The day that I finally understood TikTok

I should imagine, not being rude about it, that the Venn diagram of people interested enough to read my blog and subscribe to my newsletter, and people who can get 20/20 in this Buzzfeed quiz “How many of the top 20 TikTok creators can you correctly identify?” is very small.

I found the quiz really useful though. With not being a social media manager/editor at the moment it hasn’t been vital, but I had found TikTok difficult and imprenetrable to understand. It didn’t have an easy ‘in’. With Facebook back in the day you added some old work and school friends. With Twitter in 2008 there were some tech people you knew the names of and could start with. Instagram had friends. But when I first looked at TikTok I just didn’t know where to start.

So this list of 20 gave a jumping on point. Follow these people and your feed is going to be populated with some of the most popular stuff on the network, and take it from there. So last week I spent a baffling thirty minutes scrolling through TikTok with increasing levels of middle-age dad disapproval, feeling like I was looking at an entirely different culture.

I’m always very minded though not to be that dad who insisted Top of the Pops was switched off when Boy George came on, and over the years one of the useful things that I’ve found is to put yourself in the frame of mind of “What would me and my friends have done with this service when we were 17 or whatever”. That’s one of the reasons I’m still glad to this day that MySpace and LiveJournal weren’t around when I was a teenager otherwise all my terrible, terrible lyrics would all be on the internet.

Anyway while scrolling in horror through TikTok I suddenly had the blinding flash of recognition of what it would have been like for me in 1988. It would almost certainly have been full of slightly older cute goth girls in their best going out outfits doing make-up tutorials, interspersed with the odd spotty spike-haired dude showing you how to play the riff from a Joy Division song, and it would have been absolutely compelling. That’s what TikTok is, I reckon.