I Learned A TikTok Trend In One Week, And Here’s All The Cursed Knowledge I Absorbed
The good news: I learned a TikTok Challenge. The bad news: I am now very depressed.
Listen, look, listen — TikTok is a lot. But TikTok trends are also goddamn addictive. They’re like Wizz Fizz for our attention span stunted little brains, and I’m obsessed.
If you’re unaware, TikTok is currently the app du jour, the fastest growing social media trend. It’s like Vine (RIP), but much more musical. It’s exceptionally popular with the Gen Z youth! If you are still confused, read this explainer of what TikTok is all about.
The biggest reason TikTok is so popular has to be the joyfully collaborative nature of the app. For any popular video, you are encouraged to reply, or duet, or mimic the piece, turning viral hits into trends or memes or even continued jokes.
This exceptionally strange H20: Just Add Water meme is a great example of the app getting obsessed by one niche Aussie show. Or, this cursed Renaissance meme is a particularly excellent example of people taking a great joke, and imitating, running, and adding their own spin to it.
The Arigato Kawaii Challenge
But it’s music that truly connects people on TikTok, and it’s absolutely rife with viral dances and overly talented teens doing complicated shuffles, and it’s intimidating and mesmerising.
One particularly common and weirdly obsessive trend is this weird dance to an old Avril Lavigne song, ‘Hello Kitty’.
It was never a particularly well-liked song, and the video clip was also vaguely problematic, but for some reason, it’s had a second life on TikTok. And what a life, there are literally thousands of videos of people doing this little dance, which is sometimes called the ‘Arigato Kawaii Challenge’.
If you go back far enough, it seems that it started life as a transformation meme, and then mutated, into the very specific sequence of dance moves it is today. It looks like TikTok user @punker_irl started it off, but I’m not sure.
Anyway, let’s watch this bullshit!
I decided I would try to do this challenge, and see if I gained any particular insights into TikTok, or trends, or maybe teens. Maybe I’d learn something about the nature of dance, or about myself, about life itself? Who knows.
I gave myself some rules — I would film a video every morning, and I would have to accept the first take — no re-dos!
I’ve never had a particularly good memory, or good rhythm or timing. I am an enthusiastic yet chaotic dancer. My dance icon is the wavy balloon men outside of car dealerships.
All these things combined meant that I performed pretty much exactly as well as expected in this first one. I failed. I failed hard, yet un-spectacularly. All it did was spur me, out of embarrassment, to try harder to remember.
A lot of people in the office asked what I was doing, and in retrospect, while I thought I did know, I actually had no idea.
After my disastrous first attempt, I must have watched around a hundred of these videos in a row. I found myself just sitting and swiping and swiping, hours of my precious evening passing by in a boppy blur.
Soon it was almost midnight, a cursed time for an adult who works 9-5, but I hadn’t noticed the time sneak up on me, like a soft-footed dickhead in a pillow fort.
I went to bed. And instead of sleep, all I could think about was ‘Hello Kitty’, the ka-ka-kawaii echoing on loop. I literally lay awake all night, thinking about the moves over and over. Look at this video below — I’ve got the sleep-deprived eyes of a madman, of a visionary, of a prophet.
I nail the moves, but my face is emotionless, exhausted… haunted. At what cost must TikTok trend success come at?
Look at this steely gaze, this surety of movement, this flamboyance!
By this point, ‘Hello Kitty’, or at least 15 seconds of it, has been playing in my head for so long that it’s like background noise, like a part of me. I feel cocksure, confident, a TikTok native.
I’m already making plans to move on to the next style of dance, maybe a more ambitious shuffle. I have dreams of being someone who is known for their cool dance styles, of being beloved by the teens of TikTok. The world is my oyster, and I’m the weird slime boy who lives inside!
A colleague walks past me while I’m filming, and tells me that her 12-year-old daughter has 20,000 followers on TikTok.
Sure, everything seems fine in this video. I am smiling, I have the moves down, I’ve even got a bit of pizazz.
But here’s the thing — I can only think of the grave, and what my body will look like, rotting, covered only by a paltry layer of mud and cheap wood.
First, I get dmed on TikTok by someone who I’d seen liking a few of my videos, a genial looking bearded chap. There was something about his picture that stood out to me, but I couldn’t work out what… it was only later that I realised a full beard was incredibly rare on an app populated by teens.
This guy simply said: “hey, good to see another old person on here!”
Every single one of my 31 years on this Earth suddenly weighed on me like skeleton bones, like a huge hat covered in fruit, and I am the exhausted dancer beneath.
Then I saw this video, which helpfully reminded me that Avril Lavigne’s seminal hit ‘Sk8er Boi’ came out in 2002, and half the people on this app… weren’t alive then.
I realised I should be using TikTok only to take a 15s video of my own, extremely imminent funeral.
Wow! Look at that, I’ve done it perfectly. I’ve perfectly learned this inane dance.
But for what? For why? For whom?
TikTok has become a harsh light, throwing my entire life in stark, critical relief.
What adult man spends his time learning this sort of thing? Shouldn’t I finally work out what superannuation is? Shouldn’t I be following the stock market and throwing all my money in sorghum bonds?
Shouldn’t I be doing adult things, like talking business at the golf course, or maybe inspecting a canned meat factory, or throwing stones at street orphans? Should I not be several years into an unhappy marriage?
I try to think of the kind of adult I wanted to be by this age, and I realise my view of myself was sitting around a dinner table, perhaps overlooking the New York skyline, talking to famous novelists, maybe a documentarian, a celebrity chef, the world’s most handsome pilot — and I’m drinking wine and laughing because I too am successful and handsome and wearing a casual tuxedo.
We may also be solving a murder, but whatever. In my dream, I am NOT the murderer.
Instead of that, in an effort to go viral for children, I put both my arms and my legs through the hole of a hoodie, and tried to dance around, and in doing so, fell over and thwacked my head against the side of my Ikea desk, giving myself a black eye.
I lay prone and trussed together on the floor, and realised I was stuck in a trap of my own making — which I realise is a good description of my entire career.
I realised that if I couldn’t get myself out of this content-related binding, out of this constricting hoodie, potentially nobody would find me before I starved to death. And I’d only have myself to blame.
So, what’s my takeaway from this challenge? Sure, you can learn a TikTok trend — but you might also learn more about yourself than you want. You might gaze into TikTok, but remember, TikTok will gaze back.
I would recommend that instead of learning how to dance on this app, you should drive yourself into the middle of the desert and let the sun drink all your bodily fluids, until you are just a mummified husk waiting to be discovered by alien archaeologists 200,000 years from now.
Like and subscribe! Give me a quick, sweet death!
Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton, and APPARENTLY TikToks @patricklenton.