I love my blog and in four years of running it, I’ve amassed 600 followers. With LinkedIn, I’m at 3,500 followers in two years and in my year on Instagram, I’m somewhere over 1,500 people. And then there’s TikTok. As I write this, in 18 days on the platform, I’ve amassed 9,600 followers. WTF is going on? What does this mean?
I got lucky, I guess, and my third or fourth video exploded. I’m not sure what the definition is of “viral video” anymore, but as I write this, it’s at 3.8 million views. Even my lowest viewed, at 6,000 or 7,000, would still be all-time greats on Instagram.
Here’s the clip:
The Strange World of TikTok
One of the things that kept me off TikTok as a user for so long was my porn addiction. Anytime I dipped my toe into that world, I was met with half-naked 18-year-olds and sexual messaging that I didn’t want. I also simply don’t understand youth pop culture, which leaves me lost. My daughter, however, convinced me with enough time and liking videos I wanted to see, they’d disappear. Now that my feed is not all sports bras and hip-hop references I don’t understand, it’s more palatable. I’m not sure it’s enjoyable yet, but it’s more palatable.
I finally gave in to participating on TikTok after being shown how it could be helpful for some of my future professional goals. Will it pan out? I’m not sure, but I think I’m off to a good start. The first few days were slow and my daughter told me it would pick up. I didn’t expect the above video to get so popular so fast. I mean, think about it. By the time you read this, odds are that over 4 million people have seen this video. There are less than 100 cities in the world with a larger population and half of the states in the USA don’t have that many people. It’s Fenway Park completely sold out for every Red Sox home game. It’s a lot of people.
I’m enjoying the creativity of TikTok. It’s a challenge getting quick bites of information to a younger audience and writing a headline that will catch people’s attention. It’s exercising different creative muscles I haven’t used in a long time. And there is something satisfying that, despite millions not getting the point of the view, knowing that there has to be at least a few hundred thousands who did.
What TikTok Can Teach the Elders
I don’t like to think of myself as old, but in TikTok years, I’m ancient. Maybe that gives me some credibility. While I’m sure there are many pop culture lessons, that’s not what I’m trying to learn. Im trying to figure out the attitudes of younger people and much like those my age, they really are all over the place. I think the only difference is that those under 30 grew up accessing porn much easier.
One interesting experiment I ran on a video about whether viewing porn was cheating or not stayed the general area of 50-50 for the first day, then slowly it moved toward not cheating. I believe that at this point, the people visiting the video are more pro-porn so the numbers have changed. But, the initial day or two of results were interesting. I would have thought the younger generation was more liberal.
On that top video, which I think has over 5,000 comments, many are from young men admitting they’ve had this problem. I wish I could help them all, but I think by simply saying they have the issue, it lets other young men know they are not alone. Of course, there are plenty of guys who see the video and immediately have to declare their manliness. That’s curious, too. It’s like, “I wasn’t talking specifically to you KoolAidMan244.”
Is this the Future of Communication?
I doubt it. I think it’s the present, but it’s also consumed by a group who doesn’t have a lot of past since they’re so young. This is what they know and as they get a little older and into different things and a younger generation comes along, something new will replace it. MySpace begat Facebook. In a way, the old app Vine begat TikTok.
I think one interesting part is that we are creating a new generation of storytellers and I think that’s fantastic. Yes, the world is changing, but if you’re an older person and think there’s any more importance in a rambling 5-minute story you tell about your grandfather and a 40-second TikTok video of a kid telling a story about his grandfather, you’re mistaken. And that kid can add photos, videos, text, etc., for these stories. TikTok, in a way, is going to be the social historian of the late 2010s and early 2020s.
I try not to be one of those people getting older who think everything was better in my day. I also try not to be one of those people who are too young to recognize my recency bias. TikTok is another way to reach a group of people and currently, it’s more powerful than anything out there. I’m glad I gave it a chance.