At the end of a year in which we could not explore much IRL, team OneZero is sharing our favorite places we found online.
The first thing I love about TikTok is that nobody I know is on TikTok. Because while it is fine and even addicting to watch old acquaintances curate their personas on other apps, it’s not very interesting. Yes, these posts probably also live on TikTok, but I don’t see them.
Which brings me to the second thing I love about Tiktok: Your content finds you. Tiktok has, for instance, figured out that I am most tolerant of political commentary when it is served via a joke, and that my sense of humor is much stupider than I would advertise; that while, yes, I did once reread Anna Karenina for fun, I will also spend hours upon hours laughing at looped videos of talking dogs. I love the talking dogs.
Aside from the talking dogs, there is an aspect of TikTok that I’ve found especially comforting during the stagnant stretches of social distancing: People actually seem to be trying. Not in the way they’re trying on Instagram, with matching pajamas and canned proposal photos, and not in the way they’re trying on Twitter, where you pretty much have to be known for something else to get attention. On Tiktok, people have to make something to be successful, and the best people — or at least the best people who find me — are making something out of themselves. The awkward become brilliantly so, twisting their impediment into joke delivery. The makeup artists completely transform themselves into freakish Halloween creatures. Constitutional law experts sing jingles about constitutional law. Normal is not very interesting to people who don’t know you, and leaning into whatever weirdness you’ve got is a decent strategy.
I know that beneath the algorithm that serves me exactly what I want to see are lurking influencer feuds, blatant racism and appropriation, copycats, harm, and the people who know they have nice butts and would really like to monetize that.
But every once in a while, for a minute — okay, for several hours — it’s still nice to take a break.