Just like every other person over the age of 15, at the beginning of the year, I swore I would never download or indulge in the cringey dance-driven app that TikTok seemed to be. Cue three months in isolation thanks to COVID-19 and you can guarantee that I am in bed every night at 11 pm cackling at my phone screen, held just inches away from my face.
TikTok has, in my opinion, been one of the undisputed winners of coronavirus thus far (with banana bread and sourdough starter coming in at close seconds and thirds). For those who know and love it, you know that there is far more to it than 14-year-olds lip-syncing in their bedrooms (thank goodness). There are niches undiscovered left, right and centre that focus on all kinds of scenarios. Which leads to the question: Which realm of TikTok are you in?
My TikTok feed is essentially a queer utopia peppered with feminist discourse, salted with Gen Z icons, and finished with dogs that are usually very good bois (not up for debate). My algorithm has learned me and learned me well, and in turn, I train it to keep up with the kind of content I want to see. As mentioned, there are endless realms of the TikTok community. To list a few, there is an entire Amish subcategory, Cottagecore (of course), family dance troupes, ex-viners, Twilight stans, and many, many more harmless and usually wholesome creators. What I've discovered is not harmless, however, is straight TikTok. It is, in fact, my worst nightmare.
While never having been privy to an entire 'for you' feed of straight TikTok, I've been exposed to enough reaction videos to form my own opinion on it, which is that it's seemingly a horrific place to be and that the straight people I know seldom want anything to do with it. To clarify, most of the joy that spurs from TikTok is the huge vine energy it emulates. It is a place where animals are caught doing dumb stuff, people are caught doing dumb stuff, and generally, everyone is vibing about being trapped in a flesh prison on a tarnished planet. Straight TikTok goes against all of this, and is flooded with fuckbois, softbois and sadbois, all the bois that have no right to be flexing indecent and frankly embarrassing fodder on an otherwise joyful app. Straight TikTok is the place where men/boys who sideways smile too much make videos about what to do with girls who "have great personalities but bad bodies", people with endless weight loss tips, worst of all: the boyfriend P.O.V (if you know, you know), and an unsettling amount of earnest for the aforementioned content.
While I could dive right into how harmful it is that men on the internet are creating content as a commentary on women's bodies as though we exist on the planet solely for male consumption, this is hardly a new revelation. Which is why it feels especially disappointing to witness it on TikTok, which has functioned as a beacon of serotonin for many amid this ~unprecedented~ time. We are used to this kind of age-old garbage on Instagram and even Facebook - where honesty is an afterthought and we are all just trying to put our best selves forward in hopes that no one will notice how much we want to disintegrate into the wind - but TikTok, for many, serves as a low-stakes reprieve where self-discovery, affirmation, and transparency is in abundance, and it feels as though we've been infiltrated.
Problematic cishet TikTokker's aside, the sense of community and safety that the app provides for so many, particularly the marginalized is not to be overlooked. What we once thought was a sad attempt at a new lip-syncing app is now known to provide recognition, affirmation, joy and even self-realisation to groups in a world where community via the internet is a dicey space to navigate, and while it hasn't been banned yet in Australia, we'll be glad to continue indulging it that side of it.
Image credit: @russhmagazine