Network column: My fans belong to me – culture

The superstar culture is “on fire,” she diagnosed some time ago New York Times. It said that celebrity, which is common in Hollywood, is far too decoupled from the experience of the masses. And instead of triggering longings in the fans, the luxury gap is now causing rejection. The lockdowns in the Corona pandemic in particular would have made this clearer than ever before, as film stars complained about not being able to leave their huge estates while the following starved in their one-room shacks.

More connected stars on social media platforms are taking over the sociocultural niche once reserved for Oscar winners. But even there, popularity is a very fleeting affair. Anyone who is a star on Twitter can be a nobody on YouTube a few clicks away. Or the other way around. If young people follow you on Twitch, you are just one of many on Instagram.

It has long been possible to buy subscribers for your social media channels at wholesale prices

In the social media, which are largely decoupled from the traditional mechanisms of the mass media, it is no longer the personality or the decisions of the opinion leaders that determine popularity, but the mechanisms of the platform. Getting fans to switch from one website to the other is not that easy. And what actually happens if the digital adopted country goes bankrupt? It’s not completely unimaginable. Just think of Myspace or the short video app Vine. When the latter shut down the servers in 2017numerous video makers who had built a lush following were suddenly left with nothing.

Followers – also called friends elsewhere – are a veritable currency in the present. Of course, it’s not just about idealistic influence. It is used to measure the value of a personal brand, it determines how much you can charge for paid postings and sponsorship contracts. It is not for nothing that they can be bought at wholesale prices on relevant portals. A platform promises 5,000 subscribers for EUR 39.99, and “immediate delivery” is guaranteed. But if friends are the most important motto, the question quickly arises as to who they actually “belong to”.

“Big social media companies are deliberately holding our personal contact information hostage”

A lobby group called My Friends My Data is now struggling into this mixed situation. Their main concern is to get the major social platforms to adopt a new industry-wide standard that would allow users to transfer their followers from one app to another, creating more competition between platforms. Just as you can take your telephone number with you from one provider to the next, this should also happen with social contacts in the future.

“Big social media companies are deliberately holding our personal contact information hostage,” says Daniel Liss, founder and CEO of Dispo, a currently popular photo app. “This limits consumer choice, hampers competition and hampers freedom of expression. We are committed to giving our community members control over their friend data.”

One speaks very self-confidently of representing the “most promising companies” in the industry. In addition to Dispo, apps with names such as Spam, Muze or Itsme also belong to the interest group. It’s okay if you’ve never heard of the start-ups participating in the initiative. Although already armed with hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital, they are far from being among the major platforms on which global discourse is being shaped today. However, it seems rather doubtful that they voluntarily let themselves be deprived of the sovereignty of interpretation.

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