Lockdown forced us to all hermit in our homes, spend more time with family, create our own work environment, our own routines and spend more time on our screens. It seemed when routines were broken, travelling, fitness and most importantly connection was disrupted and that’s when it felt like everything and everyone came online. Even generations that were not typically familiar with tech (and turning the camera the right way round!) were given the opportunity to become more confident accessing social media. Education overnight had to strategize online lectures, zoom calls and educational video content. Companies who relied on people passing by or travelling to them quickly had to make themselves easily accessible in the digital world.
It’s not just profiting companies that have come online, with millions upon millions of eyes and thumbs flicking through content every second, charities and humanistic projects (including us) have become inspired to engage followers in short educational films that are no more than a minute or two. A great example of this is Matilda, an 11-year old student who made a film about the basics of Fairtrade, it’s worth checking out (https://schools.fairtrade.org.uk/interview-with-a-fairtrade-film-maker/). It took time but was easily made, made by someone young and was informing the public about an important subject, and can be seen by anyone.
This immediately speaks to me, as it heightens the possibility for more reachable education for everyone, so could we be witnessing the early stages the development SDG Goal #4 “Quality Education” for more people? This inspired me to think about the future of education, are we side-skipping the opening of a book and instead plugging our brains into one-minute videos? One of the biggest companies to emerge and thrive off the world in lockdown was TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service that averages 10-second videos before the algorithm that knows what you click and like, cleverly does its magic to line up the next video for you. It has given artists, coaches, DIY experts, teachers, performers and so many more the chance to show off their skills to the world. A friend and I were debating whether this new wave of streaming information was a good thing for our minds or not. In fact, that’s what’s inspired me to open up the conversation with you today.
There’s no doubt that TikTok engages a wide variety of people because of the short duration of these films. This is a great thing when it comes to greater awareness of factual based content that can lead to more support and passion for important causes. Here at What Can You Do, we’ve certainly taken advantage of the opportunity by getting creative with short films about “Sustainability and the SDG’s”, which in turn has led us to more subscribers. Anybody can make a film, many of us have easy access to a camera, and apps to edit, and certainly media channels to share the content we make. This gives space for more access to self-innovative work and hopefully economic growth – SDG Goal #8 “Decent Work and Economic Growth”! When more opportunities and markets are accessible and more people can share and involve themselves online, people are on a much more equal footing socially with digital opportunities than before. Which may improve equality between genders, race and physical ability.
However before we get excited about our shifting reality, we have to look at what we leave behind and the possible foot-traps we could find ourselves in. For a start, the shorter the film, the more likely it is to be watched, but can you get all the information over in a minute? One of the most difficult boogie traps to get around is what I briefly mentioned before – algorithms. The TikTok algorithm is based on the system that’s ‘triggered by the velocity of the engagement it receives. Content that gets less than that a 1/10 like-to-view ratio will stop growing’. So if you’re not getting enough engagement, it may not survive long enough on the feeds for people to see it. Similar to Instagram, ‘based on specific signals, it prioritises posts, pushing the most relevant ones towards the top and giving them the most visibility.’ In many ways we could argue that this is the new competitive market and you have get creatively smarter and more strategic about your postings. But is it fair? Does it give the same opportunities to those who are starting up their business, exploring their ideas online and are working twice as hard to be seen compared to those companies and people who can afford large engagement resources? It also exposes us to digital media learning our search patterns and using our personal data, which may be alright, but if it’s only feeding you content it knows you like, how will you learn about what you don’t know?
More importantly does it isolate those in society that aren’t as tuned in to the realm of social media?
When it comes to more informative posts, we have to be aware of the growth of fake media and ask the question, is it “quality” education or just simply a higher influx of diluted knowledge?
When everyone can be a filmmaker and post, it means not everything will be accurate. That means we have to become more responsible consumers of content, look at where you’re getting your information from, which creators you trust and what their sources are.
There will always be a combat to the good sides of a changing world. Where there’s space for informative and humanistic films, there’s space for adverts for useless and wasteful products. We have to keep the balance by being more mindful and grounded in how we view media.
Start by following companies and brands you believe in, get plugged into more information and educate yourself on subjects that matter to you. Even as I sit here to write a blog, I have posted two short videos on my social platforms. It’s easy, it’s engaging and it’s where it’s headed.
Get engaged with our new video content on our channel and let us know what you think!
Take care, keep well!
Blog: Eliza Pitkin
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“tellus” is a Latin word meaning “Earth” e.g. Tellus Mater the ancient Roman Earth Mother Goddess