Last week I joined TikTok. This week a few videos went viral. How did that happen?
But I have made some observations as I have become immersed in TikTok culture. First, I have begun to notice the stark contrasts between all the mainstream social media sites, with regard to audience and engagement. Second, I have noticed my own cognitive responses to said media, and I would like to take a moment to reflect on these things.
As to the contrasts, I currently maintain accounts on the following major social media websites: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and now TikTok. If you feel compelled, you can add WordPress to that list.
In terms of engagement, I have (obviously) experienced the most engagement on TikTok, as I have a video that is now up to 1.5 million views and 150,000+ likes, and my follower count rose from 20 to 15,000 in the span of about 6 hours.
Up until joining TikTok, Instagram was my favorite social media source (it still is, arguably, which will soon become clear). My growth on that platform has been slow, but the community is incredibly supportive, and the content is much more academic and contemplative, which I must say, is the type with which I am most comfortable. I have formed legitimate friendships with the people on Instagram, and for this I am most grateful.
As to Twitter, it remains, for me, a relatively safe place, as I mostly interact with writers and others who identify as #exvangelicals. Nevertheless, I find it to have an extremely hateful community. People use Twitter to rant and rave, make snarky jabs against opposition, and posture authority. In the beginning I enjoyed a bit of engagement because I participated in follow threads and I leveraged my use of the #exvangelical hashtag. Now, I just feel frustrated every time I open the app. It feels so much like high school–as though there is an already established in crowd consisting of bitter (in this case academics, as opposed to jocks and beauty queens) who do not wish to share the spotlight. There are a few exceptions to this, of course, as I do follow a handful of people whose posts always inspire me (you know who you are), but on the whole, my feed generates more frustration than inspiration.
I have a hate-hate relationship with Facebook. I often consider leaving the platform altogether (as I have done in the past). The main reason I remain is because I am part of a few private groups related to Pyrotheology (which is a community of people who integrate philosophy and theology). When I am active in these groups, I feel uplifted, but apart from that, there are a lot of people from my old life in that space. I find I have to censor my content a bit for my audience, which happens to also include members of my family. While everything I do online puts my ideas and content on a public plane, my family keeps themselves a bit sequestered from it all. (It’s that whole phenomenon of confirmation bias–we seek online spaces, communities, and content which best aligns with our own ethics). They typically only interact with those things I post on Facebook, so I have learned to avoid posting that which I prefer they don’t see. (This post will, itself, fall into that particular category).
Here is where TikTok differs from all the rest: for the first time in my public online experience, I am perceived as a leader–one who knows–and this is something I don’t take lightly. From the start, I was compelled to the space because I know that its user base still predominantly consists of young people, and I knew that I could share things with this audience, from my experience, which I hope will help them find peace, hope, and compassion for themselves and others. While on Instagram, and here on this blog, I am communicating to adults who have walked a similar path as myself, on TikTok, I am communicating with young people in the thick of what, to me, are some of the worst years of human existence. I am heartbroken for these kids. I want to help. If I can bring a message to them that will help them survive, then I have done what I joined the community to do.
I do question how to integrate my TikTok content into all the rest that I do. This is something I still have to work out. I still wish to grow my audience through this blog. I still wish to finish and publish my book, and neither the blog nor the book are intended for the same audience as TikTok. I wonder, and worry, in part, how this will all play out. My OCD kicks in a bit. Will I be able to publish a literary fiction book if I build an audience online who will not be able to access that genre? Can I do both? Is my content (overall) still relevant and desirable to adults?
I want it to be.
If my use of the TikTok platform does little to help me reach my professional goals, then how much time should I invest to developing my content in that space? I won’t abandon it because as I said, I do not take lightly my role as a voice to young people, but how do I prioritize my time?
At the moment, these are all unanswered questions…things to ponder…things to carefully consider.
In the meantime, thank you for your patience because I am definitely feeling a bit more scattered than usual, and I always appreciate your support.