I created a TikTok account.
I know, I know. I am a self-confirmed nonconformist. Why, then, have I boarded the next trending app bandwagon?
I joined TikTok because nonconformity for the sake of nonconformity is not freedom.
“Freedom does not consist in fighting against some dominant external power but in recognizing that the subject must provide the ground for its own act.”Todd McGowan, Emancipation After Hegel
I researched the app before downloading it. I became intrigued with the fact that the user community consists of mostly teenagers, although the stats are certainly changing at a rapid pace. The teenage audience compelled me, however. I remember how absolutely shitty and lonely and confusing those years were for me, and I thought maybe, all those lonely, confused kids could benefit from the message I wish to share.
My first interactions with the app were culture shock. I felt overwhelmed by all of the sensory content–it’s visceral–so too, is the form. The barrage of videos is an assault; one cannot avoid confrontation with intense emotional pain and desperation for community.
In a chapter titled “Resisting Resistance,” Todd McGowan contrasts the professional decisions of two well known historical German philosophers. The first is Hegel, who after years of living on the outside of academia, finds himself courted by the metropolitan university community. He accepts a position in Berlin. To an onlooker, this movement may have seemed like conformity, but McGowan asserts, it was not. This is because Hegel knew the university would benefit from his work. He did not need Berlin’s validation to incite self-actualization, but in his self-actualization, he knew his influence would enrich Berlin’s academic community.
In contrast, Heidegger, years later, was offered a position at a major university. He declined. This act appeared like freedom, but this resistance articulated his lack of freedom; it articulated Heidegger’s validation of the substantial authority. His act of nonconformity legitimatized the authority of the academic community. By choosing to remain on the outside, he affirmed the position of the insider.
“Insisting on distance from the center of power or maintaining one’s marginality misleads us…When we create a philosophy of opposition, we necessarily posit a substantial authority in the other that we oppose and, in this way, fail to recognize ourselves as free.”Tood McGowan
It’s serendipitous, for me, that I read this chapter within 48 hours of downloading TikTok. In this case, I have chosen the path of Hegel. I do not need lots of video views or likes for my own validation. Truth be told, I would hate for a silly video to go viral because I don’t want TikTok fame. However, I do believe I have something to offer the community, and I hope that those who view my videos glean some insight and perhaps, some glimmer of hope and compassion.
The once marginalized Hegel chose to go inside because he knew those inside needed to hear his message.
In the end, true freedom is not pure acceptance or rejection of ideas, groups, or media. On the contrary, true freedom is subjective, and it arises as an individual learns to stand ground for his/her/their own actions.
I decide the import of how I choose to act.