The analytics suggest a high likelihood that you’re aware there is an application named TikTok, and a similarly high likelihood that you’re not totally sure what it’s about. Maybe you asked someone younger in your life, plus they tried to explain and perhaps failed. Or possibly you’ve heard this new, extraordinarily popular video app is “a refreshing outlier within the social media universe” that’s “genuinely fun to use.” You may even used it, but bounced straight out, confused and sapped.
“Fear of missing out” is a common method to describe how social media marketing can make people feel like everybody else is a component of something – a concert, a secret beach, a brunch – that they’re not. A new wrinkle within this concept is the fact sometimes that “something” is really a social media marketing platform itself. You may saw a photo of some friends on Instagram in a great party and wondered the reasons you weren’t there. But then, next within your feed, you saw a weird video, watermarked with a vibrating TikTok logo, scored having a song you’d never heard, starring a person you’d never seen. Maybe you saw among the staggering quantity of ads for TikTok plastered throughout other social networks, and the real world, and wondered why you weren’t in that party, either, and why it seemed so far away.
It’s been a little while since a whole new social app got big enough, quickly enough, to help make nonusers feel they’re missing out from an experience. Whenever we exclude Fortnite, which can be very social but also very much a game, the last time an app inspired such interest from people who weren’t onto it was … maybe Snapchat? (Not a coincidence that Snapchat’s audience skewed very young, too.)
Even though you, perhaps an anxious abstainer, may feel perfectly secure inside your “choice” never to join that service, Snapchat has more daily users than Twitter, changed the path of its industry, and altered just how people communicate with their phones. TikTok, now reportedly 500 million users strong, is not really so obvious in its intentions. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get them! Shall we?
The basic human explanation of TikTok. TikTok is surely an app for producing and sharing short videos. The videos are tall, not square, like on Snapchat or Instagram’s stories, but you navigate through videos by scrolling up and down, like a feed, not by tapping or swiping sideways. Video creators have all sorts of tools at their disposal: filters as on Snapchat (and then, everyone else); the ability to look for sounds to score your video. Users are also strongly motivated to engage with some other users, through “response” videos or by means of “duets” – users can duplicate videos and add themselves alongside.
Hashtags play a surprisingly large role on TikTok. In more innocent times, Twitter hoped its users might congregate around hashtags in a never-ending series of productive pop-up mini-discourses. On TikTok, hashtags actually exist as a real, functional organizing principle: not for news, or even really anything trending somewhere else than TikTok, but for various “challenges,” or jokes, or repeating formats, or some other discernible blobs of activity.
TikTok is, however, a free-for-all. It’s easy to produce a video on TikTok, not just due to the tools it gives users, but as a result of extensive reasons and prompts it offers for you. You can select from a massive range of sounds, from popular song clips to short moments from Television shows, YouTube videos or any other TikToks. You can join a dare-like challenge, or participate in a dance meme, or make a joke. Or perhaps you can make fun of many of these things.
TikTok assertively answers anyone’s what do i need to watch having a flood. In a similar manner, the app provides a lot of answers for that paralyzing what must i post? The end result is surely an endless unspooling of material that people, many very young, might be too self-conscious to post on Instagram, or which they never might have come up with in the first place without a nudge. It can be hard to watch. It can be charming. It can be very, very funny. It really is frequently, inside the language widely applied outside the platform, from people on other platforms, extremely “cringe.”
TikTok can feel, to an American audience, a bit like a greatest hits compilation, featuring only the most engaging elements and experiences of its predecessors. This is correct, to a point. But TikTok – known as Douyin in China, where its parent company is situated – should also be understood as among the most favored of several short-video-sharing apps in that country. This is a landscape that evolved both alongside and also at arm’s length from your American tech industry – Instagram, as an example, is banned in China.
Underneath the hood, TikTok is really a fundamentally different app than American users have tried before. It may appear and feel like its friend-feed-centric peers, and you also can follow and stay followed; of course there are hugely popular “stars,” many cultivated from the company itself. There’s messaging. Users can and do use it like every other social app. However the various aesthetic and esswmy similarities to Vine or Snapchat or Instagram belie a core difference: TikTok is a lot more machine than man. In this way, it’s through the future – or at a minimum a future. And it has some messages for all of us.