Marlena Raines

Don’t get me wrong. I am no Tik Tok-ker. But I would be lying if I said I hadn’t poured an ungodly number of hours into that app. Some non-believers out there might be thinking, “What possible reason could you—a 19-year old college student—have to justify watching hours of 20-second videos in your bed alone?” And to that I can confidently say: Tik Tok is not just something one watches. It is all-consuming. It is life-eating. You’re not just watching it before bed, you’re watching it on the way to class, after you get out of the shower… in the shower. You subconsciously learn all of the dances (renegade, renegade, renegade). You’re walking to class singing songs you only know one verse of and just repeating them in your head over and over and over again. Or maybe, uh, that’s just me…

You see, I have been with Tik Tok from the start. Some of you Tik Tok-ers out there might be thinking “yeah me too.” No, I have been there since the start. I have been there since Musical.ly. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly was not a Muser. In fact, I hated Musical.ly. I remember once fondly calling it “the death of culture.” But that’s on me being pretentious. Honestly, maybe it was the death of culture. It consisted of people we saw too much, mouthing along to songs we heard too much, and originality faded. Also, Jacob Sartorius gained a fan base from it. He wrote a song called “Sweatshirt.” And the music video now has 56 million views. No thank you.

One day the Musical.ly app changed. I was no longer greeted by that familiar red circle with the white squiggle through it (real ones know the vibe), but instead a black app with a white music note logo. Overnight, Musical.ly had disappeared. Gone! Poof! And out of the ashes of Musical.ly, Tik Tok rose.

To be clear, Tik Tok is not the death of culture. Tik Tok is the rebirth of creativity, the rebellious child of Musical.ly, the estranged step-son of Vine. Tik Tok is a lawless land. It is where you see the kid from “Charlie Bit My Finger” all grown up, that girl from your high school dancing, and some random Viner you forgot about — all in one scroll. It is where your time goes down the drain and, honestly, your self-respect too.

To catch up my less experienced friends who might be totally lost, Tik Tok is basically just a video app. Users can re-use other people’s audio or make their own. Allow me to fill you in on the basics:

1. The Dance Videos

These are for the users desperately clinging to the old Musical.ly ways: copying dances and re-using sounds from more popular Tik Tok-kers. The dance world is basically dictated by a group called the “Hype House.” They all look older than me but are actually 15, which is unsettling, and basically just chill out in a mansion in Los Angeles, filming dances for Tik Tok. Queen of the Hype House is Charli D’Amelio, who rules Tik Tok and the hearts of 13-year-old boys everywhere. The Hype House also includes her (maybe) boyfriend “Lil Huddy” (they still haven’t confirmed but it’s obvious), and her sister Dixie, who can’t dance but is always around. I don’t know anyone else in the Hype House, but I am embarrassed I even know that many.

2. POVs

This one’s weird. Basically, a POV is an opportunity for users to create imaginary situations which they then act out on camera. They range anywhere from, “POV: you are sitting next to me in class and I ask for a pencil” to “POV: I am meeting my boyfriend’s family at a country club and I realize his father is the man who kidnapped me three years ago” to “POV: you live in a world where everyone who’s bad at love has to kiss a lemon on their 18th birthday.” (Yes, those are all POVs I have actually seen.) They are weird. I don’t understand them either.

3. “Check”

How do I explain check videos? They can be anything from “I have a boyfriend who is much hotter than me check” to “Traumatic experience that changed my life check” to “Rich best friend check.” Checks are basically just a way to show off random things you have or stuff that happened to you. They are cringy but honestly kind of fun. Checks are key to understanding Tik Tok as a whole.

4. Comedy Tik Toks

These are the Tik Toks that justify me having the app in the first place. This part of the Tik Tok world is essentially Vine 2.0. Funny people with funny bits being funny. High quality.

5. For You Page

Referred to as the #fyp by those up on the lingo, this here is the key to Tik Tok. The #fyp is a free-for-all. If your video is public, it could hypothetically pop up on someone’s #fyp. The page gives random people a chance for fame and has created endless one-hit wonders. People on Tik Tok just scroll through their For Your Page, so if you show up on it, countless people around the world could come across your Tik Tok. It also allows random girls from my high school to have over 15k views on their videos.

For the sarcastic and ironic generation that we are, Tik Tok seems like the perfect place to mock everyone and everything. But let me tell you, it is not that easy. I started browsing the app completely ironically. Until, out of nowhere, I would find myself wondering if Charli and Lil Huddie are actually dating. Once, I was walking from LC up Science Hill and I said to my friend, “I have a really long walk to class cheeeeck.” I have made my little sister explain the Hype House to me about 100 times because I actually want to understand it. Long story short, Tik Tok is its own little world, and let me tell you, it is FAR too easy to get sucked in.

Still, let me reassure you, I have never made a Tik Tok and I probably never will. But I understand why so many teens do. We are a generation that has been demanded to perform. We have to stand out, be unique, be funny, be pretty, be something. And Tik Tok is a place where anyone can be anything. Social media has taken over our lives in a way that is so scary but makes so much sense. We crave attention and validation. We are putting on a show. Instagram, Snapchat, all of that, was just paving the way for Tik Tok, the app where anyone can be noticed and anyone can have their moment in the spotlight.

Or, maybe, it’s just a bunch of kids having fun and being creative. You can decide. As for me, well, I’m just busy trying to learn how to renegade.

Georgia Bynum | georgia.bynum@yale.edu