Instead, we’re talking challenges — factual and implied — on TikTok.
On Monday, a 25-year-old man died on a Houston highway.
Police, based on a video apparently recorded by the man and shared on Facebook, said he was dancing on the roof of an 18-wheeler trailer as it accelerated down the highway.
Whether he jumped on the trailer or got on it while it was parked doesn’t matter.
His desire for 15 seconds of fame in the vast bowels of social media cost him his life when the truck went under a bridge and slammed into the overpass.
As for sleep influencers, it’s an extension of the 1930s marketing stunt when a man was paid to “sleep” in a New York storefront in his pajamas to demonstrate how restful a specific mattress was while passers-by were speechless.
Although it’s likely a one-off, over-the-top gig, TikTok has elevated it to career status.
The king of sleep influencers – even though he seems to sleep on a twin bed – is Jakey Boehm.
The 28-year-old from Australia’s Gold Coast climbs into bed every night at 10 p.m. to entertain TikTok fans around the world with his throws and flips.
Boehm says he earns an average of $35,000 a month.
Boehm adds to the entertainment value by having trick lights, sirens, and other sounds that “wake him up” when someone buys him a virtual gift that he lets him choose.
They can also shell out upwards of 50 cents to $600 for a number of other irritating interruptions, hence his monthly take of $35,000.
Other sleep influencers aren’t as entertaining. They’re just a big nap if, as Fitzgerald might say of the rich he skewed, a “boring fat.”
Duane Olson, who is 25 and lives in Hyde Park in New York, is sleeping.
He goes to bed with a sign above his headboard that says “just me sleeping”.
He has some 13,000 followers, more than a few of whom volunteer to send him a few bucks as they watch him sleep and he probably isn’t dreaming of sheep, but of TikTok follower cutthroats.
He was able to earn around $400 a month sleeping.
So much for the breathless promise made in the 1990s that the Internet would usher in a new Age of Enlightenment.
This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at [email protected]