Maybe we’ll never know the reason why Snapchat took off when it did, or why Vine died early. However, their days in the sun have passed, and the time has now come to tear apart TikTok, again.
When my little sister showed me Musical.ly upon its birth, I hated it. I hated it when it was born-again as TikTok, and to add insult to injury, again when I was forced to watch its cringeworthy advertisements on YouTube.
In 2019, the word “cringe” can be applied to millions of situations. One could be made to cringe by being asked out by someone with zero game, listening to the morning news or misreading the expiration date on a carton of milk. For a while, I could easily cringe with the rest of the world when Musical.ly was born. In fact, “cringe compilations” began to surface before the app folded into an inescapable meme cycle. However, peering into the world of 2019 TikTok as an outsider, I witnessed a new, more profound level of cringe. There was something deeper than simply eBoys, VSCO girls and TikTok bros and babes: something very wrong. It was as if the conceitedness of Instagram and the “in-your-face-ness” of Vine had an unwanted pregnancy. I didn’t want to look at their bastard child, but I couldn’t resist.
As a newcomer, TikTok looked like a collection of trendy-looking high schoolers with average senses of humor, scrounging on the floor for likes. I couldn’t figure out if these beautiful creatures realized they could skimp on their comedy game because they would get likes anyway or if they were just never funny to begin with. This made me question whether or not self-made millionaire Kylie Jenner would’ve been Jeff Bezos in another life had she not been born with the burden of natural beauty. I started to feel like my whole life was a lie. With this in mind (and after my younger sister showed me one funny TikTok), I decided to go on a quest for truth and, in the meantime, delay my descent into bitter old womanhood.
I promptly made an account and started perusing my “For You” page the following week. I saw what I expected: girls dancing, staged pranks, a lone eBoy biting his lip, the classic “guy goes in for a hug that was actually meant for a dog” and my personal favorite, white teenagers putting on questionable affectations while lip-syncing.
There was a time when it really meant something to slap a video of yourself on the internet. There was a time when you had to be convinced to “Do it for the Vine,” which could make a dozen people act up without having to change outfits and rehearse the whole thing first. That time is over.
I would’ve lost hope for TikTok completely had I not scrolled long enough to see the light. Within the first 10 minutes I wasn’t exactly in love with TikTok, but it didn’t seem as horrific as the YouTube ads, which were far worse than the other 75% of the platform’s actual content. Just like any social media feed, it’s tailored, which means that not only are you being watched, but your feed is probably going to be closer to your personal cringe tolerance than someone else’s.
To pass the hours of experimental swiping, I ranked each TikTok I watched (see results below). TikTok can actually be funny, and some of the best content was surprisingly not funny at all, just cool or interesting videos. There are more posts than you could ever watch, and when ─ not if ─ you find yourself in a swiping drought or just aren’t connecting to the humor, you can always search or check out international TikToks.
The app isn’t the absolute worst. The idea of taking a meme or reference to literally anything and adding an original “spin” is cool. The cringe factor seems to almost always be due to creators who are more focused on inserting themselves into the cycle of content, rather than on being original or adding comedic value.
This is the same problem that exists in all social media, in one form or another. It’s not TikTok; it’s human nature. This brings us back to the point of this app, which is still unclear. You might watch it for some laughs, its weird content, the viral cuties or you might just stare blankly to take your mind off things. TikTok could be the change you need or it could turn you permanently into an e-person. Whether or not the risk is worth the reward is your decision.
India – 119.3m users.
USA – 39.6m users.
Turkey – 28.4m users.
Russia – 24.3m users.
Mexico – 19.7m users.
Brazil – 18.4m users.
Pakistan – 11.8m users.
Saudi Arabia – 9.7m users.
[TikTok ratings: first impression]
0 = unfunny
1 = mildly funny
2 = funny
3 = interesting/ cool (not funny)
Total good (1-3): 94
Total useless (0): 104
Total viewed: 198
Total time: 2 hours