The Chinese tech giant is taking surveillance capitalism to a new level. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Zuckerberg
Question: what do men and Excel have in common?
Answer: they’re always automatically turning things into dates when they’re not.
To younger people – that is, anyone under the age of 20 – Microsoft’s spreadsheet program, a tool as essential to accountants as saws are to carpenters, is the contemporary equivalent of mom jeans, handwritten thank-you notes and cravats: stuff that oldies care about. How come, then, that the hashtag #excel has had 3.4bn views on a certain social media platform and that one Excel expert on that platform has 2.7 million followers and 9.7m likes for their tips on using Excel?
The answer is that the platform is TikTok, well known by now as the short-form video-hosting service owned by Chinese company ByteDance, on which you find an endless stream of short-duration (15 seconds) videos, in genres ranging from pranks, stunts, tricks, jokes, dance and entertainment to what one might call “edutainment” (such as advice on how to do stuff with Excel). Over the last couple of years it’s been taking over the social media world, and all the other big platforms – and especially Facebook – seem hypnotised by it, much as rabbits are by the headlights of an oncoming lorry.