TikTok: Making Light Of Life Amid Dark Times
One hugely popular app is helping youths cope while being cooped up at home during the circuit breaker. Jojo Tung finds out more.
July 7, 2020
While millennials recall the iconic Ke$ha song of their decade, Generation Z are thinking of their new favourite social media platform: TikTok.
Founded in 2016, TikTok now boasts over 800 million active users worldwide who create and share short 15-second videos on the app.
The viral platform soared in popularity during the pandemic with 115.2 million downloads in March alone. In comparison, Instagram only averaged 111.5 million per quarter in 2019, according to influencer marketing agency MediaKix.
Audrey Goo, 19, shared in a telephone interview: “Many are making relatable videos about themselves in quarantine which can help viewers seek comfort in the fact that people across the globe are also going through the same thing.”
The prospective university student initially thought it was “cringy and was not interested in watching or making such videos”, but later downloaded it in a curious attempt to comprehend its raging popularity.
She was intrigued by the app’s simple yet addictive function “to endlessly scroll through [her] feed with non-repeated content”, providing her with an endless stream of entertainment.
TikTok is powered by its ‘For You’ page that showcases trending videos, and progressively tailors content to the user’s interest.
Alene Ren, 19, a Nanyang Junior College alumnus, enjoyed watching anime and observed that her ‘For You’ page is always “95 per cent filled with anime-related content”.
The app is also home to a myriad of user-generated content. “From comedy to beauty and dancing to fashion, anyone can express themselves with a TikTok video,” Audrey said.
She added: “Whenever I bake something, I would film the process. It makes me feel more productive even though I’m just staying at home the whole day.”
Whenever I bake something, I would film the process. It makes me feel more productive even though I’m just staying at home the whole day.
Second-year student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Mannuela Hope Koh, 18, mainly posts videos of herself doing dance challenges and has amassed over 10,000 followers.
Mannuela’s dance videos, on average, receive 4,000 views and a few hundred likes. Photo courtesy of Mannuela Hope Koh.
Dance challenges are a craze on the app, which has witnessed the emergence of the iconic ‘Renegade’ dance, a fast-paced piece choreography attempted by more than 29.7 million users.
Not only are the dances “fun to learn”, practising the dance moves has also refined Mannuela’s skills. “My friend actually told me once that she saw improvement from when I first started,” she added.
TikTok’s influence has seeped its way into the youths’ daily lives, strengthening friendships in the process. For instance, Mannuela and her sisters would spend hours laughing over the videos and “randomly say TikTok references at home”.
Marc Ryan Tan, 18, recounted: “I made a video during my birthday party where my friends were just walking into my house and that alone received two million views, so of course we were extremely shocked.”
During the circuit breaker, Marc (centre) would ask his friends to send videos, which he then edits and compiles. Photo courtesy of Marc Ryan Tan.
Amassing over 200,000 followers and 3.5 million likes, Marc is one of the most prominent Singaporean creators on the app. The Temasek Polytechnic student mostly posts videos of him and his friends attempting challenges or pulling pranks.
“I think [viewers] enjoy it because it’s a fun and lovable friendship, or maybe because a few of my friends are good looking. One of those or maybe both,” he said with a laugh.
Despite being relatively new in the scene, TikTok has already garnered a loyal following and rivals neck-and-neck with social media giants like Instagram.
“TikTok makes it fair for everyone to have a chance of going viral, since it doesn’t depend on the amount of followers you have to make it to the ‘For You’ page,” Marc explained.
TikTok makes it fair for everyone to have a chance of going viral, since it doesn’t depend on the amount of followers you have to make it to the ‘For You’ page.
In an interview with Digital Life Design, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel said that TikTok’s focus on ‘talent-based’ rather than ‘status-based’ content may be key to surpassing Instagram.
TikTok ranks third in the statistics on the usage of various social media platforms. Photo by Jojo Tung.
Marc spends two to three hours on TikTok and prefers it over other social platforms. “Even now on Instagram, all I see are just reposts of TikTok videos.”
At the end of the day, it seems safe to assume that TikTok will continue to be Generation Z’s space for the simpler pleasures of life.
“TikTok is not a business or a job, so making [videos] is a very light-hearted activity to pass time,” Mannuela said.
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