It wasn’t just “Tiger King” that ascended to massive popularity during the onset of quarantine. Joining Joe Exotica as one of America’s guilty pleasures during the first several weeks of the pandemic was TikTok. Already insanely trendy with Gen Z prior to COVID, the app won over millions of people, especially the #Over30 crowd, as they sat at home in front of their phones.
With good reason.
TikTok is an engaging and addicting social media channel that took short form video to new heights. Not only did it extend the length of runtime from its predecessor, Vine, but it also offered its users an extensive and powerful suite of editing tools to make content stand out. What resulted was a platform chock-full of creative and shareable videos.
Although it took a pandemic for many to realize the gloriousness of TikTok, those new to the platform preceded to make up for lost time. Without naming names, I might know a few people who gladly sacrifice sleep and other social distancing approved pleasures to watch TikTok. Not that any of these people are necessarily family members, but I have noticed that the group chat comprised of my siblings and our significant others is now basically an endless stream of TikTok links and “Haha” tapbacks.
Personally, I am more interested in creating TikToks than spending every single minute of my free time watching them. I enjoy chronicling the adventures of my kids, telling their stories, expressing the challenges of parenting, and convincing my wife to participate in challenges.
But I am a mere novice when it comes to TikTok creation. All you need to do is refer to your average Gen Zer for inspiration on how it is done. Take our social media interns at Washington State University, for example. Chloe and Yazzmin are the content creators behind our @WSUPullman TikTok account and do a fantastic job at connecting with the coveted prospective student and current student population.
With most good things, there is always a caveat or two that chips away at their desirability. Unfortunately, TikTok has a couple issues. For one, there is the safety concern that has plagued TikTok since its infancy. The app doesn’t just attract a mature Gen Z audience, it attracts a very young Gen Z audience. As I explained in a news interview 18 months ago, parents need to monitor the TikTok activity of their tweens. But perhaps more damning is the privacy nightmare. The app is Chinese-owned and the risk that one’s data could be compromised has always been a concern. In fact, the potential threat was enough to derail any plans we had at Coastal Carolina University of ever creating a TikTok account.
The Chinese connection is what President Trump used last week to justify his decision to ban TikTok in the United States. In recent days, Trump has thrown a lifeline to the app via Microsoft’s interest in purchasing the U.S. portion of it. We shall see how it plays out.
Privacy or no privacy, it seems like most TikTok-obsessed Americans are willing to roll the dice for their daily dose of Taylor Swift-inspired dances and reiterations of the #GotMilkChallenge. For the time being, count me in that group. Don’t Blink.