We live in the Social Media Age, and much like the Bronze Age and the Stone Age before it, this era has spawned a set of tools that have changed the way we live our lives.
While the byproducts of those ancient epochs helped our ancestors master the art of hunting mammoths and developing agriculture, the Social Media Age has given modern generations more platforms than ever to share pictures of food and provided a place for weird uncles everywhere to unload their political diatribes on the masses.
Some of these platforms thrive while others go the way of MySpace and Friendster. However, one thing almost all of them have in common is that there is a time early on in their life cycle where they seemingly take over the world. Facebook had its moment in the sun and there was a time where Twitter reigned supreme but people eventually moved on to bigger and better things.
Nowadays, it seems like there’s nothing more popular with the tastemakers of the internet than TikTok, an app I have repeatedly tried to understand until finally coming to the conclusion that I have no fucking clue what’s going on.
I’ve always been relatively quick to adopt the next social media craze, whether it’s something that allows me to connect with friends or just provides me with the chance to bring some fairly mindless entertainment into my life. I still try to keep my eyes peeled for the next big thing, but TikTok somehow slipped under my radar like some sort of social media stealth bomber.
I like to think I have a pretty good handle on technology. I’m supposed to. Like any child of the mid-90s, I grew up with computers as a part of everyday life. So, on countless occasions, I’ve played the role of tech support for older relatives who needed a hand adding an attachment to an email or turning up the volume on their iPad
“There’s a button on the side… It’s like two buttons in one… No, that’s the power button… Y’know what, I’ll just fix it when I visit in a couple months”.
I’m slowly creeping toward the quarter-century mark of my life, but sadly, TikTok has ruined that milestone and sent me into the downward spiral of a quarter-life crisis (although it’s statistically more of a third-life crisis, which makes things even worse). For the first time in my life, I’m completely at odds with the latest technological fad.
I had heard rumblings about TikTok for quite some time. The extent of my knowledge of this app which hails from the People’s Republic of China was cursory at best. Basically, I knew it involved video and that America’s youth seemed to love it. That was it.
I was under the impression the “hip youngster” label still applied to me, so I visited the neighborhood app store and downloaded it for myself. I figured all I had to do was bounce around the platform for a bit to get the hang of it and it would only be a matter of time until I became a TikTok god.
But once I began watching some videos, I realized there was a major hurdle in the way of my goal of ascending to TikTok stardom: I just didn’t get it.
Why is everyone dancing? How did they learn these dances? What’s with all the lip-syncing? Does everything have to be a challenge? Why does my back hurt? I felt like I had stumbled upon the hieroglyphs of a long-lost civilization and lacked the Rosetta Stone needed to decipher them.
It was at that moment that I suddenly knew what it felt like to be an old person, as I was completely confused by this constant stream of videos where people change places by flipping a switch or dance to a song about what Carole Baskin may or may not have done to her second husband.
How could this be? I was supposed to be young and on the cutting edge of everything the internet has to offer, but there I was Googling the letters “fyp” in an attempt to figure out what they stood for. It turns out it’s a reference to the “For You” Page, which is a thing I also don’t understand, but sadly, I don’t have any grandkids who can fill me in.
TikTok ushered in the realization that my glory days may be officially behind me. I now feel like if I try to be a part of anything associated with “youth culture,” I will be greeted with a skeptical glance and an eye-roll as if to sarcastically say “Hey, look at grandpa over here trying to fit in.”
Every day, I feel more and more like a living Steve Buscemi meme; a skateboard casually slung across my back, a hat turned backward, and a shirt with the name of my favorite music band (which happens to be named “Music Band”) emblazoned across the front.
The question now is do I fight this change or lean into it? Should I try to learn the ways of the TikTok and embrace this thing that the latest generation has brought to the forefront of our culture? Or should I blow it off and start driving a Buick while I eat hard candy and complain about Kids These Days.
For my own sake, I think the only real answer is to try and adapt to the changing internet landscape, but it won’t be easy, as the whole TikTok thing has left me wondering if I’m out of touch. In the end, I’ll probably just adopt the mindset of Principal Skinner and convince myself that no, it’s the children who are wrong.
That approach seems a whole lot easier than the alternative.