I could not bring myself to admit that in my first month of lockdown that all I did was complete online classes then sit around watching YouTube videos that unfurled the latest Tik Tok drama. Yes, you read that right, they now have their own place on these so-called drama channels. Who would have thought? I had watched the battle over who founded the Hype House and the break-up between an E-Boy and a VSCO Girl. As we are all social distancing, many have found a way to pass the time by joining Tik Tok, some have shared their own political and social memes. These have ranged from sharing quarantinis to pointing out how stockpiling toilet paper would require going to the bathroom several hundred times a day before the lockdown eases. So, how else should I come out of my hiatus than to look into how Tik Tok became a political platform in its own right.
Let’s start at the beginning of the year with the bushfires in Australia. From September to January, 24 million acres of land burned in these bushfires, and Australians turned to Tik Tok to share their frustrations. Much of this anger was directed towards the mishandling of the crisis by the government and was about providing the footage needed to raise awareness to those unaware. These videos are satirical and laugh at the response to similar problems. Many Australian teenagers were quick to point out the media attention and the financial support surrounding the burning of Notre Dame and their videos garnered hundreds of thousands of views. This platform has given its users an area to put forwards their own narratives in an equal space and acts as a coping mechanism.
Then there was the next issue. After celebrating the new year the world was suddenly on the brink of World War III. President Trump had ordered the assassination of Quassem Soleimani thereby pushing the United States and Iran to the brink of a war at the start of the new decade. The memes quickly emerged on Tik Tok about being involved in World War III. Teenagers joked about using their gaming skills when they get drafted, issues of sexuality when they get drafted, some even laughed at how they would bring their long skincare routines and pointless dances to the trenches to defeat their opponents. The year threw another travesty into the mix with the Puerto Rican earthquakes which cut off access to clean drinking water and power to over hundreds of thousands of people. In the background of all of this a virus transforming into a pandemic. The users on Tik Tok have some form of political awareness and have thoughts that they desire to communicate on the app. The same can be said for the current pandemic with millions of users commenting on it through satirical and nihilistic videos.
Tik Tok provides space for the ordinary person, regardless of who they are, can comment on the world and laugh at it together. It has become an effective way of spreading your message to a huge audience in a little amount of time. You can become a virtual success without having any followers in some cases with the short time span of the videos and the visibility of the creators in them. This app was never about being political. Tik Tok was originally a space for creating funny and creative content, and it still is, but it is more about being a space in which teenagers and young adults can propagate their ideas through the internet. Your home feed is not chronological nor are there any time stamps on videos to understand when events have occurred. This is not an app for news-sharing, but that was not going to stop it from becoming political, as previous internet phenomenons always come back to being a political platform. I guess you could say everyone is on Tik Tok, if you are not, then you are convinced to be. It is unsurprising to find presidential candidates on Tik Tok. I am also not surprised to hear that terrorists and ideologues are on there as well.
This app is powerful since other apps have immediate issues that hinder its users from being great at supporting politics. On Instagram and Twitter there is a reactive nature to questions, you cannot ask them, and you will quickly be destroyed in the process of daring to step out of bounds. Given that, Tik Tok is not exactly a safe haven, it still has political pitfalls. The same memes and jokes that comment on the issues of the world and push for bettering it can convince users to support harmful ideologies. The algorithm does not ensure everyone sees the same content. It is personalised, while I have soap making and art videos, some of my friends will have gaming clips and bizarre jokes. The viral trends on the app can also be used by those who want to spread extremist or false information.
Unfortunately, there will always be problems in the world. That means there will always be those who make nihilistic jokes on the internet to cope with or express their opinions on them. Tik Tok has become a huge part of this and it will continue to turn politics on its head whether you like it or not.