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TikTok: Anything goes (and it’s pretty funny)

| Friday, February 14, 2020

Lina Domenella | The Observer

There’s this app called TikTok. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It has certainly grown in popularity as of late — over 1.5 million downloads and climbing! The app is targeted to users under 18, and, by my estimation, is most popular among the middle-and-high schoolers, so it’s perfectly reasonable to hear the name and be secretly wondering what TikTok even is. (Does it time things? Is it in any way related to the Ke$ha song?)

But languish in uncertainty no longer! Essentially, the app is Instagram with videos, many of which are set to music. Think Musical.ly, think Vine, only with more of an emphasis on choreographed routines. These routines, creatively dubbed “TikTok dances,” accompany select snippets of certain songs, go viral and are inevitably copied by scores of 13-year-old girls in their basements. TikTok is built upon the perpetual fluctuation of these musical trends and others like them, some of which involve that nihilist humor characteristic of kids born after 2000. It might not sound like much, but don’t be fooled. There’s a reason TikTok was the most downloaded app in the first quarter of 2019.

Here’s my recommendation: Stay away from the app and its never ending string of viral videos which are, as my teenage sister so aptly explained, just long enough to attract your attention and just short enough to make sure you don’t get bored. Put simply by another sister, TikTok is: “addicting, addicting, addicting, addicting, addicting, addicting, addicting, gotten as a joke but now you’re addicted. Stupid. Addicting, addicting and addicting.” TikTok, at its core, is an absolutely addictive time-waster. And I have a confession to make: I have caught the TikTok disease.

It all started so innocently. When I was home for Christmas break, my sisters began to bug me incessantly about learning the “Renegade dance” (look it up, or don’t, if you want to avoid the TikTok bug). I humored them — and discovered the dances, which all three of them “performed” compulsively throughout the day, and, probably, even in their sleep — were a lot harder than they looked. Somewhere during this failed learning process, one of them downloaded the app on my phone. “Delete it,” I said. She ignored me and made me an account. For a few days, I let the app sit on my homepage untouched, maintaining that TikTok was stupid and juvenile and that, considering how dumb my sisters looked when they were hitting the woah in the mall or while washing dishes, there was no way I could possibly enjoy any of the videos.

Boy was I wrong. Sure, the app is stupid. “Stupid. Addicting, addicting, addicting and addicting.” But some of the videos are really, really funny. The app is pretty much an echo chamber for caustic inside jokes about topical issues. For example, the “World War III” panic of early January inspired some pretty hilarious pieces on what would happen to us in the draft and what Generation Z would look like going into battle; some even thought that they would march while performing this iconic routine from Camp Rock (to “intimidate” the enemy). Some users are dedicated to certain topics, like content specific to viewers from certain states or videos making fun of the way liberal arts students talk. Others even use the app to make political statements in support of both sides of the “aisle,” so to speak — let me tell you, it’s a little strange to watch an inflammatory message from a Trump or Bernie supporter and then scroll to find a harmless video comparing students’ junior and senior year study habits.

But that’s really what TikTok is all about. The app is a bastion for a generation that is confused and even bitter about the state of their world, a place where kids express themselves, often in incredibly stupid ways, with almost no supervision (apart from the Chinese government, of course). It’s a lot to take in, it’s chaotic, it’s like a Wild West for media content, and it’s a perfect way to waste a few hours that could’ve been spent doing something — anything — productive. So long live TikTok. But what do I know? I’m addicted.

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