Let’s Talk About TikTok

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By Paola Bakker
Web Content Contributor

If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, there’s a high chance you’ve watched at least one TikTok, or at least have heard of the app. If you’re not a regular user of TikTok, there is also a high chance that you associate the app with cringey (Warning: I will use this word a lot in this article) content of teen boys lip syncing vulgar songs or old people attempting trendy dance challenges. While, yes, this content not only exists but is prominent on the app, people are quick to dismiss the app and miss out on a lot of the quality content that it offers.

In my experience, a lot of people around my age still associate TikTok with Musical.ly, which was the original app that merged with TikTok. Musical.ly had a reputation of being run by preteens, as well as a few random ex-Viners, who paired popular music with nauseating camera movements to make lip sync videos. There really isn’t another way to describe some of these videos other than straight-up uncomfortable.

These people typically still make this association as people who have never downloaded the app and have only seen the strange and uncomfortable TikToks that go viral on Twitter, such as through the Twitter account @CursedTikToks. What a lot of these people don’t realize is that TikTok is becoming less like Musical.ly and more and more like Vine every day.

We all see the Vine nostalgia that young Millennials and older Gen Z experience. There are countless Twitter threads of “iconic Vines” and YouTube compilations titled something along the lines of “Vines that make me feel whole again.” Clearly there is a giant Vine-shaped hole in the hearts of many in their late teens to mid twenties.

What I find interesting is how people only tend to remember the good times of Vine, the hilarious six-second snippets of one-liner jokes and moments miraculously caught on camera. They, however, have managed to forget a lot of the negative aspects of the app, and they associate a lot of these things that existed on Vine with TikTok.

TikTok has a bad reputation for giving egotistical teenage boys a huge platform with millions of young followers to lip sync hypersexualized music to. This video compilation went viral on Twitter, consisting of boys who dress in the “eboy” style, participating in a dance trend. It’s hard to explain, but just watch the video.

Many Twitter users bombarded the video with negative backlash and generalized the app as a hub for this kind of cringey content, but are we forgetting about Magcon, the pioneers of creepy internet famous boys? Oh, you remember, that group of teenage boys, including Nash Grier, Cameron Dallas, Carter Reynolds and others, who made content directly targeting preteen/teen girls and toured the country, charging these young fans hundreds to watch them on a stage and did… honestly, I watched a few videos of their performances, and I still couldn’t tell you what they did. It seems to be a lot of screaming and poorly done sexual dance moves.

So, yes, there is a lot of content of cringey teens doing cringey teen things on TikTok, but we can’t dismiss the app so quickly without acknowledging Vine’s similar past. If we could see past this dark side of Vine, shouldn’t we give TikTok the same courtesy?

Sidenote: remember that Vine trend of teen boys grinding on their floors to Pretty Ricky’s “Grind With Me”? What on earth was that? Was that just a fever dream?

I have also noticed that many non-users of the app enjoy watching the TikToks that appear on their Twitter timeline or Instagram explore page, but for some reason, they are still entirely against using the app and write it off as lame or “too young” for them. While it’s true that a large chunk of the audience is young, mainly ranging roughly from ages 14 to 21, there is such a wide variety of content that it can appeal to anyone. Categories range from cooking to DIY to comedy to fashion, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

Scrolling through the app and seeing its young audience really gives me flashbacks to Vine days. I remember coming home from high school, or even using it during school, and scrolling through hours worth of Vines, not even realizing where the time went. A lot of my favorite creators on the app were my age, stuck in high school, and making funny content I could relate to as a sixteen-year-old.

Now on TikTok, I’ll sometimes stumble on videos directed at this same high school-aged audience, and all of the comments praise the relatability of it. It’s a bit of a weird feeling because, though I’ve lived through the same experience of going to high school, it feels like a part of my life that is so far gone, and yet I can still look back on it and laugh at the truth in the video.

I find it kind of comforting that today’s teens have a similar creative platform to share their adolescent experiences, similar to how my friends and I had Vine. While TikTok may not have completely replaced Vine, it gives users a familiar experience, just with slightly longer videos. There are even YouTube compilations of TikToks that “give off Vine energy.”

TikTok may give off a negative first impression based on the widely available cringe content on the app, but it’s unfair to judge the app from these things when there is also a great variety of funny and interesting videos available. The more the app grows, the less juvenile it becomes in terms of its audience and content. Sometimes you just need to scroll through some cringe to get to the good stuff.

Featured image by Paola Bakker.

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