For months now, we’ve all been hearing about TikTok, if not actively using the platform already. What may seem like just another social media app is actually an AI-run social application which ignores the conventional values of followers, likes, and friends- eschewing the relevance they hold on other platforms in favor of creating a free community around shared dances, songs, and memes.

Why are TikTok dances so popular? As dancers, we know that choreography is made not only to fulfill our creative desires, but also to appease audiences, and is made to fit the space we have. Just like concert dance was developed in order to fill the grandest stages around the world, TikTok dances are made to fill the one minute time limit and the confines of a phone screen. The lack of footwork, along with the short length of these works makes them accessible to anyone with a phone and an hour or so to spare. Having lots of time at home, such as during self-quarantine, extreme weather events, or even holidays are unique situations when entire families can come together to pass the time learning dances or making memes- an activity which has become even more popular than usual, given the ample time we’ve had indoors lately. 

humor is a way for those who have experienced trauma to start making sense of the world again

The popularity of this social media platform, while led by these accessible dances and addictive format, is followed by the candidness of its Gen Z users to be open and vulnerable online. Teenagers and young people around the world have used the app as a unique coping mechanism, sharing their experiences ranging from eating disorders to depression and anxiety, from fears to celebrations. On the app, you can see what others are going through, and seek community and connection with people around the world. In the same way we are all doing the same dances, we all also experience and feel the same emotions, go through the same struggles, and celebrate the little victories. TikTok has given us a social connection different from what we cultivate offline. 

In times of crisis, it is difficult to know how to react, especially when the effects can be felt worldwide and affect every aspect of people’s lives. For much of Gen Z and younger millennials, these situations are nothing new. A generation of people who grew up through crises such as 9/11, the 2008 recession, and most recently, COVID-19, the Coronavirus Pandemic, are seemingly desensitized to headlines that seem like they’re straight out of a movie. Their darker humor, twisted memes, and parodies of these situations may seem out of place, especially to people who may fear they are not taking situations as seriously as they should. However, in making social media content related to, and directly addressing these real, scary issues, TikTok users are able to process these circumstances in a tangible way. Laughter is the best medicine, and while the humor employed may not bring about your typical laugh, this light-hearted approach to coping with these issues helps create a social connection between people who may not have anything else in common. Around the world, people can recreate scenarios they see in others’ videos because they are, in fact, going through the same thing, no matter the economic status, race, or even physical location.

Samira Rajabi, the director of Technology Influenced Practice at the University of Colorado Boulder told the Philadelphia Enquirer that “humor is crucial”, a statement that is particularly poignant in situations such as those mentioned above. She makes this case because humor is a way for those who have experienced trauma to start making sense of the world again. While it is subjective what constitutes trauma, the TikTok generation has been affected by many issues, and have found this outlet to express those feelings. “If people have a problem that’s not going to go away," Rajabi says, "it’s about thriving with whatever circumstances that they’ve been dealt.”

this light-hearted approach to coping with these issues helps create a social connection between people who may not have anything else in common

Scrolling through TikTok is a never-ending stream of laughs, tears, and sketches, some meant to make you laugh, some meant to make you cry, and some simply meant for the purpose of pure entertainment. Watching people from every walk of life participate in these dances is a reminder that we are all connected. We all exist in the same world and go through the same struggles. In periods of social isolation, such as the one we most recently have experienced, it is so important to find a purpose, an activity, and a community to join in. Loneliness can be just as bad for your health as obesity and smoking; as social creatures we have to find ways to communicate and connect; it’s long been said that laughter is the best medicine, and this is proof. There are endless online communities to choose from, but if you choose TikTok, not only will you be partaking in this unique form of social connection, but you will be getting up, dancing, and sharing your love of movement with people all over the world.

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