TikTok review: The buzz, Gen Z users, and what the app is actually good for
The weird and the wonderful
Oh TikTok. What is it about it really? From what the Internet is projecting and what I've been seeing on my Instagram timeline, I've seen comedic dance moves (at times from a couple of oversexualised teenagers), shareable memes, an emerging breed of e-girls, and a whole lot of weird stuff going down. Yup, I wasn't exactly convinced.
As a millennial, I have seen the rise (and fall) of many social media platforms. So much so that it is getting old at this point. Yet another 15 to 1-minute video app that have gained millions of users, only to come crashing down with content creators left to fend for themselves. Vine and Musical.ly are two major examples of this, and TikTok could be their lovechild if the two apps ever made a baby. And while the app has undoubtably transformed the music industry to what we know it today, with rising stars like Doja Cat, I would be lying if I said I wasn't skeptical about this buzz.
Having said that, the hype of TikTok seems to be ever growing and with that comes a plethora of unanswered questions. Is this just another fad that will eventually die out only to be replaced by another 'same same but different' app? What makes this app so special in comparison to other failed ventures? To answer life's greatest mysteries, I spent a week on TikTok, so you don't have to.
The first time
Tapping into the app, I was slightly underwhelmed by the content on the 'For You' page. There were funny skit videos here and there addressing prevalent issues like the COVID-19 and of course — cute baby content. However, nothing really enticed me to continuously use it. On top of that, the interface — as I came to terms with during the week — wasn't as user-friendly as I hoped it would be. To start off, creating a TikTok video was a nightmare. There is no guidance whatsoever, so you are left to discover it by yourself. Granted, nothing that a quick YouTube video guide can't fix, but a clear and concise user interface would have been appreciated.
The best form of flattery? Imitation. Which led me to my first TikTok based off popular trends I saw. The #ObsessedChallenge was such a hit that even Mariah Carey shimmed in. And if Mariah Carey approves than why shouldn't I? After binging a couple of TikTok how-to videos, I learnt that you can trim the song to start where you want, and you can have the option of curating a 15 second or 60 second video. I opted for the lower of the pair as I figured fewer seconds means I will cringe at the playback less. There were some nice filters to add — thank God. I decided to set it to public since I wanted to see how high my views can get with its trending hashtag. Spoiler alert: I didn't get much. You can also opt to post a video private (only you can see), friends only (only the people you follow and they follow you back) and public — what I did — this option gives you the chance to appear on the 'For You' page, which bolsters your views and likes.
But to come clean, I didn't venture into the unknown web all by myself. I had some help going into this trial — my 19-year-old sister, who happens to be a TikToker for a year now. I was shocked to hear that it took her 10 months to get the hang of it. At least my inability to use that app isn't just a sign of my age showing, it was just the user interface issues — phew.
Some of the tips she shared was that:
A) It's all about trial and error so it's a continuous learning journey
B) Trendy face effects and text pop ups are hard to figure out initially. She eventually found out that you can click on the effect on top of the username to use popular effects like 'TikTok lights' — similar to adding the sound feature, which I discovered while working on the #ObsessedChallenge.
Irrespective of the challenging interface, she still managed to go viral. Hopping on the 'Where people think I am from' trend, she learnt how to integrate time with text, allowing text to pop up during specific upbeat tunes. Without the use of hashtags, it garnered 55k views and is still actively growing. Proof that to go viral and blow up on TikTok, you don't need to incorporate certain hashtags, instead you need to use popular sounds or join in on the trending challenges to win more views. Unlike apps like Instagram and Facebook, anyone can become a viral sensation on TikTok and that's probably where the main appeal lies.
The final verdict
My brief experience on TikTok led me to the following conclusions:
For newbies trying to figure out the various features, learning how to post a TikTok will pose as a challenge. Although I was initially hesitant to download the app, it was fun to scroll through the sea of video content and I can certainly see how you can lose time on it. Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok offers a unique proposition. Their fun challenges encourage creativity amongst the youth and inspire people to be more active within their social groups, instead of mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram.
The days leading up to the end of the week were increasingly better as the TikTok algorithm finally started to adjust in accordance to my 'Liked' videos. And to my surprise, apart from trendy dance challenges and memes, TikTok holds a huge pool of entertaining beauty and lifestyle content. Whether it's admiring captivating glitter acrylic nails, watching makeup artists transform into Johnny Depp or seeing style influencers model various fashion-forward looks, TikTok's video categories are nothing short of remarkable. And its unpredictable algorithm means that everyone has the equal chance to blow up.
Do I see myself becoming a frequent TikTok user? Probably not. But will I still judge my Gen Z sister for blasting out popular TikTok song tracks like 'Say So' on repeat while busting a move? Not anymore, and that's a win in my books.