By: Twumasi Duah-Mensah
A Vine reference: the spark that would engulf my mind in flames of curiosity.
It was after I had referenced a Vine in a group chat of great friends I had made in AP Seminar my sophomore year. Oddly, one group member—one dear friend—dismissed it. Somehow, Vine wasn’t good enough to quench her thirst for humor. She then dared to say:
“I prefer TikTok. 😎”
I had to read it over again. And again. And one more time, just to be sure.
“I pReFeR tIkToK.” My heart was full of hatred for TikTok. You get home and get on YouTube, longing to watch one of your favorite YouTubers, and…“DiD yOu WaSh YoUr HaNdS?! wItH sOaP?!” Some cringey TikTok ad would swoop in, swiping your excitement and replacing it with bubbling-hot anger.
And all the cringey middle schoolers on TikTok? Oh, how the youth have been corrupted! It feels like three hundred years ago that the number one question your friends would ask in the morning would be “May I enquire about the absence of your Sperrys?” Now, it’s “Bruh, can you gimme my Juul pod back?” And they dominate TikTok? Despicable.
And yet…I was curious. How could someone blind themselves to the bright light of Vine in favor of…TikTok? If I was going to judge TikTok users, I myself couldn’t be so ignorant of their perspective. I had to investigate.
I started by asking TikTok superfan Rachel Giles, junior class President at Wake Forest High. She was swift to cover her tracks but admitted to her crime:
“Okay, I don’t make them, but watching them is my guilty pleasure,” Giles confessed. “It’s Vine all over again, but—dare I say—better.” Oh?
Yet again, the great taboo, the great blasphemy—claiming that TikTok is better than Vine. How could a standing President risk her reputation to utter such a thing?
“There are some genuinely funny people who just speak right to my humorous need,” Giles explained. “There are others who are so cringey, I can’t look away. I had to delete it; I couldn’t stop watching.”
But if it’s so funny, then why is there such a stigma against TikTok?
“Because it’s cringey,” Giles honestly replied. “And it came from musical.ly. And Jacob Sartorius came from musical.ly. And people love to hate Jacob Sartorius because he’s cringey. It goes full circle.”
I had, indeed, heard of musical.ly. Musical.ly was bought up by Chinese company ByteDance in 2017 and rebranded as TikTok in 2018. The company felt that musical.ly wasn’t encompassing enough of what the app was all about—that is to say, TikTok isn’t all about being “musical.”
By May of 2018, TikTok had become the most downloaded app in the world. Yes. Tik. Tok. Most downloaded app. In the world. How?
Speaking of, another source confirmed to me that more females than males use TikTok, as males use it more as a joke.
Which brings us to our next subject: Thomas Halik.
Mr. Halik, a sophomore at Heritage, is one of the great manipulators. He, like most males, started his TikTok mostly as a joke. Now, he has almost 140,000 fans on TikTok. His story was improbable and, possibly, impossible. He created his account just one month ago. One month…140,000 fans. He gets 100,000 views per video. One of them hit a million. Surely, he would know the magic behind creating the perfect TikTok. What made TikTok so enjoyable?
“They’re just funny; it’s hard to describe,” said Halik. That was disappointing. Not surprising, though: when I asked other people, it was a bit hard to describe why TikTok was so magnificent. It just was.
Maybe it’s how rapidly you can get TikTok famous. TikTok’s design makes following people straightforward if you see a video you like on its “For You” page. Maybe it’s constantly scrolling for good TikToks, looking past the cringe and relishing in the goodness of TikTok. Maybe it’s how you can only exit the app when you’ve found a good one. You like to—you have to—end on a good note.
One source told me to try TikTok. PREPOSTEROUS! An intellectual like me? Try TIKTOK? Oh, fine, I begrudgingly thought to myself. This had to be an impartial investigation.
One week later, and I realized something: I was so wrong about TikTok.
How could I be so judgmental about an app I had never even tried? How could I feel such unfounded hatred? All the hate that I gave was only responded to by nurturing, mother-like love from an app that didn’t have to care about me. And it catered to my—and many others’—needs for humor.
I couldn’t tell you about the sorrow and regret I felt for foolishly crucifying TikTok. To repent, it was my job to find out why there was this stigma against TikTok and see how I could spread the good news.
“It’s trash,” responded one student. Helpful.
“It’s been proven to cause cancer,” said another. Harsh.
“It’s cringe and for middle schoolers” was the general response I got from detractors. Perhaps Mr. Halik would be more helpful in uncovering this stigma.
“There’s a lot of toxicity on the app,” Halik noted. “People hate on the app, but [we’re] just having a good time.”
Halik makes a simple yet beautiful point: TikTok is an app that has done nothing wrong. It doesn’t cause cancer. Rather, it has found a way to bring the short video clip format back in a creative, delightful way.
And the best part? People love it. The filter and song options on their palette fuel their imagination to create a beautiful masterpiece. The app’s design makes it easy to reward such artistic endeavors. TikTok makes you dream again. With a little bit of enthusiasm and a light-bulb moment, you can become famous overnight like Halik.
Of course, nothing lasts forever. Viners and Vine stans can tell you all about that. But in a world lost in the darkness of nihilism, TikTok is a bright light. An escape. Just straight-up fun.
As for me, my investigation had come to an immediate close. My conclusion? Never revolt against a popular app just because of its target audience. After all, there is a reason why so many people downloaded it in the first place.