Laying next to my friend in her twin-sized dorm room bed going on our third hour of scrolling through TikTok, I made myself a promise – I would never, ever, under any circumstances, download that app onto my phone. While I enjoyed it at that moment as a reprieve from the frigid winds outside that I would have to immerse myself in should I choose to return to my dorm, I was well aware that if I downloaded it onto my own phone the mindless scrolling would take up all of my precious free time. Flash forward to March 2020, and I found myself stuck in my childhood bedroom, surrounded by four aggressively Tiffany blue walls, a cat who is not particularly fond of me, and two parents both consumed by hours of work-from-home conference calls. To put it simply, I was bored out of my mind.
Begrudgingly, I hit download. And I haven’t regretted it once since. The TikTok algorithm is well-known for being ridiculously precise, knowing exactly what kind of content users will be interested in viewing. While this may seem like it could be incredibly creepy, I actually find it extremely useful. TikTok knows what I’ll like before I even do; it feels like the app is catering to my needs without me needing to exert much effort into finding content that suits my interests.
I think social media, especially during the pandemic, has increasingly become a place where people can come together. By suggesting content specifically focused toward my pre-existing interests, or videos the app predicts I may enjoy, I am able to find a community amongst users who post the clips I so enjoy.
Trending audios on TikTok often allow users to take an idea and place their own spin on it. For example, the recent trending audio clip, “I can’t talk right now, I’m doing hot girl shit” offers an opportune template to publish a short snippet of their comedic, niche interpretation of “hot girl shit,” whether it be crying on the kitchen floor, creating absolutely unhinged Spotify playlists, or rearranging your bedroom furniture seven times a day.
I’m equally obsessed with storytime videos about “weird” things people did as children, videos about how exactly people discovered they were queer, and, of course, recipe videos (shoutout to Jeremy Scheck for the sassy cooking content that keeps me going every day).
Despite being seemingly niche, videos like these actually make me feel normal. I’ve gone throughout my life doing so many things that I considered to be odd or weird because nobody else ever discussed doing them, so I kept those sides of myself under wraps. Downloading TikTok has allowed me the opportunity to realize that seemingly strange quirks actually resonate with way more people than one could ever imagine. This realization has led to tremendous growth in my confidence, an influence I never would have expected from an app with a reputation for being a mindless way to pass the time.