Hello from The Goods bi-weekly newsletter! Tuesday, internet culture journalist Rebecca jennings use this space to keep you up to date with what’s going on in the world of TikTok. Is there something you want to see more of? Less of? Different from ? E-mail email@example.com, and subscribe to The Goods newsletter here.
I’m having a hard time writing this newsletter because this is what the inside of my brain looks like right now:
- [Country song twang]: “Someone has to wear a nice skirt, someone has to be the one to flirt …”
- [Russian techno song whose lyrics I can’t understand]
- [Dr. Phil]: “Open the door, or I’ll throw stones at your window you bitch.”
- [Woman yelling]: “BESTIE VIBES ONLY!” BESTIE VIBES ONLY! “
- [The most uncomfortable “sexy” voice you can ever imagine]: “Uzi … Uzi, not yet … Uzi, wake up!”
What all of this have in common is that these are popular TikTok sounds. None of them have anything to do with each other, neither with me, nor with popular music. They all went viral because of a random chain of millions of people tapping their phones. And they’re the only thing I can hear anymore.
This seems to be an increasingly common occurrence among people I know in real life and those I see online. This woman, for example, did a TikTok on what the app did to her mind, which is the exact same thing she did to mine:
The video doesn’t say that next weekend the sounds themselves will be completely different, but the effect will be the same, with a permanent microchip in our brains looping the same sound without consequence. The other day I was telling a friend about the music we are currently listening to on Spotify, and this is all just what has gone viral on TikTok recently. I’ve listened to Boney M’s 70s euro-disco hit “Rasputin” and Yo Gotti and Nicki Minaj’s 2017 rap song “Rake It Up” about 12,000 times in the past month. Sometimes I jump straight to famous TikTok verses and then start the song over again. Is it a weird and slightly unhealthy locking habit or a permanent part of my being? Who can say!
To be honest, I appreciate that TikTok widened people’s interest in musical genres and time periods, much like the whole sea song stuff (which was a SNL sketch this week even if we have the impression that it all happened about 10 months ago). It’s nice to see people discovering music, not because it’s from the new album released that week, but because they’ve been exposed to something they never would have been otherwise.
But having that constant trail of decontextualized garbage in your head is a little overwhelming, and it gets even more so when it translates into how you actually communicate with people. Now when I call that same friend we find ourselves talking whole sentences in the language of TikTok, which of course is heavily borrowed from AAVE and stan culture and queer culture and everything else on the internet, even if we are two white women in our thirties. who have not attended a concert or movie in a calendar year.
Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with embracing a new lexicon from social media, as long as you’re not engaging in damaging language or digital blackface. It feels like at this particular moment the only new human interactions we are experiencing are the one-sided parasocial interactions that we watch online, and they are seeping into our real worlds faster and more completely than ever before. Like, when we finally all go out with our vaxxed friends this summer – an apparent possibility! – it will be fun and also strange to see what sonic quirks they spotted after a year of scrolling through TikTok alone (or anywhere else on the internet where they spent their time). Please don’t let it be “Uzi … Uzi … not yet.”
TikTok in the news
- People are sharing heartbreaking videos of destruction in Texas, from collapsed roofs to rapid flooding.
- A former developer of ByteDance in China wrote an anonymous essay about his experience working in China’s heavily censored tech industry and the guilt and moral anxiety that comes with it. (ByteDance is the owner of TikTok, and its moderation processes are different in China and outside.)
- TikTok is testing a retail marketplace where brands can create their own stores within the app.
- For National Eating Disorder Awareness Month, there is also a link to support resources on videos on related issues.
- Who would have guessed that the counterfeit TikTok app for “free speech,” Clapper, would be overrun by anti-vaxxers?
- A viral TikTok on “cooperative overlap” in the conversation has heated debate on whether the practice is rude or whether it is an integral part of certain cultures.
- Former Sway House Members Bryce Hall and Blake Gray (why are all their names exactly the same?)
- Two ironic TikTok cults, one devoted to hamsters and the other to Lana Del Rey, feud.
- Heartwarming story of a man who saw his family’s old VHS tape full of memories after someone saved it and posted it on TikTok.
One last thing
This Snapchat girl casually reacting to messages from friends while eating Chex Mix is the most powerful thing I have ever seen.