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Netflix’s new "Hype House" reality show follows teenagers who live in a Los Angeles mansion with underwhelming story lines about their love and business adventures as 16- to 20-year-old-celebrities that found fame on the app TikTok. These young creators became famous not necessarily overnight, but typically in just a few months.
Although fame was something they were aspiring to, like anyone thrust into stardom, they weren’t aware of the consequences of that pursuit, as the show explores.
The short season was annoying to watch, at best. The show doesn’t really hold strong interest for most people out of middle or high school since the main characters are uber famous teenagers. However, as someone who has worked in social media management and online brand building, I was interested in the structure of the house that purportedly increased the follower count of roommates by tens of millions collectively, producing real ad dollars for the creators and their hangers on.
The Hype House roommates are under constant pressure to post because the online creator landscape is ever expanding, with vlogers and influencers burning out and losing attention as quickly as they become famous. Because of social media, someone anywhere in the world can be recognized for their comedic timing or aspirational posts and gain access to the lifestyle, resources and media attention that traditional celebrities would only get through major movie roles or personal scandal (e.g., Anna Nicole Smith). There are significant mental health risks that young content creators incur when they are the primary breadwinner for their families and, due to supposed pressure of the algorithm, they are forced to regularly post lest they become irrelevant and lose followers.
It’s consistently uncomfortable to watch the kids on "Hype House" incur manipulation from roommates and be pressured into posting. This pressure seemed to be the main source of relationship stress and conflict.
TikTok stars and sisters Charlie and Dixie who are (mostly) un-featured side characters in "Hype House," talk in their own Hulu show about how they don’t assume that their present level of viewers is permanent. Fame has become so democratized and accessible that someone can post a seemingly innocuous video or post about a night out or funny anecdote and springboard that popularity into a career, but the longevity of that career is impossible to predict.
Every interaction today for teens and college students is experienced through the lens of social media presentation. I can’t remember the last time I went to a group dinner and someone didn’t post about either the food or something funny that we were talking about immediately. Our phones are one with our palms and no one seems to mind.
In October 2021 a previously unknown college student posted a pretty uninteresting video of her visiting her boyfriend at college. The boyfriend is known now as “Couch Guy” online. Just a few weeks after the post went viral, the story was talked about on NBC, The Today Show and every other major news outlet. Obviously there is always a risk that every person in the world will see what you post online, especially with a public profile. But it’s concerning that with the ubiquity of social media accounts, we aren’t taking more care to not over-analyze the lives of people who unintentionally fall into their 15 minutes of fame. We as viewers should show more compassion to young creators trying to navigate having a large online following.
Patricia Patnode is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: email@example.com