I have nothing against TikTok except for the fact that it exists. Why? Why does a platform full of everything cringe and unwanted take the centre stage? And why on Earth are there 120 million Indian users on this app?
Clearly, I have some kind of a personal issue with the app - but that's mine to keep. For the rest of the country though, most people are wondering the same thing - why is TikTok so popular in India?
As objective as I try to be - I just can't see it, so I had to do some very unbiased research and I have finally understood the popularity and craze over this Chinese owned app that has taken over the world. Also, just a side note - I tried out the app to figure out what the hype was about - so stay tuned for that experience.
What Even Is TikTok?
According to Wikipedia - "TikTok is an iOS and Android social media video app for creating and sharing short lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos." - which sums it up pretty accurately.
Earlier TikTok used to be Musicall.y - which was the same content, but then TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance bought it for 1 billion dollars - so they merged into one app. Ever since that and the death of Vine (RIP), the app has taken off everywhere around the world.
Most users just missed Vine a little too much, so they took to TikTok to make content similar to that of Vine - but that was pretty much why the Western part of the world hopped on board. In India, there are plenty other reasons this app has bloomed.
Why Is Tik Tok So Popular In India?
For most of the world, including India, social media has been - Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and sometimes, Facebook. But for some, TikTok has been of equal importance. There has always been a simple classification between these apps - Instagram for the aesthetic, Twitter for the brains, Reddit for the cool stuff, and Facebook for moms.
So where does TikTok fall on this spectrum? Most people believe - cringy - but for the users, it's a way to showcase their creativity and talent, which is fair honestly. The issue is though, for everyone except the users, it has always been a source of annoyance and cringe.
Sachin Sharma, the Director for Sales and Partnership, for TikTok India points out the reason for growth on the app - "TikTok is the world’s leading short-video platform, which enables everyone to be a creator on a global stage. Since its launch, the response has been overwhelming in India. What has driven this growth is the content that is available on the platform and the opportunity that it offers users to showcase their talent and creativity. Users have varied interests and talents, and they get an opportunity to create engaging content across themes: comedy, cooking, travel, DIY, dancing, and sports, among others. Unlike any other platform, the 15-second format compels them to innovate. What sets the platform apart is that everyone is making every second count!"
This sums up the popularity pretty well, but apart from that, one important factor is the increasing development around the country with respect to connectivity. Cheap internet (thanks, Ambani), easily available smartphones and a basic understanding of social media.
Basically, now everyone has an internet connection and a smartphone so it follows that certain apps will have a hike in their user numbers. And the majority of TikTok users are the not - so - privileged population of the country. And maybe that's why the rest of India has such an averse reaction to the app's content.
It just reflects on the lifestyle of the more privileged and elite lot of the population - which is no one's mistake. But the fact that the app has so many users but very few mainstream supporters is why we think the app is a cringe-fest. It's just the privilege speaking.
India has always been a country of glamour and popularity when it comes to cinema and films - just look at the way Bollywood actors are treated - almost god-like. The chance to mimic these actors, lipsync their dialogues and play dress up gives the users a sense of stardom that they wouldn't get a taste of otherwise.
Gaining followers or fans on the app isn't quite as easy as it looks - you need to have a regular schedule, post relatable and local content, and at the same time be as creative as possible. So it's actually a fair amount of hard work that goes into creating a fan base. TikTok stars, as they are called, have some of the highest Instagram followers and their fan accounts have more followers than you ever will - so it isn't all just a waste.
When it comes to the content produced on the app - we can agree that to some extent it does qualify as cringe - but the users are simply trying to have fun and create videos that people can watch, and cringe-views are still valuable views.
There are hashtag challenges, memes and vine formats that also come out of the app - which has become a very important source of memes for the internet currently.
My Experience With TikTok
You can't just look and tell, you know? You've got to do some real practical work to see the results and reactions first hand, - and so I did. I downloaded the app and signed up for an account. And honestly, it was pretty fun.
I tried to be as intentionally cringe-y as possible, for the irony of it all. I picked a song that was a remix of Owl City's Fireflies and Justin Roberts' Six Figures. There's no cringe until one of the Paul brothers' squad joins in.
It was pretty simple honestly - I just moved around my head and then did close-ups (straight into my nose). But it was easy peasy, lemon squeezy. The hard part was actually learning to record and figuring out how to use the app - it's like you need a whole computer engineering degree to figure it out.
But other than that I actually had fun because I felt like I was just letting loose and literally anything could be accepted as "creative" or "funny" - basically, it was like being in a PewDiePie video - random and all over the place, but fun nevertheless.
In conclusion, I think it's time we just accept that TikTok is sticking around for a long time and the content may not be for you but it's an outlet that we can give a little respect to. And as Andre Borges said in this video - "TikTok has singlehandedly made thousands of Indian men shed their tears and show emotion - you name any other app that has come close to breaking down the toxic masculinity in an Indian male - you can't."
So just for that, let's give it a little respect, shall we?