The guilty pleasure of North Sea TikTok and its dystopian oil influencers

I have never been particularly In THE sea (does anybody In the sea?). As difficult as it may seem, unless you’re in close proximity to a large body of water, it’s not something that regularly crosses my mind. And yet, in the last year, I’ve spent more time than ever thinking about the sea. Most of the time, it’s because of increasingly ridiculous reports about the sea – orcas out for revenge. . sinking boats; billionaires implode near the wreck of the Titanic – but at times it has been an obsession apparently of my own making, as my Tic Tac the algorithm feeds me an endless stream of shark videos.

If the intention is to make me fear the sea, then it is North SeaTok it’s done. Over the last month or so, my feed – like everyone – was dominated by videos of the dangerous North Sea; more specifically, its oil rigs and the people who work there.

The clips, some of which arrive at 100 million viewstend to follow the same pattern: the boats being violently shaken by massive waves, offshore workers hanging from oil platforms or almost washed away by the sea, the occasional orange to be thrown into black nothingness. They are mostly composed of the same scary version from the sea shanty, “Hoist the colors”, which – sing it with me – go: “Yo ho, all hands / Raise the colors high / Raise ho, thieves and beggars / We will never die.”

You might be thinking: OK, so what? People have always been fascinated by the frightening depths and power of the sea – even TikTok is no exception (see: DrakeTok Passage). But what you should be asking yourself is: who will reap the rewards? virality?

As the North Sea itself cannot capitalize on its new notoriety (sad!), offshore workers do it for it, documenting their lives on the oil rigs, giving platform visitsTO DO daily routines at seaAnd make memes on the work. Unlike the nightmarish montages of the North Sea, the workers tend to show the banality of life inside the platform: watching Netflix in their clinical rooms, themed dinners in the canteen, and working or spending time in the gym, sauna or “recreation” rooms. It’s less, “We’re all going to die,” as TikTok would have you believe, and more, “Cruise to work with the guys.” An oil platform creator, @lifeofamaliewhich has 45,000 followers, has even started assemble viral videos has demystify them.

That said, the montages are real, they therefore contain an element of truth. “There are people walking around the metal structure, but it’s very well controlled and safe,” confirms Colin, 45, from Perthshire in Scotland, who has worked offshore for over 15 years and talks about it now on TikTok like V9 Media. “Well, as safe as possible, hold on to two small ropes.” Colin himself is an industrial electrician, so he can be found climbing and hanging from the platform at night. “The work is generally quite dirty,” he adds. “And it’s a noisy environment with machines running everywhere. It’s also normally cold and windy.”

Colin, like many offshore workers, works three weeks on, three weeks off, including wind turbine ships, which he compares to prison, but admits that “it’s usually good madness.” However, he adds: “You need thick skin, because there are a lot of characters and incessant, good-natured pissing that wouldn’t be allowed in a normal shore-based work environment.”

The terribly turbulent weather can also be true to reality. “I had a few scary moments with the wind and waves,” Colin continues. “The rigs themselves can also sometimes shut down, causing significant vibration and noise. However, I have never seen anyone panic. We are all well trained and know what to do if something bad happens , so everyone accepts it. Although if you snatched a stretcher off the street, I’m sure most would be terrified.”

Like Colin, many of these workers were posting about oil rigs before North SeaTok took off, but have seen their follower numbers increase in recent weeks. Some of them even got weird oil rig influencers, gaining tens, if not hundreds of thousands of followers. Their videos tend to be flooded with commenters asking questions about living and working on the platform, as well as how they themselves can enter the industry. As Colin notes: “Most people on TikTok seem to think we’re all millionaires. »

“Most people on TikTok seem to think we’re all millionaires.”

Although the majority of oil rig creators I’ve met seem to be creating content on their own, that might not be the case for long – if at all. Employers encouraging, or even paying, their employees to increase profits or brand reputation by posting on TikTok is nothing new. Companies like Sephora, Chipotle and Dunkin’ Donuts have all benefited from employee influencers, whether they encouraged it or not. You can also see the attraction of this for the big oil companies, whose reputations are rightly in tatters; If they can humanize the industry by presenting it through the eyes of happy, well-paid employees, then perhaps they can shift attention away from the climate catastrophe they are – literally – fueling. British oil and gas platforms are the the most polluting in the North Sealiberating so much carbon dioxide as a coal-fired power plant).

This is not a far-fetched idea – it is already a reality. Earlier this year it emerged that fossil fuel giants, such as Shell and BP, both of which operate in the North Sea, were employing British influencers to promote false solutions to the climate crisis and, crucially, to burnish their image . In October, for example, it was revealed that Shell had teamed up with popular gamers to promote fossil fuels through Fortnite. According to DéSmogLeaked documents showed how BP hoped to use influencers to become “more relatable, passionate and authentic” and convince young people they are not “the bad guys”.

Certainly, there is little evidence that this is what is happening with oil rig influencers, most of whom don’t even declare who they work for. Even though one creator, who documents her experience as a woman on set and encourages other women to enter the industry, has done so share a dystopian-looking cake decorated with the Shell logo. “Companies can be extremely strict about privacy when it comes to practices, which is why I will never disclose what platform I work on, what company I work for, or who is responsible,” explains- he. Baguenauder, an offshore mechanical technician from the northwest of England who has almost 30,000 followers on TikTok. “But I think it’s great that videos are being released. It gives people a better idea of ​​what life is like on an oil and gas platform. It shows the pros and cons.”

“It gives people a better idea of ​​what life is like on an oil and gas rig. It shows the pros as well as the cons.”

Yet this boom and the intrigues surrounding it are having what might be considered a desired effect for big oil companies: Young, seemingly lifestyle-minded TikTokers are wondering how to get into oil and gas.

This is not to say that the existence of these influencers is a bad thing. They provide a rarely heard insight into their brutal and often thankless work, and show the camaraderie that exists in such a dangerous workplace. Additionally, as many North Sea oil platforms are being decommissioned (raising controversies of his own), any independent documentation of this mysterious world is worthwhile. This is part of why Mosey started posting on TikTok in the first place. “It’s very difficult to get a taste of the offshore lifestyle, so many people go in blind,” he explains. “I was in exactly this situation before landing my job abroad just three years ago, so I would like to provide some insight from my experience on what the industry is like.”

The problem will arise when/if big oil bosses start capitalizing on the success of their employees: will those who have grown their platform organically be incentivized by money or other benefits to peddle false information about the oil and gas industry as a whole? As employees, should they declare this as sponsored content on platforms like TikTok, or can they embed posts secretly?

In an age where almost everyone has the means to become an influential micro-celebrity, the possibility of this being misused by employers – particularly evil employers like Shell and BP – cannot be ruled out. But, as with most things on TikTok, the tide will soon turn towards the North Sea and employees from another sector will enjoy the views. So we have to hope that the big oil companies have already missed their chance.

For now, one thing is certain: I would rather let myself be swallowed up by the tumultuous waves of the North Sea than hear “Hoist the Colors” again.

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