here comes a point in everyone’s life when they have to accept that they have become middle-aged. For some it might be realising that most popular music sounds like a racket, while for others it might be failing to understand youth slang such as… well, now I come to think about it, I don’t actually know any youth slang. Hmm. Anyway, for me, it has been the slow realisation that there is an entire social-media platform out there that I am completely incapable of comprehending. And that is TikTok.
I’ve tried – I’ve tried hard. I have downloaded the app to my phone, and scrolled through enough viral videos of strange lockdown challenges to make my eyes and ears bleed. One evening, I spent three hours trying to navigate this platform that is used by squillions of young people, this platform that keeps popping up on my Instagram feed as I peruse gentle pictures of sunsets and cups of coffee… but I only understand it less. I imagine that the way it makes me feel is similar to the way learning Mandarin or Arabic might feel, though I am beginning to think that I would master both of those languages faster than TikTok. It leaves me bewildered, confused and slightly distressed. I thought, approaching 40, that I finally understood the world, or at the very least knew the geography of it. But now it turns out there is a whole new world within the world, and I don’t seem to have the right passport to get in.
I shall try to explain TikTok to you, though this may be a case of the blind leading the blind. It’s a video-sharing platform, basically, that allows you to make mini clips of yourself, and most people tend to use it to take part in viral dance challenges, or to lip sync along to popular hits. Then again, I may be wrong. It might be best to ask a teenager.
It is so popular that there are people on there I have never heard of who have billions of followers. (Do you remember when Ashton Kutcher became the first Twitter user to get over a million followers, and everyone thought this was MIND-BLOWING? How quaint that seems now.) I swear, if a TikTok star passed me in the street I would not have a clue who they were.
And while I can see that it is tremendously fun, I cannot get to grips with creating my own video, let alone learning a dance routine for it. Where are these people finding the time, not to mention the coordination? How do they all manage to be so slick and impressive? And why does everyone on TikTok find it so easy to do handstands?
Still, TikTok fills me with hope for the future, if only because all the young folk using it are so very creative. It’s like coming across a population of mini film directors, who also happen to be tremendously fit and very good at dancing. Watching it makes me realise that I don’t have to understand TikTok: it is not for me. And so I can pass into middle age happily, safe in the knowledge that I am now officially exempt from silly dancing, or standing on my head while trying to put a T-shirt on. Who knew middle age would be so lovely?