The TikToks That Got Us Through

Graphic: Elena Scotti (Photos: Screenshots via TikTok)

In a long year where everything was, generally, not great, the one questionably-bright star in our collective galaxy was TikTok—an app with an addictive quality that consumed hours of our valuable leisure time. For every bout of Sunday Scaries that hit hard during 2020, TikTok was there for us, serving story ideas, jokes, and gentle reminders of our own mortality. It’s not that TikTok is good for society on a large scale, but it’s hard to say that it’s completely bad, either. For every hundredth TikTok promoting pro-ana thinking, there’s at least one to two videos that provide some sort of joy. We tried our best to find that elusive feeling this year, as we scrolled endlessly on our phones in the dark, night after night. Here are the fruits of our labor.

I have spent so much time on TikTok this year, obsessively tracking what Fyre Festival-level disaster meals NYU freshmen were served in quarantine (I’ll never forget you, ~watermelon salad~), watching zoomers roast millennials’ #adulting and Harry Potter-obsessed asses, learning that teenagers want to kill Matthew Morrison, etc. It’s impossible for me to pick one good TikTok, but I’d like to shout out this kid who tries to figure out people’s heights online using increasingly intense mathematical equations using other objects in the frame, as knowing everyone’s height is very important to me. — Hazel Cills 

I have written quite a bit about the creative goons, goblins, and gremlins that run amok on TikTok, sowing chaos and discord wherever they might appear. But in a year positively stuffed with memorable exploits on the app, my fondest memory is not of a specific video, but a sound. It’s of Wendy Williams, on The Masked Singer, performing an instantly iconic cover of Odyssey’s “Native New Yorker.” This sound spawned more wonder and joy on TikTok than anything else this year, even Doja Cat’s “Say So.” I suggest a quick exploration of other videos that employed this sound. In my book, they are all nominated for TikTok of the year. Ooh ooh ooh! — Joan Summers

I’m far too joyless to spend any considerable time on TikTok, but there are a few top contenders in my mind: the dog who speaks with a word board, every horrible “day in my life in NYC” TikTok and its parody, the Laura Dern sitting challenge, and so on. But the one that hit me right in the gut is this narc-y girl calling out Jake for dancing to Cardi B on Tik Tok instead of contributing to their group project—I feel for her, because I am her; we are all her. —Maria Sherman

My TikTok habit has died down to a more manageable level as of late, for which I am very grateful. I’ve used TikTok as a repository for possible story ideas, I’ve considered making recipes that I found on the app, but mostly, I stared into my phone for hours while very high, swiping and scrolling until my eyes close, favoriting whatever strikes my fancy at that moment. Because of this, the videos I’ve favorited tell a nightmarish story of my mental state over the past year: TikToks about concoctions to make your pussy taste good (this was for WORK); Kermit the Frog dancing seductively to a song from Hamilton; countless videos about how to fix lower back pain; booty workouts that assure me my “peach” will grow. However, there are two TikToks that I have saved that I love. The first, features a song that defined this weird-ass summer and a beloved childhood icon talking about filthy shit, and the second is spiritually a Vine. Both are perfect to me in their own special way. —Megan Reynolds

In a year of panicked yelling about socialism from Republicans, Democrats, and people on Twitter, I found solace in this sweet, calm explanation from Victoria, a recovering evangelical from small-town Georgia who is also a “broke witch with multiple deities.” Logic goes a long way, the kids are doing OK! —Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

I never did download TikTok. As I’ve aged I’ve begun to jealously guard my remaining brain cells and I know, somehow, deep down, that if I started hanging out on TikTok I might never do anything but be on TikTok again. Luckily, all the other fantastically valuable companies getting fat on my inability to stop scrolling have me covered. I think I saw this on one Twitter first, and it’s the perfect internet humor one-two punch of corny and despairing: It’s cute, I guess, that this kid has a skeleton best friend but the ideal venue for this video is with a caption identifying the small child going to the beach with a bag of bones during quarantine as “me.” —Molly Osberg

I think this has since been deleted from TikTok—whether by the creator or the app, I’m not sure—but this goth saying “Boys, if I see you skating down the street, I will put my whole pussy out the window, make it talk, and say, ‘DO YOU LISTEN TO WEEZER?”’ I admittedly say “DO YOU LISTEN TO WEEZER” in that same Muppet-like voice on a regular basis, and the visual of sticking my entire vagina out of a window to attract skaters—a class of men who, at 30, I still have a weakness for—is just… incredibly powerful. I approve. I would never do it, but I like the idea of it. —Ashley Reese

Finally, someone who’s older than me is on TikTok. The first time I watched this grandmother try out the speech dictation function on her iPad, I laughed so hard I almost choked. I love the loop of reading herself back to herself that she finds herself in. “What am I doing?” she wonders in the video’s final seconds. Same! —Rich Juzwiak

I’m far too old to spend a significant amount of time on TikTok which exacerbates my feeling of decrepitude, but I enjoyed this TikTok which was an accidental yet perfect summary of middle age. —Stassa Edwards

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

trlrgrl2
trlrgrl (2)

I finally downloaded TikTok a couple months ago out of Covid boredom and I have found some absolute gems on there. Lots of fun and great animal accounts if you like that.....I follow “joshthedoodle” about an amazing (like, will-bring-joy-to-your-life-every-day type) dog and rescue organization that helps dogs with neurological disabilities....I follow another account about a professional wildlife rehabber who is rehabbing a baby beaver. (I am completely fascinated by these animals now) Yet another account about a family who over the course of a year patiently rescued a dog that had been abandoned in the woods near their house, and the dog looks exactly like Scooby Do, down to the ears that turn, lol. There are tons of body positive accounts, tons of great recipes, hacks, styling advice.....and the algorithm is pretty great to make sure you see things you are interested in.