Hi, my name is Chloe, and I’m addicted to TikTok. After ridiculing the app and swearing for years I would never download it, I am now obsessed – body and soul. I open the app, and suddenly and quite accidentally, it’s 2am. TikTok songs play on constant 15 second loops in my head. I can’t stop hitting the “woah”.
Launched in the US in 2018, after merging with Shanghai-based Gen Z lip-sync app musical.ly, the Chinese-owned app recently surpassed 1 billion users. TikTok’s parallel Chinese version (ring-fenced for censorship reasons, but owned also by ByteDance), Douyin, hit 400 million active users this January. As a jarring comparison, Instagram also only has over 1 billion users – and it’s taken almost a decade to claw up to its current dominance. And TikTok's growth doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. In March of this year alone, the app saw 115 million downloads, and its 60% Gen Z user-base isn't likely to relinquish their social media accounts.
Like musical.ly, which had already built up a significant market-share amongst the young tweens of America – including Jacob Sartorius, of dating Millie Bobby Brown-fame – TikTok is a short-video sharing social media platform. Its content is wholly user-generated, but the app makes filming and editing so easy anyone can pick up an iPhone and shoot.
But unlike its predecessor, TikTok’s success is broader than suburban kids filming themselves lip-syncing to pop songs. And unlike YouTube, the “For You Page” discovery algorithm allows anyone to go viral – regardless of pre-existing followers. It’s achingly similar to Vine (may she Rest in Peace): the chaotic meme-ry of which we still sorely miss as Vine compilations continue to gain millions of grieving views.
Bored in the House, in the House Bored
Much like many born pre-2002, I discovered viral Tiktoks through reposts on Twitter, watching reluctantly and enjoying even more reluctantly. But it took an unprecedented global viral pandemic finally to persuade me into actually downloading the app.
I waded into the swamp of my first For You Page, mired in vanilla quarantine cooking videos and Brandy Melville-16 year olds dancing to Doja Cat. NB. I use “dancing” loosely to describe a mixed combination of the same fifteen awkward arm-waving and hip-swaying movements, and the “woah”.
Enter also: the Hype House, the Sway House. Pretty and popular, these LA-based teen TikTok collectives, who’ve banded together for the glorious crusade of making Tiktoks, have tens of millions of followers. Most prominent of all is Charli d’Amelio, who recently hit 4.1 billion likes. You may wonder why she has 58 million followers. We all do.
But I’d have to admit that the drama between these TikTok teens is car-crash-levels of morbidly entertaining. And it’s impossible to doubt their impact on the charts: any Spotify Hot Hits playlist is now 60% TikTok trending songs. Beyoncé remixed “Savage”. Drake bowed down to TikTok’s supremacy in his transparent attempt to conceive a dance trend with “Tootsie Slide”.
Jason Derulo is also here, for some reason unbeknownst to anybody. As one Tweet aptly put it: “Jason Derulo has a degree in TikTok”. Also with accounts: Kylie Jenner, P Diddy, Will Byers from Stranger Things, and Hailey and Justin Bieber.
Alexa play "Play Date" by Melanie Martinez
Or: the Internet’s collective obsession with skinny-white-boys-with-curly-brown-hair. AKA: Timothée Chalamet and Harry Styles. (Honorable mentions include: Logan Lerman, Dylan o’Brien, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Joshua Bassett). TikTok is a goldmine of fan edits, and semi-tongue-in-cheek callbacks to 2013 Tumblr and Wattpad (iykyk).
The Debby Ryan Smirk
Earlier in May, our girl Jessie, “Debby Ryan” mass trended everywhere. She was no. 1 on Twitter's Worldwide Trends, and all over anyone’s timelines for days. All because the TikTok kids (re)discovered her - and please, her Radio Rebel acting speaks for itself.
Also in this impeccable genre are nostalgic remembrances of oLd SkoOL Disney Channel, realizations that Mr Schuester should not have been allowed within 300ft of any school, “and…. Jug??head??”
~ Xue ~ Hua ~ Piao ~ Piao ~
The Final Boss. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The elite. This is the ultimate prize for expertly curating one’s TikTok algorithm: the weird, chaos memes. Absolutely nonsensical to those who Don’t Get It, it’s inexplicably hilarious if you do. It’s neo-Dadaism, bolstered by regional differentiation tailored to your specific niche humour, and never have I ever “checks” which hit you deep in your core.
Perhaps one day, you too will understand why we must #saveadam2020, or the significance of November 13th, but that’s for you - the individual TikTok quester - to discover for yourself. One user once proclaimed that TikTok is like a massive inside joke; and I’m inclined to agree that that’s where it’s at its best.