If you’re anything like me, you know there’s nothing quite like going from bad screen to good screen at the end of a long, stressful day. In fact, I’m fully convinced they should add a sixth love language, because when I open my TikTok messages to find endless streams of rogue vids from my loved ones with absolutely no context provided, I feel a certain emotional catharsis that I can’t seem to find anywhere else.
The sense of relief and spinal decompression I feel when I open TikTok is not unique to me. In fact, it feels like a reaction to the pressures and overwhelms of the world that young people are collectively searching for respite - often in the form of humour. As the old saying goes, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry (but I’m pretty sure Gen-Z are doing both).
This behaviour has been going on long before TikTok skyrocketed onto the phones of 1 billion active daily users. Snapchat brought us ‘they did surgery on a grape’ and Vine gifted us with ‘what are thooooose’, but something has shifted with the TikTok generation. A global pandemic thrust everyone into collective boredom, anxiety and uncertainty, while the news bombarded us with headlines of gun violence, police brutality, misogyny, climate change and political corruption. At around the same time, we hit peak influencer. The perfection of the millennial celebrity visage lost its appeal, and Gen-Z flocked to TikTok to get more peer-to-peer, unhinged comedic goodness.
There are two sides to TikTok. There’s mainstream, basic TikTok consisting of dances, lip-syncs and thirst traps, and then there’s the ever-growing AltTok - a collection of videos that just get weirder and weirder, like this video of beans that got 3 million views. But for those who don’t want a Sylvanian Family Beans Overlord in their nightmares, there are some slightly more wholesome but still weird TikToks to occupy your mind, like orchestral dogs, wet facepalms, speeding pedestrians, bedpost BeeGees, intrusive frog guests, applying in the booth, aggressive tortoises and anatomically inquisitive google searches. And more where that came from if you just let your walls down to the algorithm, and let it love you.
But the most underrated thing about TikTok is that I probably won’t see any of these people again. Creators are comfortable acting completely unhinged because there’s a level of anonymity, even in TikTok virality, and I’m happy to double tap, comment and share for the pure chaos of it all. It’s both the blessing of my digital existence and the bane of my life at the same time.
There is a lesson here for anyone who came here to actually learn something but ended up on a video of a potentially racist reptile. Weird wins because it gives a sense of a safe space where people can relax. People are not on the platform to be preached or sold to. They’re there because holding their little rectangle brings them escapism and joy. If you’re looking to succeed on the platform, humble yourself and serve them that.
TLDR; Provide the lolz, and the love will follow.