Three Things This Week
1. For Sale: Content Creator, Very Viewed
What it is: Several startups now allow influencers to monetize everyday decisions and mundane interactions in what is being called “the attention economy.”
Why it’s what your teens want to spend money on: In the attention economy, you’re either one of the monetized elite or you’re one of the plebeians begging for attention from the monetized. There is no in-between. One app, called NewNew, works by allowing fans to purchase “shares” in what the app’s founders call “a human stock market.” The shares unlock voting power in polls that influencers post, letting the fanbase select, for example, whether an influencer eats eggs or pancakes for breakfast. Another app called PearPop enables users to purchase interaction from their favorite influencer in the form of a comment for the steep price of $250 or best offer. Young social media users very much want to feel connected to their influencers, who may feel like their personal friends, so this is a logical next step.
2. Will The Real Mental Health Professional Please Stand Up?
What it is: People who post about mental health on TikTok are being mistaken for actual mental health professionals on the app.
Why it’s so hard to tell the difference: Mental health themes aren’t just a TikTok trend; discussions about mental health permeate the app, seemingly turning every post or comment section into a place where mental health is addressed. Everyone posts about mental health on TikTok. It is an omnipresent issue. As Mashable explains, some creators on the app will talk about anxiety symptoms or diagnosable mental health conditions while being purposefully ambiguous about their expertise. At the same time, there are plenty of legitimate mental health experts jumping on the app, whether to bolster their professional practice or simply to offer resources to other TikTokers. It’s more important than ever that teens understand how to vet an expert that they see talking online, and that they know that talking to caring adults like you about their mental health will be more helpful than just scrolling through a hashtag of dubious, often contradictory advice.
3. They'll Bet
What it is: It’s pretty well-established that Gen Z isn’t as passionate as previous generations about traditional team sports. Now that some are coming of legal age to gamble online, they’re placing small online bets that give them a higher social stake in the game’s outcome.
Why it’s gamification 2.0: Fans of online sports betting point to it as the next evolution of fantasy leagues. Placing smaller cash bets on sports games makes young people feel more a part of the experience of the game, and therefore they care more about the outcome. The games don’t even have to be real, as betting-based, AI-played “splorts” like Blaseball demonstrate. Online betting is also easier than ever and legal limits continue to evaporate. You’re supposed to verify that you’re over the age of 18 to participate on sports betting websites, but that doesn’t mean that everyone participating is really out of high school.
Slang of the Week
shifting: altering your consciousness so you feel like you're not in your current reality (CR) but are actually in an alternate reality ("desired reality," or DR), a practice that is a growing TikTok trend. (Ex: "I couldn’t handle being at home anymore, so I shifted to Hogwarts and spent the whole night hanging out with Hermione Granger and planning pranks with Draco Malfoy.”)
Project Gucciberg and Deepfake Discernment
The company MSCHF recently unveiled Project Gucciberg, which (so far) contains 22 readings of classic literature using a deepfaked version of rapper Gucci Mane’s voice. Known previously for songs like “Wake Up in the Sky” and “I Get the Bag” (and of course, albums like East Atlanta Santa 3), Gucci Mane can now be heard reading Pride and Prejudice, A Modest Proposal, Anna Karenina, Beowulf, Peter Pan, and 17 other classics in their entirety. The recordings even come complete with audiobook covers designed to look like new Gucci Mane albums.
The recordings actually do sound like his voice, but there are enough tics and hiccups to remind listeners that, alas, Gucci Mane is not really reading us the classics. Yet this kind of technology is improving all the time. Last week we mentioned the fake Tom Cruise videos on TikTok, and that their creator Chris Ume’s goal was to remind us to be training ourselves to discern deepfakery: “People just have to learn to be more critical—that’s the point,” he said to Fortune.
The ability to regard what we see online with a healthy dose of skepticism should already be considered an essential skill. Quotes are so regularly taken out of context, and the most condemning half of stories artificially enlarged to garner clicks through outrage; on social media, pictures and videos aren’t only edited, but curated—by definition they never represent the whole story. Now, as celebrities and politicians are more and more convincingly being made to say things they’ve never said, the ability to recontextualize what we see online will only become more important.
Although deepfake technology will continue to improve, so will the technology and tactics to help others discern reality. Security company Norton has compiled a list of 15 signs that something might be a deepfake. Here are some questions to spark conversation with your teens as well:
- What do you think about deepfakes? Are you concerned at all about them?
- Do you naturally tend to be more skeptical or trusting of what you see online?
- How would you respond if someone created a deepfake video of one of your classmates? What about one of you?
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
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