As people pushed into remote work—and those who are, at worst, suddenly out of work as industries shutter amid the global coronavirus outbreak—brace for another week of testing the limits of being very, very, very online, it's clear that we could all use a little break from the morale-crushing news cycle on Twitter, the endless re-sharing on Instagram, and the font of misinformation that is Facebook (no, despite what your mom's friend is posting, holding your breath is not a true coronavirus "self-check").
Log off from all of that, even if only for a few minutes. Let this be the week that you finally get on TikTok, falling down a rabbit hole of clips that will briefly remind you that a world of silly and absolutely inane shit still exists out there beyond our collective panic.
If you aren't in high school or college, it's probably been easy to ignore TikTok entirely, an app popularized by teens through short videos set to sound clips. Initially—like the platform Musical.ly, which TikTok's parent company acquired in 2017—TikTok was used for lip-syncing videos. Over time, though, it diverged into something more meme-able and shitpost-friendly like Vine (RIP) reincarnated.
Today, TikTok is where you can find things like:
A moving truck absolutely overflowing with Orbeez, water absorbent gel beads:
College students familiarizing themselves with their new online learning realities:
And even, a person licking what appears to be an airplane toilet for the "coronavirus challenge":
If you're a Gen Xer or a millennial, you have might made fun of TikTok or written it off as something for the kids, but now is the time to swallow your pride. Let the algorithmically-generated For You page spit out more videos, and you'll get a bit of everything from bangers with a million likes to blurry potato cam clips without a single response. We're in desperate times, needy for something to make us smile, and you don't really need to "get it" to have a good time on TikTok. (The app isn't perfect: a recent report from the Intercept, for example, found that TikTok moderators were instructed to suppress posts from "ugly" and poor users in order to pull in viewers.)
Like Tumblr and Vine before it, TikTok still feels like the wild, unfettered world of the internet, where people don't take themselves too seriously. You don't need much exposure to understand it, and once you do, you'll laugh, you'll cringe—but more importantly, you'll scroll. Soon enough, 15 minutes will have gone by without a single thought of checking your email or reloading your Twitter feed.
In normal times, most of us don't need another platform to glue ourselves to, but this isn't normal times. Right now, we all need a silly way to stop paying attention, even if it's just for 15-second increments at a time.