International pop kween Ke$ha once said, “Tik Tok/round the clock/but the party don’t stop,” and her words seem prophetic in 2019, considering the current state of Indian teenagers.
Tik Tok, the short-video making app that allows its users to mimic music lyrics and film dialogues, is all the rage here, especially in Tier II and Tier III cities. It’s one of the multitude of Chinese apps like LIKE, Kwai, and many others which dominate Indian heartland content, away from mainstream social media discourses on Twitter and Facebook.
But the content is still short lip-sync videos, and attempts to gain internet capital using dialogues from DDLJ or crying on-screen in a heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Tadap Tadap ke’, leads to self meme-ing, an internet phenomenon that birthed ‘cringe culture’.
In a society where first impressions are sacrosanct (though they shouldn’t be), these 15-second clips are the lasting legacy Tik Tokers leave behind for the world. Imagine if Tik Tok existed in your granddad's youth, and the dude did a rendition of ‘Hum toh thehre pardesi’, and it got a million views, and it was the first thing that popped up when you searched his name online?
How would you judge him?
More importantly, how much can you truly judge a person through their online persona, especially since your own is so “finely curated”? And after this initial judgement, are we shocked that people on Tik Tok aren’t only posting images and stories from their pretty vacations or parties like the rest of us?
Tik Tok-ers are living the YOLO life on the edge of our current social media construct, disrupting our attractive artifice, one Jab We Met scene at a time. And to find out if young Indians would judge these risk takers, or jump in the sack with them, we asked around if they’d ever seriously consider dating someone they saw on Tik Tok:
“I am on Tik Tok, though I don’t post on it anymore. It’s full of thirsty boys. And when I think about it, dikkat toh hogi (there’ll be a problem) to date someone on Tik Tok. Like if she gets even a little popular, bahut saare ladke follow karenge usko (she’ll be followed by many boys), which will make me insecure.”
— Udit Sharma, 19
“No. Because standards.”
— Ramesh, 26*
“At first glance, I do judge people on Tik Tok because the content they put up is comedic no matter how serious they're trying to be, and it's just really embarrassing to watch sometimes. But that's just in the moment, and those thoughts are immediately put aside when I realise that it takes a lot of guts to put out something like that for public viewing, and that these people making the videos are not ashamed of it. And as I'm someone who likes to perform (as a dancer), I know it's very easy to sit behind my phone/laptop screen and ridicule these people because everyone else is, and I sometimes just want to go with the flow. But a hobby like this should not get in the way of me dating someone who is on the app.”
— Natasha, 21
“I’ve just joined Tik Tok, but sure. If it’s someone very Tik Tok-famous, maybe it’ll be problem just approaching them. Like those girls are very experienced, they must be getting approached a lot, but if possible, why wouldn't I date? She’s good at it, only then she must’ve gained so many followers no? Main bhi Tik Tok karta hoon, woh bhi kare. (I use Tik Tok, so why shouldn’t she?)”
— Tasneem Usmani, 29
“Maybe if I’d enjoy cringing and losing brain cells, I would consider dating a Tik Tok star. The music along with the expressions used makes me super uncomfortable… especially when old people try it… no thanks!”
“I’m on Tik Tok to just follow the stupidity. But I wouldn't mind dating someone who does stuff on the app, as long they’re not crazy. Like as long as they’re not the female version of people who get featured on “Boys Who Cry Passionately on Music.ly India”, I’d date them. I may think it’s really dumb to express yourself like that, but if it’s helping them, or they like it, it’s cool.”
“No way in fuck. If someone has so much free time, to make such videos and shit, I can't even expect to have a substantial conversation with them”
—Idris Bakri, 21
“I would judge them majorly, because TikTok doesn’t require any talent. And people on Tik Tok make such a big deal out of it, like they’re actually singing. I don’t date people who aren’t talented but act as if they are.”
“NEVER. Like it's horrible enough that the person thinks of that as an extension to their personality, but the covers of tacky Malayalam films and Honey Singh “rap sessions” that people make are just cringey AF.”
—Siddhant Singh, 21
*Names changed on request.