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A Review of the TikTok Phenomenon

What originated as a pathetic attempt to revive the glory days of Vine has flourished into a whirlwind epidemic, a procrastinator’s holy grail, and quite possibly the defining feature of the new decade. Is the complex boondoggle that is TikTok destroying us?

What is the value of TikTok? An argument could be made that crafting an entertaining video in the allotted 15 or 60 seconds encourages creativity. However, based on most of the content that goes viral, a striking lack of creativity is adequate to satisfy this generation’s thirst for click-baity, tired, and superficial entertainment.

On the one hand we have the dances. Most of them beg for relentless criticism and unforgiving judgement from those of us who hold ourselves to any semblance of dignified standards. When asked if she judges people who film TikTok dances in public, Emma Freedman ’23 replied: “Oh absolutely.” The choreography is mostly repetitive, simplistic, and hypersexualized. The archetypal over-exaggerated facial expressions that seem to be mandatory etiquette for tiktok dancers are especially nauseating. Nobody smiles like that!

And then there’s the music. Songs that could have been mediocre if left alone almost instantaneously find their deathbed on TikTok. After the unlucky song is usurped by a 14 year old with too much time on their hands it will forever be associated with an accompanying litany of erratic movements deemed “dances.” All it takes is a couple of tweens to claim songs like “Renegade” (this isn’t the actual name of the song but no one really cares) or “Say So” as their own and these songs get redefined as victims of the TikTok phenomenon.

However, we must acknowledge the esoteric appeal of TikTok. Some tiktoks are truly innovative and lots of them are entertaining. It’s not hard to become hypnotized by the stream of people dancing, yelling, and humiliating themselves and others. In fact, there are some Tik Tok stars circulating undercover right here at Carleton. Jeylan Jones ’23 boasts a whopping 1.1 million views and over 120K likes on one of his many TikTok videos.

So what would a world without TikTok look like? Would it be depressingly unstimulating and thwarted by repressed talents longing for some type of outlet in which to broadcast their art? That’s up for debate. So maybe TikTok is a catch. Maybe only a certain group of nonpareils are able to nidificate in the inscrutable milieu of Tiktok.

And maybe, just maybe, this is where TikTok’s addictive and compelling qualities arise from—a raging predilection to unravel the enigma that is TikTok. One thing’s for sure, we are stuck with TikTok and the epiphenomenon that accompany it for the foreseeable future until just like Vine, TikTok’s heroic flame burns out and the people of the world are subjected to the next social media entertainment app to get a flash in the pan of trending pop culture.

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