Fame for All
The illusion of fame on social media and my experience.
My face has been seen around the world over 25-million times, but I am not even remotely famous.
In the early 2010s, I began creating profiles on various social media platforms. My first was Twitter, then Facebook, then Instagram, and so on. I was around 13 years old when I had signed up for virtually every relevant social media on the internet and I could not be happier because I spent a lot of time connecting with people I know, sharing statuses and photos, and scrolling through explore pages. A few years in, I decided I wanted to use these platforms to build a following and influence.
The first time I started getting some recognition on social media was in 2018 on Twitter. I tweeted:
For me, more than five likes on Twitter means my tweet is doing well. To receive more than 700, I was excited and felt a sense of pride for thinking of something funny and original. Friends joked around saying things like "Don't forget me when you're famous!" and "You're Twitter famous!", but it did not exactly feel that way.
The social media I paid the most attention to growing up has been Instagram. I have been through several accounts and gained quite a following on one. My personal account has just under 3,000 followers, which is above average for teens my age, but it is nothing noteworthy. My photography account, where I featured photography by Instagram artists and myself, had reached over 9,000 followers at its peak (before I lost motivation to keep it running). This was an accomplishment to me because I had finally felt some sort of success as a creator and curator on social media. This photography account was moderately popular in the small-photographers community on Instagram, so I felt like I had gained some sort of fame. But in the grand scheme of things, nobody outside of the community knew who I was. I was popular, but not famous.
In 2019, I downloaded TikTok after months of hesitation. I thought the app was for singers and dancers using the apps music-with-video feature. I was completely wrong. The app is filled, and I mean totally packed, with users of all kinds from everywhere around the world. TikTok has over 500-million active users. I began creating fun videos with my friends and posted them in hopes of some recognition, and I got some. My first videos got less than 100 views and way fewer likes. Seeing virtually everybody else on the app getting thousands and millions of views, I thought I should keep trying to do that too.
One day, a video of mine got over 300 likes and I was ecstatic. I thought I was making it big because the likes came in so fast. That video ended up reaching and staying at a little more than 300 likes, but the instance alone gave me hope. After a few weeks, I finally made a video that "blew up". Within a couple days of posting it, my video had over 40,000 likes and over 200,000 views. At that time I really thought I was making it. Friends told me I was on their "For You" page (TikTok's equivalent to "Explore" pages on other social media's) and that I was famous. This then began to happen more often with my second video to blow up gain over 500,000 views. And my third over 400,000. Then, one day it got unreal.
I posted a video using another user's audio (meaning they created an original video and I created one using the sound from their's) and it reached over 3-million views and over 740,000 likes. Everybody I knew told me I was TikTok famous, that I made it, this was my time. I wanted to believe them, but it still did not feel real. To me, a video of me got popular and I enjoyed the moment, but I was not automatically famous from it.
A while later, maybe a few weeks, I posted a video of me writing the Nike logo and swoosh next to it with a calligraphy pen. The response was insane. The video reached over 8-million views and 900,000 likes. A few weeks later, another video reached 4-million views and has just under 1-million likes. This video was different though because video licensers and meme accounts on Instagram were reaching out to me for use of my video. The video was even put in a YouTube compilation of TikToks. While all this was happening, other videos in between reached between a couple thousand views to tens of thousands of views. I really thought I was actually famous, or at least TikTok famous, this time.
Since these videos went viral, I have gained over 50,000 followers on TikTok and a few more videos reached 1- to 2-million views while others range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands. I thought I was getting famous, my friends called me famous, and family members were impressed. But then I discovered the reality of fame on social media.
If you asked anybody and everybody at your mall, or the airport, or school who "Mark Sorace" is, they would not have a clue. I am not famous. Not even a little bit.
The truth behind TikTok is that everybody is famous. The app was built to make users obsessed with fame and numbers. Especially numbers. From what I understand, TikTok videos gain traction when the first few people who see it on their "For You" page watch it all the way through, give it a like, and/or share it with others. These three actions can make or break a video. If the first viewers follow procedure, the video will be shown to even more people on their "For You" pages. And again, if those users watch, like, and/or share, the video will keep moving on, reaching hundreds, then thousands, and even millions of users.
This is what separates TikTok from other platforms. It is extremely easy to get clout and falsely let's users believe they are getting famous. It is essentially a game of numbers and making them larger. TikTok, like other platforms, provides a following and follower count on each users profile, but unlike other platforms, it also displays the users total amount of received likes across all videos. When people see an account with hundreds of thousands or millions of likes and a follower count above 10,000, they assume they are essentially "TikTok famous". In reality, the user could have hundreds of videos with less than 100 likes, but the one that "blew up" boosts their total like count and gives them better representation. With each video that blows up, followers roll in extremely fast.
So, if someone on TikTok has 100,000 followers and 2-million total likes on their videos, that sounds extremely successful to other users. But put in comparison to other social media's, this power is almost useless.
Users on Instagram or Twitter with 100,000 followers are considered popular, or sometimes influencers, because acquiring that following is much more difficult and the users are real and active. Brands may even reach out to these users for sponsorships because they know they have influence and power. TikTok cannot say the same unless the creator has millions of followers. In my opinion, a following of around 1-million on TikTok is the equivalent to around 100,000 on Instagram and Twitter.
At the end of the day, almost no one on social media has a "household name". That is essentially reserved for celebrities on television and the big screen because they reach an audience larger than the audience behind a cell phone. So have fun creating on social media, but do not get caught up in chasing fame and increasing numbers. If you do want the fame, take your time and be yourself along the way. It will come eventually.