Teenage Girls Develop Tics From TikTok [Content Made Simple]
Issue #243: Facebook's rebrand to fight a firestorm, a legendary tech journalist speaks up, and more.
TOP OF THE WEEK:
Teenage girls across the globe have been showing up at doctors’ offices with tics—physical jerking movements and verbal outbursts—since the start of the pandemic.
Movement-disorder doctors were stumped at first. Girls with tics are rare, and these teens had an unusually high number of them, which had developed suddenly. After months of studying the patients and consulting with one another, experts at top pediatric hospitals in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. discovered that most of the girls had something in common: TikTok.
According to a spate of recent medical journal articles, doctors say the girls had been watching videos of TikTok influencers who said they had Tourette syndrome, a nervous-system disorder that causes people to make repetitive, involuntary movements or sounds.
One of the most fascinating phenomena I’ve seen on social media in general, but TikTok specifically, is a sort of celebration or fetishization (but not in a sexual way, necessarily) of being “neurodivergent,” or “being a person whose brain function differently in one or more ways than is considered standard or typical.”
It’s as if young people see the way another TikTok user’s legitimate brain dysfunction makes them unique/interesting and they want to mimic it themselves, perhaps in hopes of attracting the attention of the person they are mimicking? I’m not sure, but having tics or exhibiting other kinds of neurodivergent behavior seems to be on the rise, and perhaps because of TikTok.
HITTING THE LINKS
Casey Newton insightful as usual here.
Facebook’s business has continued to thrive, but the company finds itself with fewer political allies today than it has ever had. Even more worrying, from Facebook’s perspective, is that increasingly there are signs that a younger generation finds its products less necessary than their parents did. At the very least, kids today don’t seem to find it cool.
Next week will serve up an absolute hurricane of Facebook news, the bulk of which will further dilute the brand equity. According to Facebook, dozens of journalists are planning to publish the results of their own investigations into the company. Haugen will testify again. Amidst all this, announcing that Facebook is now part of “Horizon Inc.,” or some similarly blank canvas of a noun, might seem like a feeble response. But at the very least it signals that a page is turning.
Just stellar reporting on Facebook’s continuous struggle to retain young people.
In 2013, David Ebersman, then Facebook’s chief financial officer, warned in an earnings call that the company’s daily users had declined, “specifically among younger teens.” After Facebook’s share price plunged on the comment, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, said the reaction to Mr. Ebersman’s remark had been “blown out of proportion.”
That same year, Mr. Zuckerberg tried — and failed — to buy Snapchat to increase Facebook’s appeal with young users. So the company decided to attract youths with apps it already owned, like Instagram, two people with knowledge of the decision said. In 2016, Instagram copied a key feature of Snapchat known as Stories, which lets people take videos and photos and post them as 24-hour temporary status updates.
One of the most legendary tech journalists in the last 100 years, Walt Mossberg, gets honest about one of the most legendary tech giants in human history, Mark Zuckerberg.
Mossberg: Well, I think the company is toxic. Let’s find another synonym for menace and cancer. They’re toxic. First of all, they don’t follow their own terms of service, which is the minimum. In other words, things they said would not be allowed, they don’t even enforce that. They’re basically lying. They’re doing stuff and denying they’re doing it. And then it comes out. One way or the other, somebody leaks it, or in the case of this whistleblower, she has all these documents. And it’s exhausting, and it’s terrible for the social media industry.
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