TikTok: socially distant yet bridging the gap

Let’s get something straight. I am not and haven’t been a teenager in a LONG time.

So if you think my foray into TikTok indicates poor judgement, you’re probably right (face-palm).

Writing this post, I find I’m conversing with myself, debating the ethics of meddling in social platforms traditionally geared at younglings, which I cannot call myself. This is indefinitely a symptom of the sudden onslaught of time and introspection that social distancing and current events have now afforded us plentifully (all jokes aside, take care of yourselves, guys).

But whether or not I am “peng”, use the word “peng” or don’t get terrified by the interface of TikTok or even the new favourite Houseparty (I GET IT, MY FRIENDS ARE IN DA HOUSE), TikTok has reached new levels of popularity, whether you’re considering cross-pollination (as @dudewithsign poetically put it, “Keep TikToks on TikTok!”), or audiences. This is a public service announcement to all teenagers: YOUR PARENTS ARE NOW ON TIKTOK.

(Runs for cover)

It was inevitable, really. With many families forced to self-isolate together at home, parents are infiltrating the group dance challenge, with the necessity of three or more (right now, it’s “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd); and as Buzzfeed explicates: “Even as we socially distance, there’s nothing like a dance challenge to bring us together. Safely. With people we are already isolated with.”

A song released by Vietnamese officials to encourage hand washing has also led to a TikTok dance challenge SENSATION. The BBC reports that “even Unicef has promoted Quan Dang’s dance video on Facebook, writing: ‘We love this hand-washing dance from Vietnamese dancer, Quang Dang. Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the first steps to protect yourself from #coronavirus.’”

Seemingly anything now has TikTok potential. Currently, Matt Lucas is bringing some joy to our days in isolation with this new remixed baked potato song in honour of THE COVID MONSTER. My husband is a particular fan.

As a non-teen, but a consumer of influencer content and an avid fan of visual social platforms, TikTok challenge trends like “flip the switch” and the “hand challenge” have surpassed TikTok and made their way into Instagram stories and influenced content there too. That is to say, I didn’t know that HALF of this stuff came from TikTok until I bothered to sit down and do some research.

I asked Immediate Future’s Digital Designer and resident TikTok interpreter Chantal El-Bikai about what she sees in it. “I love being able to scroll through to unwind, have a laugh and see how genuinely creative people are on it,” she finds. “Also… some videos are hilariously relatable.”

Relatability. That’s the crux. As working professionals, with families or not, most of us (if we’re lucky) are in these plastic bubbles, but we’re all in them [together]. As marketers, escapism is what we should be providing. Human connection is something we’re all craving, shared experience and relatability, humour and empathy.  And if this new way of communicating and sharing creatively is the way forward, then #challenge accepted.

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