Like many others in April of this year, my list of hobbies, to-do lists, and Netflix shows was thinning after almost two months of self-quarantining. A chronic over-scheduler, I had a hard time adjusting to lockdown. Come mid-April, I was desperate.
So I did the unthinkable. I downloaded TikTok.
I had dismissed the app as both sketchy and not age-appropriate. TikTok is a youngster’s game! Will someone hack my phone? I have more important things to do with my time!
All past logic was futile after my first afternoon binge scrolling my FYP. If my fellow Millennials will remember Vine (RIP), it had the same addicting effect. In a world that was falling apart rapidly, TikTok was pure, unashamed escapism. Months later, TikTok has trolled Trump, exposed New York University’s sad dining services, and created a Ratatouille musical sensation. And after witnessing it all, I have to say: the year from hell has nothing on the power of people stuck at home with nothing to do but make and consume video content. Whether you’re still dismissing the platform or you’ve become a full-blown addict, TikTok has undeniable creative merit.
As someone who feels like they don’t ‘belong’ on TikTok, I understand the hesitancy some feel to fully embrace the platform. It still feels like uncharted territory, something reserved for Gen Z to play with while the rest of us stay far away. But the success stories are there; when wielded correctly, TikTok can be a powerful tool for both larger brands and individuals. The Washington Post’s account and NPR’s Planet Money prove that news can translate into playful content with real personality. Some employees are going behind-the-scenes, both for good and bad. And everyday users have learned about new gadgets, cooking skills, and dance moves.
This might seem like a bit of a stretch, but I think TikTok is a prime example of how community and creativity are fueled in the midst of uncertainty and hardships. 2020 was certainly full of those, right? What started out as a desperate grab for entertainment has resulted in me reading more (thanks, BookTok), cooking more, and keeping in touch with the world in new ways. And though 2021 is in sight, it feels like we’re all still in survival mode. If watching hours of cat videos is the way you make it through the day, you’re in good company.
So, cheers to TikTok for getting me through a very, very rough year. And here’s hoping we all don’t need so many coping mechanisms next year.