The explosion of TikTok
Sometimes it takes surprise events to move the needle on a particular something. In this case I want to talk about a social media app that pretty much started out as a place for people to lipsync to their favorite trending songs. Sure it blossomed into more than that. Short bites of DYI, dancing boobs, comedy skits, historic educational material, but the recent events have shown its real value. TikTok has become a place to get near real time updates from the Ukraine. News straight to the viewer. We have witnesses with game day fascination how a grandmother would stand up to a Russian soldier and gift him sunflower seeds. “Put these in your pocket, so you will have flowers when you die” is heroic badassery of monumental proportions. We have seen how brave soldiers of Ukraine when told to surrender answered back with a “F*@K you before being killed. We have admired and not so secretly envied having a leader who when offered a way out by the US, responded with “I don’t need a ride, I need ammunition”. This Chinese owned platform has become this amazing window in the lives of regular Ukrainians as they struggle to survive an invasion from a bully neighbor. Brothers who are both world champion boxers refused to leave but reported for duty. Grandmothers & grandfathers showing up to volunteer, learning to make molotov cocktails and fire an AK. A farmer who towed away an unattended APC which ran out of petrol. Soldiers having a bar-b-q while Russian jets flying over head. The now famous Ghost of Kyiv, the first European fighter Ace since World War II with 6 kills. We are witnessing something amazing and TikTok has helped us in our comfortable chairs and warm homes to see what we have been longing for. Heroes, real heroes.
Even in Russia, heroes can be found on TikTok. Decreeing the invasion while ignoring the risk that comes with speaking against the Putin regime. Images of people in cities all over Europe and the US, gathering in support of the Ukrainian people’s right to be free. Stories come quickly to the TikTok biosphere. Elon Musk may have tweeted his support by directing his company Starlink’s rapid deployment of internet satellite service over the Ukraine, but it was all over TikTok. As of 2.25.22 #russianinvasion had received 32 million views, while #russiaukraine have racked up more than 132 million views. The volume has been so huge that it has also attracted disinformation and misinformation from the usual suspects and those trying to monetize the platform.
“This is the first time TikTok has really been central in a conflict situation of this scale,” said Sam Gregory, the program director of Witness, a nonprofit focused on the ethical use of video in humanitarian crises. “And the volume of misleading videos does seem new to me. Some people are doing it because they want attention, some people want to monetize it, others are doing it potentially as misinformation and disinformation,” he said.
When this is over and every war does come to an end a few things will have happened: TikTok will have come into its own much like CNN did during Desert Storm. We will look at our leaders in a more comparative light to Volodymyr Zelensky. But I would say we should look at our argumentative, disunified society and compare ourselves to the average Ukrainian. TikTok has turned into this magnificent teacher. I hope we learn.