Well, it finally happened. I’m officially washed. Call me a “Boomer,” if you must. I’ve discovered a mainstream social media app I don’t fully understand: TikTok. Yes, I have an account and yes, I waste more time than I’d like to admit scrolling through videos, including as I wrote this article. 

But even then, the subcultures and trends that exist within TikTok confuse me. I feel out of touch. This is what it must be like for my parents to navigate Instagram (don’t worry, mom and dad, it’s part of your charm).

Headlining my bewilderment is it seems there are romantic relationships between high-profile TikTokers — is that a legitimate term? — bred from their celebrity status on the app, but said TikTokers remain silent about whether they’re actually dating and that ambiguity frustrates other users. Of course, I’m cognizant of these details because I scour the comments sections. I may be confused, though I am no less devoted to embracing the TikTok way of life.

Strangers being preoccupied by the personal lives of other strangers is a fitting encapsulation of popular culture in America, but its outlandishness is multiplied by the fact many of these relationships involve high-schoolers. These adolescent, pseudo-celebrities broadcast themselves to hundreds of thousands — sometimes millions — of people, and random users being so deeply invested in their romantic lives reaches a level of intrusion with which I’m not comfortable, especially given their age. 

If relatives interrogating me, a 21-year-old, about my dating life at family gatherings makes me squirm, I can only imagine how these TikTok stars, who are often 3 to 5 years younger than me, feel when “family” is swapped for “strangers.”

Let’s table my criticism of the app. I do not merely frequent TikTok out of spite. There are aspects that brighten my day. Chief among them is the expansive library of adorable and creative videos involving dogs. 

Content creators are quite ingenious when it comes to marketing their furry, four-legged companions, and all I can do is grin and chuckle. Whether it’s syncing the dogs’ movements to the beat drop of a song, or just documenting the antics of these creatures, they’ve roped me in. TikTok, like almost every other relevant social media app, has me hooked.

But, I mean, c’mon, absolve me of some blame for developing a hankering for this absurd app.

They’re dogs, which are objectively (read: subjectively) blissful animals. And, oh boy, do I inundate my housemates with TikTok videos of these dogs. I stumbled across a video early Monday morning of a dog that happened to be the mayor of a town. So what it was 1:30 a.m.? That was content gold, and my friends deserved to relive my joy. You bet I shared that video. This, to be frank, is a regular occurrence for me — and sometimes at hours I do not wish to disclose.

There are also humans on TikTok whose brains seem wired to design humor in a way I could never imagine. Notably, the user @dannymitch drums up videos almost every day that induce cackles of laughter. Somehow, he’s discovered a middle ground among authenticity, spontaneity, and preordained content unreplicated by anyone else on the app. 

Attempting to describe these videos is a futile task, so just watch them for yourself and appreciate the hilarity that affords            me moments of glee each day.

At its core, TikTok resembles every other popular social media app. Its downfalls are mystifying and frustrating while its charming oddities ensure a maintained presence on the home screen of my phone. I downloaded TikTok two months ago. Although I am still perplexed by the cult following of some verified accounts and what makes those celebrities so enticing, I also find reprieve from the rigors of college life in heartwarming dog videos and uniquely humorous skits.

TikTok is weird. I don’t fully comprehend its purpose and popularity. But that’s OK. As long as it keeps providing me dog videos, I’ll smile, nod, continue pretending I’m not out of my element, and conceal the aging persona lurking inside me.

Jackson Frank is the managing editor and digital editor. Follow him on Twitter: @jackfrank_jjf.

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