One of the biggest trends of summer 2019 was the rise of the social networking app TikTok. If you combine the thrills of pointing at words, the brand of humor that became viral after Vine, with the sheer joy of awkward cosplay lip syncs, you get TikTok. The app originally started in China in 2016, but it didn’t really take off internationally. However, TikTok merged with the struggling lip syncing app musical.ly, which got it a lot of attention overseas. While most assumed that TikTok would just be another lip syncing app like musical.ly, since it has grown into something far bigger and stronger. TikTok has held control of the Billboard charts for the last 17 weeks with the #1 hit Old Town Road, a viral song that garnered its popularity through TikTok. With over 1 billion users, it shows that TikTok is changing the way we consume entertainment, but what makes it so popular? And is it affecting the entertainment industry in a positive or negative way?
The app is set up much like most social media platforms, where you can view your own profile, those who you decide to follow, and explore content seemingly at random on the ‘For You’ page. In order to move from post to post, you slide up, creating a fast-paced user interface where the videos you scroll through play instantly. Think the causality of YouTube plus the social interface of Instagram combined with the quick, constant few second videos of Vine. These together have proven to be an intoxicating mixture. Is it the combination of these things that make up the way the app is used that can be blamed for the app’s popularity? Or is it the content that comes out of TikTok that draws so much attention?
Having this platform and audience allows for the ridiculousness and humor of the world to shine.
Whether or not the ‘comedy’ videos posted on TikTok are the answer to its mysterious popularity is unknown. What can be said for sure, these videos are unmissable in the greater internet world. Some of the hilarity comes from the fact that anyone can create, and having this platform and audience allows for the ridiculousness and humor of the world to shine. This makes it satisfactory and enjoyable in the way that Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms can be, because it allows you to connect. But another reason TikTok is so talked about, is due to a lot of the content on the app, especially those intending to be funny or relatable, are somewhat odd. You’ll find people simply pointing at words on the screen while dancing or listening to music. Sometimes the things people are pointing to are self deprecating, sometimes relatable, or sometimes they are surface-level observations that normally play into stereotypes. Regardless of what exactly is being pointed to, it’s not humorous, it’s just pointing. It’s crazy that people gain millions of followers for pointing at words. Other weird, not-so-funny TikTok videos include seconds-long lip-syncing videos. The ones that stand out the most are not videos of singing or dancing along to popular TikTok songs (which go on to dominate the Billboard charts), but the ones where users simply lip-sync to funny moments from other videos, shows, or movies created by other people.
These videos, and the popularity of TikTok in the first place cannot be explained. But it is clear that they mark a turning point for the media industry, and for what we can expect as consumers. Is this the type of content and the format we want to be receiving our entertainment in? And how much of a say do we really have? As TikTok continues to take on the world, people must be conscious of the entertainment they’re consuming and ensure that it isn’t mindless, as TikTok threatens to be.