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Some advice for being a person in the year 2020, couched in a conversation about TikTok. Of course, there are reasons clear paths exist, they are good paths. And we should absolutely do our best to utilize them. Otherwise, it is very easy to get lost. But we lose something when we never look to the side to see if there might be another way, especially when the other paths get real clogged up...or blocked by a big shitty tree that just fell across it.

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Good morning, John!

So as you are well aware, I've been spending a lot of time on TikTok and this is because I am addicted to TikTok.  I'd like to be able to say that it's because I am a professional media analyst who needs to be able to participate in trends in order to understand them so that he can continue to do his work, and that's actually not untrue.  This is part of what I do for a living.  I think it's some of the best parts of my novels and also with our work at Complexly with SciShow and Crash Course, we do need to understand how people are getting information into their brains so that we can get information into their brains, but like, Facebook is also a pretty big player in the media economy and I spend like 15 minutes there a month.  If you follow me on Facebook by the way and you're like, no you don't, Hank, you're there all the time.  No, that's just my tweets that get reposted to Facebook.

So yeah, I spend time on TikTok because I like it and it's addictive but also I'm aware that like, there are problems with the platform, like, is it more of a security concern than Facebook or Twitter or Instagram?  Considering that Twitter just like a month ago had a hack that basically exposed all of the direct messages of all of its users to hackers, I'm like, it doesn't actually get much worse than that, and then obviously it's a platform that is in turmoil. 

The CEO just quit.  Microsoft and Wal-Mart are teaming up to try and acquire the US operations of TikTok because otherwise the president might ban it.  It's just messy.  It's a messy place, and all of this is, you know, it's a little bit above my pay grade.  Like, I'm happy to analyze it and mouth off about it, but like, I don't know how to run TikTok.

What isn't above my paygrade though is being a creator.  Like, that's a thing I know lots about, like, a lot.  Like, more than anything else, and the fascinating thing about TikTokkers is that almost all of them would kind of like to be YouTubers or Instagrammers, if that's what that's called, and that's not a surprise to me.  There's really good reasons to want that and it reminds me of back when we were first making stuff  on YouTube and all the YouTubers wanted to be in TV or movies.

I mean, yeah, YouTubers doing like extremely well, still going out for auditions to be like, in bit parts in movies or in TV commercials, so this is a thing that I learned about dreams.  We can really only dream the things we've seen before.  We wanna go down the paths our idols walked down, but the thing that we forget is that they didn't walk down paths, because those paths weren't there yet.  They created them.

And so when I look at these young people who are extremely talented and working very hard, what I think is two things: First, you have no idea what you're in for, and you can never know, and you wouldn't listen to me if I tried to tell you and I'd probably be wrong if you did, but second, you are in the perfect place.  You are where you are supposed to be.  Is it tumultuous and fragile and do you have no idea what tomorrow will bring?  Yeah, yeah, yeah, and that's too bad, but it's also the reason this exists right now.  It's the reason it can be so weird and vibrant and inspiring and constantly surprising, and that doesn't mean you shouldn't be thinking about potentially other paths that don't look like TikTok, but probably you shouldn't be looking at the paths that are really well-trod and full of people who have lots of power already.

Things are really tumultuous and the clear paths are really full, but the situation might mean that there actually are a lot of paths out there that would be really useful and valuable but haven't been blazed yet, and that sentence wasn't just about TikTok, it was about 2020.  

Every day, I get to wake up and mostly I get to walk some fairly well-trod paths, and that's nice.  I like the comfort of that.  I like having a direction that I know I should go in so that I can go in it.  I'm really grateful at this point in my life to have that stability, but also I've found that I need to at least sometimes go off in directions that aren't clear and that I don't know even where that path is going, or through an area where there just is no path. 

I find that I've gotten better at that.  I also find that that's where I learn the most and often where I feel like I can add the most value, especially when I look behind myself and I see the path is there now and there are lots of people who are finding it a nice one to walk down.  

John, I'll see you on Thursday.