This is One Thing, a column with tips on how to live.
By the time I joined TikTok, I felt extremely late to the party. This was about a year ago, long past the app’s initial heyday. I didn’t even know if I wanted to be at the party. Every week or so, I’d open the app, get served a bunch of cringey straight-couple content, then immediately close it.
The thing is, even if you aren’t on TikTok, you are, in all likelihood, lapping up its content when it gets regurgitated on Twitter (sorry, I mean X) or Instagram Reels, or the New York Times itself. Now that I’ve stuck with it for a while, I am here to humbly suggest to my fellow Olds that you stop waiting for trends to trickle down to you and instead go straight to the source. If you care about digital culture and how it’s influencing our world, you should be on TikTok.
The biggest hurdle to getting going on the app is sticking around long enough for its infamously powerful algorithm to figure you out—but once it does, you’re hooked. TikTok now knows way too well that I’m interested in eclectic fashion, gay memes, general shitposting, and cross-species animal friendships. I’ve learned how to do bold alternative makeup from @garancemurru; been inspired to mix elements of masculine and feminine in my style from icons like @mumishiyo__ and @ellessechar; cackled at the bonkers comedic stylings of @kay_wow; and glowed with happiness watching @oneandonlyminion, a pug/dachshund/Chihuahua mix and 100 percent good boy, feed the cats on his homestead and collect duck eggs in his own sweet little wicker basket.
If I weren’t a culture critic for a living, and if I also had better impulse control and a commitment to actually bettering my life, I’d log off all social media apps for good. Basically every single one is harvesting our data and gobbling up the most precious resource we have: our attention. And TikTok seems to be particularly insidious when it comes to propagating surveillance culture—everybody needs to stop recording strangers for clout!
But just as I haven’t yet quit junk food, the occasional cigarette, and a way-too-sedentary lifestyle, I haven’t yet quit social media. And all things considered, I think TikTok’s the best we’ve got right now. I don’t spend too much time on Instagram anymore, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg’s relentless attempts to get us to follow influencers and celebrities so it can sell us more shit on our tragically nonchronological feeds. Elon Musk’s disastrous tinkering with Twitter-sorry-X hasn’t yet driven all of us out of there yet, but it was recently reported that he’s thinking of charging everyone to use it, which might be the thing that finally frees us all. And if you, like I, were still hanging around Twitter for the best jokes the internet has to offer—I actually started crying laughing on Monday over everybody’s posts about Real Housewife Shannon Beador drunk driving her car into a house, attempting a hit-and-run, getting out of her vehicle, and pretending to be walking her dog—I think TikTok’s your next best bet.
I’ve heard good things about Reddit too, but I am not of that parish. What I can speak to is the clock app. TikTok’s For You tab can be a little problematic (for example, feeding me a bunch of skinny fashion girlies when I’m mostly interacting with and following hot fat queer people), but TikTok, unlike Instagram, has (thank God!!) a Following tab too, where you can curate your feed to be exactly what you want it to be. Disturbingly few places on the internet lately can still say that. Join us.