Vox writes about the spate of fictional characters on TikTok:

“In June, the UK tabloid the Mirror published a story about a TikTok video that discussed “the four biggest dating app red flags,” according to a creator named @sydneyplus, who said she worked at a dating site. Said red flags include standing in front of a fancy car (likely not their own), describing oneself as an “entrepreneur,” or being weirdly obsessed with their mom. The article is a typical hastily written web post capitalizing on trending content in order to drive pageviews, and was later picked up by the New York Post. The only problem was that @sydneyplus doesn’t work at a dating site, because @sydneyplus doesn’t really exist.”

Ryan Broderick covered this this week, taking the time to fall down the rabbit hole of fake-influencer videos:

“I hadn’t had the time to really sit down and go through these accounts until recently and I really can’t overstate how surreal the whole thing is. The Sydney character just completed a storyline on her account and to see it progress over dozens of short videos is really mind-bending.

“On her page, Sydney identifies herself as a dating app employee, which, I mean, ethically is, at the very least, weird. In August, Sydney told her followers that she got a ‘report of an account that was unusually active.’ She then discovered the account belongs to her sister’s fiancé. And then, across 37 TikTok videos posted across a month and a half, Sydney chronicled how she tried to tell her sister about the cheating before the couple gets married. It’s totally weird and, once again, none of this is real.”

Broderick wonders if it’s not part of a long-term shift, a blurring of lines between entertainment and social media:

“There was this assumption many years ago that YouTubers would eventually graduate to traditional entertainment. There was a brief moment where internet celebrities were given chances to host TV shows or star in movies. But it really hasn’t ever stuck. Even the current wave of TikTok emo is beginning to feel more and more like a flash in the pan. But what if we got it wrong all along? What if, instead of influencers becoming movie stars, scripted entertainment was supposed to morph into formats that fit parasocial online relationships?”