Something I think is interesting is how the internet does not simply decentralise the 'social network' there are still hubs in the graph, that is for sure. But instead how readily it breaks down and reforms these positions. The example of cancel culture is rife now, and it stems from the way the internet works at a fundamental social level, spilling into the more nepotistic mediums of Television and Film.
What is interesting is the adaptation of traditional media to the internet age, where TV and film have historically had a few 'stock' actors, music has always been a lot faster and looser with its stars; with people coming and going from the industry every few years. The internet has, if anything sped this up with new acts being heralded for one or two albums and then forgotten about by the industry after that.
Platforms like TikTok have finally created a platform where the full plasticity of this sociality is felt. No longer is there the restriction of purely mass appeal, instead popular appeal replaces it. For once smaller 'sub-cultures' can be picked out and their central figures found; of course this has happened before but not on the scale of automation that algorithmic platforms can do.
Perhaps this is why the proliferation of the algorithmic feed has been so successful even if seemingly hated, because it connects you to people like you who like the same things you do and finds new social hubs for you to congregate around. With TikTok essentially deterritorialising some concept of the classic American high-school clique trope (a la Breakfast Club) and reterrtorialising it around this seemingly self-assembling niches (that of course, have been guided by The Algorithm).
For example the concept of the Indie Kid has become popular through a recognition of an assembling of a certain algorithmic musical taste, a certain algorithmic style of dress (informed by historic fashion). Of course the concept of someone who is into indie and dresses in certain ways and has a specific haircut has always been there. But there's been a move to formalise this concept as a person who exists outside of the simple collection of culture they consume and instead as someone with a personality that is so. In essence by creating this virtual person, someone will fill the niche of it, and have the potential to become a hub in the social network as the 'archetypical' indie kid.
This dynamism is something traditional media has acknowledged, of course but the fact remains that the structures in place at these historic companies are always focused on talent rather than any sort of ability to comprehend how the sociality of the internet works. The best don't rise to the top, they never did, but on the internet you can definitely 'play the game' to be seen.
Perhaps a worrying dynamic however is the people who know how to 'play the game' too well and gain a lot of power. I think one driving force for a lot of people to become popular is a want to replicate their social life, for example the idea of 'stan culture' where popular figures are presented in this sort of perverse idealised sociality. Looking at twitter trends regarding popular Minecraft youtubers in 2020 has yielded this sort of perverse idolatry over every small moment between two people. This is an extreme example of course, but it's been replicated in this sort of model friendship portrayed in for example the TikTok Hypehouse which again shows this unit of people as a group of perfect friends instead of, perhaps cynically on my part, a group of people looking to make money.
When this dynamic is utilised there is inherently a difference of power between the 'stan' and the creator which has been abused time after time. This is perhaps due to the (lack of) separation between creator and fan present online. Where TV is decidedly one-sided many platforms incentivise audience interaction. This sort of idolatry of the social aspects of creator's lives leads to the idolatry of their friendship which opens the 'stan' up to any sort of abuse. This isn't to say that this doesn't also happen in TV, Film, Music, etc. but that the process is much more 'accessible' here.
This blog has been a bit rambly perhaps but something is clear to me, there's an immense liquidity in how social networks online work perhaps because they are (at the most basic definition) deterritorialised, divorced from any geographic location, there's no longer a bar or club people meet in exclusively. The actual investment for a person to interact with another person online is very low, almost zero; in person it's much higher, you must arrange to meet physically! This will be utilised by platforms going ahead to truly find the 'perfect peers' for you. What does this mean for relationships in person? Especially since everyone has had a year of pretty much online-only relationships