BENGALURU: As a writer and stand-up comedian, the most common pointer dished out to me is – Visibility. It’s something event managers and digital media planners swear by. I am told that I need to be present on every single platform, so that people do not miss out on the gems that I create once in six months.
This has resulted in me being present on nearly all the popular social media platforms. Facebook – where there is so much knowledge floating around that Adam Smith would deactivate his profile. Then there’s Instagram – a platform where memes could be used to announce everything from boredom to an armed revolution. And then there’s Twitter – a platform where one can whip up a nasty, toxic, vitriol-filled message using only 140 characters. A few years ago, a new addition was being made to the list – TikTok.
I checked out the app and found it to be quite non-fussy. But I also noticed that urban elites had a slightly condescending attitude towards the app. This is reflective of a very common phenomenon in India. Everything that is popular with the masses is considered ‘uncool’ or ‘crass’. Remember how Chetan Bhagat’s image went from a hip, urban author to an uncool egotist? The same is also true for Salman Khan’s films, and apps like TikTok.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, even the app’s name is accessible to most people. It requires no knowledge of English or the Internet. As opposed to the sparkly, spotless people on Instagram, TikTok users were more representative of everyday Indians. I found kids from villages, old people singing near lakes, and women who were dancing in their kitchens while cooking food.
I also discovered that the app was quirky, but harmless. There were singers and dancers who were displaying their skills on the app. Older men and housewives would lip-sync to songs or dance. My favourite account was a guy called ‘Chicken Leg Piece’. In every video, he would eat a number of different foods, along with a Chicken Leg Piece. Every video had just one line of dialogue – Chicken Leg Piece!
In a strange way, everybody seemed to be having fun on the app. TikTok was not a platform where childhood friends would part ways due to conflicting political opinions. The comments were all heartening, the users of the app took their videos extremely seriously. They encouraged and promoted each other enthusiastically.
Just as I was considering joining the app, news broke out that the Government of India has banned TikTok, along with 58 other apps of Chinese origin. I am informed that the move is to prevent any leaking of information from my phone to the Chinese authorities. I have been using a Chinese phone for years now, and I think the officials at Chinese military bases are fully aware that I only get messages from credit card companies!
But I wonder what all the TikTok users will do with their free time now! What happens to all the singers, dancers and actors who put our videos every day, with no other aim but to entertain their followers? It is ironic that the only non-political social media platform is banned due to political reasons. It was good while it lasted, but it’s time to say, Goodbye, Tiktok. I guess with the ban on the app, we all simply have to move on to the real tik-tok in our lives – using our time wisely!
Hriday Ranjan Writer, comedian