Culture

Everything You Need To Know About TikTok If It Scares And Confuses You

Stay relevant with your unfriendly teen relatives!

TikTok Explainer: Everything You Need To Know

I am hopelessly hooked on TikTok, in the same way I was hooked on the much lamented Vine (RIP).

I will lie on my couch, scrolling and laughing, till I almost pee myself, then run to a toilet and continuing to scroll while I’m there.

You may have heard the word around social media, or seen the videos popping up with the little musical note logo.

TikTok is here, and it’s time to work out how it works so you can enjoy that delicious, delicious content too.

TikTok started life as Musical.ly, an app launched in 2014 that focused on “musers” recording short videos. They would lip sync to various songs in the app’s library. Technically, Musical.ly existed first and Tiktok’s company bought it and merged the two similar apps.

One had a majority user base in the US and the other was strong in Asian countries, so they combined them into one huge platform. This might seem like super unnecessary information except that it helps explain some of the app’s features, when you know this all started with miming and music.

Here’s a little map of the screen when you open the app up.

Those familiar with Snapchat and Instagram will feel at home pretty quickly. But if you just start clicking and swiping the navigation becomes clear: up for next, down for previous, tap on something to investigate further, then swipe left to go back.

How To Use The TikTok App

The ‘For You page’ is the main feed.

You get fed a mixture of what’s trending along with new, low view-count vids. That’s how videos get the chance to rise. You’ll see the hashtag “foryoupage” a lot. I don’t think it helps you get your content featured but everyone gives it a shot!

The Following page will be a content feed from the creators. You click the little plus sign on.  You’ll get a little red spot notification if there’s new material.

Videos filmed in the app are limited to 15 seconds.

But you can film a few, save them, string them together outside the app and then use the upload option to post videos up to 60 seconds. Gaining large numbers of followers can also increase the time limit up to 5 minutes.

There are heaps of effects and filters to play with and new ones added all the time.

What Is TikTok?

TikTok has really interesting ways to respond and build off other people’s content.

I’ve seen them used in really interesting and creative ways, but also just… ripping people off. FuckJerry style accounts are already here and posting content stolen from all over the web. I personally try to track down the original and give that my like, but it can be pretty difficult!

One way to check if the TikTok you are watching is using audio from another video, is to look at the file name running across the bottom of the screen.

Then you can click that audio and look at all the other videos made using it and if you’re lucky, the original. That’s if it hasn’t been removed, made private by the creator or re-uploaded. Videos disappear on TikTok a lot, very quickly, seemingly for no reason. I don’t know if it’s an overzealous report feature or a bug.

If you love something I recommend liking it but if the option is there, downloading a copy just in case!

TikTok Is For Duets

A cool feature is the ability to duet, which initially was people lip syncing the same songs but people got creative!

This is the feature my fellow millennials seem most confused about so I’m breaking it down. Let’s start with a cute dancing video. There’s a lot of dancing memes on this app. If you weren’t familiar with all the Fortnite dances, you will be soon!

Then a TikToker can duet the video and add their version on the left side of the screen. Someone else will duet the duet and so on, creating a chain.


Now that a trend has been established and you’ve got some expectations in that little noggin of yours (this is my favourite part) people fuck with it!

What Are TikTok Memes? What Do They Look Like?

This is a meme heavy world and it’s impossible to be across everything but I can give you a run down on some big ones.

Hit or Miss

A sample from a diss track by an Atlanta based hip hip group called iLOVEFRiDAY. The track was responding to a fake tweet that appeared to be by Mia Khalifa the porn actress turned internet personality.

They didn’t realise it was fake at the time.
It first popped up on Tiktok with this video from Nyannyancosplay.

And then this Abimitsven TikTok, with a call and response of the tagline has led to a lot of public testing of the reference

Karma is a bitch
There are a few memes like this, where we get to see a transformation of the tiktoker and this was a big early one. The audio sample is the character Veronica from Riverdale speaking over the track ‘Gucci Gucci’ by Kreayshawn.

Rockefeller Street
A dance challenge done to a nightcore remix of ‘Rockefeller Street’ by Getter Jaani, the 2011 Eurovision entry for Estonia.

Yes I know, what the hell is that sentence? The track went viral with a video of two Chinese men playing a rhythm game who bust out dancing to it.

Wattpad
A series of videos mocking the dramatic Y/N (insert your name here) fan fictions often found in the Wattpad writing community.

Pretty Boy Swag
People low key making themselves resemble someone or something else.

These crack me up every time I stumble across it, whether I can see the conclusion coming or not, whether I know the reference or not… WHY IS IT SO FUNNY!?


Mirror moves

This app is teaching a whole generation about editing, comedic timing and getting the right audio with the right visual.

There’s a new trick every week; Mirror running, mirror jumping, morphing through mirrors and invisible phones.

You Was at the Club
Everyone is obsessed with dressing up as the BoyBoy West Coast, and the track he loaded up to instagram.

Why does he keep pretending to drink from two empty styrofoam cups? Why does he only seem to wear his sunglasses on his forehead or his chin, why did he leave in the name of the website he bought the backing beat from? So many questions.

Old Town Road

TikTok is the reason we (including Billy Ray Cyrus!!!) are all singing Old Town Road at the moment.

The Lil Nas X track has been all over the app with both YeeHaw transformations and videos of anything that seems super typical of the southern US.

It’s Not All Gold

Like Vine and the rest of the internet, you’ll be sifting through shit to find the gold.

In that search you’ll definitely stumble across people going for cheap laughs by relying on bigotry. So, hit the share arrow and scroll across to find a report button. The system seems to work pretty fast. I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Although there are popular creators regularly putting out material. I often find the best stuff from small accounts. Regular people going about their lives, doing silly crap when they get bored or being in the right place at the right time with a camera and some easy-to-use in-app editing.

Most of it is really quite wholesome!

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the news, it can be quite life affirming opening up TikTok. I immediately see people working together creatively, performing incredible human feats, being silly with their mates and all the delightful pet videos.

I’ll sign off with this guy absolutely owning all Australians with this spot-on impression