The analytics advise a high likelihood that you’re aware there is an application named TikTok, and a similarly high likelihood that you’re not totally sure what it’s about. Perhaps you asked someone younger in your life, plus they tried to explain and possibly failed. Or possibly you’ve heard this new, extraordinarily popular video app is “a refreshing outlier within the social media marketing universe” that’s “genuinely fun to use.” Perhaps you even used it, but bounced straight out, confused and sapped.
“Fear of missing out” is a common way to describe how social media marketing can make people feel like all others is part of something – a concert, a secret beach, a brunch – that they’re not. A new wrinkle in this particular concept is the fact that sometimes that “something” is really a social media marketing platform itself. Perhaps you saw a photograph of some friends on Instagram with a great party and wondered why you weren’t there. But then, next inside your feed, you saw a weird video, watermarked using a vibrating TikTok logo, scored with a song you’d never heard, starring an individual you’d never seen. You may saw one of many staggering variety of ads for TikTok plastered throughout other social media sites, and reality, and wondered the reason why you weren’t in that party, either, and why it seemed to date away.
It’s been a while since a whole new social app got big enough, quickly enough, to help make nonusers feel they’re missing out from an experience. Whenever we exclude Fortnite, which can be very social but additionally very much a game title, the last time an app inspired such interest from people who weren’t onto it was … maybe Snapchat? (Not just a coincidence that Snapchat’s audience skewed very young, too.)
And even though you, perhaps an anxious abstainer, may feel perfectly secure in your “choice” never to join that service, Snapchat has more daily users than Twitter, changed the path of its industry, and altered the way people get in touch with their phones. TikTok, now reportedly 500 million users strong, will not be so obvious in the intentions. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ask them to! Shall we?
The basic human explanation of TikTok. TikTok is an app to make and sharing short videos. The videos are tall, not square, like on Snapchat or Instagram’s stories, but you navigate through videos by scrolling up and down, like a feed, not by tapping or swiping side to side. Video creators have all kinds of tools at their disposal: filters as on Snapchat (and later on, everyone else); the cabability to search for sounds to score your video. Users are also strongly asked to engage along with other users, through “response” videos or by means of “duets” – users can duplicate videos and add themselves alongside.
Hashtags play a surprisingly large role on TikTok. In innocent times, Twitter hoped its users might congregate around hashtags in a never-ending combination of productive pop-up mini-discourses. On TikTok, hashtags actually exist as a real, functional organizing principle: not for news, or even really anything trending elsewhere than TikTok, but for various “challenges,” or jokes, or repeating formats, or some other discernible blobs of activity.
TikTok is, however, a free-for-all. It’s easy to create a video on TikTok, not just as a result of tools it gives users, but as a result of extensive reasons and prompts it provides to suit your needs. You can select from a massive range of sounds, from popular song clips to short moments from TV shows, YouTube videos or other TikToks. You can enroll in a dare-like challenge, or participate in a dance meme, or create a joke. Or else you can make fun of many of these things.
TikTok assertively answers anyone’s what do i need to watch using a flood. In a similar manner, the app provides lots of answers for the paralyzing what do i need to post? The end result is definitely an endless unspooling of material that individuals, many very young, might be too self-conscious to post on Instagram, or they never would have come up with to begin with without having a nudge. It can be hard to watch. It can be charming. It can be very, very funny. It is frequently, in the language widely applied away from platform, from people on other platforms, extremely “cringe.”
TikTok can feel, with an American audience, a bit like a greatest hits compilation, featuring merely the most engaging elements and experiences of their predecessors. This really is, to your point. But TikTok – called Douyin in China, where its parent company relies – must also be understood as among the most popular of numerous short-video-sharing apps in this country. This is a landscape that evolved both alongside and at arm’s length from your American tech industry – Instagram, as an example, is banned in China.
Underneath the hood, TikTok is really a fundamentally different app than American users have tried before. It may look and feel like its friend-feed-centric peers, and you can follow and stay followed; obviously you will find hugely popular “stars,” many cultivated through the company itself. There’s messaging. Users can and use it like any other social app. However the various aesthetic and esswmy similarities to Vine or Snapchat or Instagram belie a core difference: TikTok is a lot more machine than man. In this way, it’s from the future – or at best a future. And contains some messages for all of us.