It’s July which means we have collectively endured 7 months of uncertainty, turmoil, darkness, and light. America, we are still battling all aspects of the virus: rising numbers of infected, those that deny its existence, those refusing to wear masks to help to stop the spread, and everyone else doing their duty by staying at home, washing their hands, and wearing masks. Yet, something else has added to the mix and the COVID19 pandemic; social media. Social media has taken on a whole new level for activism and resistance.
Social media and the internet have allowed a multitude of people to stay connected and informed. Social media brought people who normally might not have interacted create and form strong communities. Social media became a lifeline in all its forms for countless people. Social media became a different type of lifeline when countless people stayed at home.
Binge watching of shows and movies also became front in center for many. Netflix, Google, YouTube, and Zoom provided ways for ‘streaming’ parties so you could watch content simultaneously with others. Instagram became a hot spot for musicians, chefs, and crafters to host “live” parties. But the true star of the 2019-2020 Pandemic is TikTok.
TikTok is a Chinese based social media sharing platform (this will become important later). It was launched globally in 2018. It is a short video-based platform that can be used with varying effects, voices, and sounds. One of the main aspects of TikTok is to use different sounds, songs, and voices within your own videos. There are certain songs that have gone viral simply because portions of the song have been used in TikTok videos.
There are many different aspects of TikTok. Educational videos where users explain how to cook, craft, clean, organization. Short videos reviewing products, videos chronicling day to day aspects. The spread and popularity of this platform has seen a growth of different subsets of communities and even certain users have emerged like that of Tabitha Brown – a fantastic woman who posts inspirational vegan recipes videos cause “that’s her business”
There is QueerTok, AtheistTok, Witchtok, booktok, and with the release of the Broadway hit Hamilton, Hamilfilm. But the piece de resistance is that TikTok has become one of the epicenters of activism, mobilization, and revolution.
I will also mention like all other social media platforms, TikTok has also been the site for countless accounts of racism, sexism, harassment, and the spread of false information.
TikTok is no longer the sound of the clock but the sound of a global social media resistance movement on all fronts. TikTok became one of the main sharing apps for sharing information and calls of actions for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Tayler, and George Floyd. It was TikTok that helped spread videos of the protests in D.C. and the violent reactions from the police to remove them so Trump could take a photo outside of a church. A local man, Rahul Dubey sheltered 70 people in his home while police harassed them throughout the night and many of those shared videos on TikTok when the police shut down communications.
There are 3 specific shining moments of the TikTok resistance.
While news agencies were flipping the narrative calling on the Black Lives Matter protests as being riots and turning extremely violent, TikTok videos were being shared which showed the continual peaceful yet persistent protesting that was taking place across the globe. TikTok also became a ground zero for fueling the Blackout Tuesday movement which called for people to black out their social medias, show support and solidarity, and highlight the Black community in diverse ways. TikTok users shared videos that showed the Amish, Wiccans, and Christians coming together in support of BLM.
Users are still uploading to TikTok protest videos, activism, and community outreach for COVID19, BLM, and countless other activism and support. This is especially important currently with what is happening in Portland right now.
The second moment of resistance took place directly after Blackout Tuesday. There was a rumored counter movement coined, “WhiteOutWednesday” brewing but the “Tiktokkers” and KPopStans (Korean Pop Music Group Fans) flooded the hashtags on all social media platforms with images and videos of Korean Pop Music and celebrities.
KPopStans continued to flood the internet and social medias of countless police departments who were actively trying to disband peaceful protests.
Which leads to the crowning moment of infamy- Trump’s Tulsa Rally. Trump’s 2020 political campaign organized a rally to be help in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 19th. A direct slap/response to the Black Wall Street Massacre and of Juneteenth – the celebration of when the 13th Amendment finally abolished slavery across the entire nation in 1865. In response to the Trump rally, TikTokkers shared videos with instructions on how to “request” tickets for the event with the caveat that they were not going to attend. The response was outstanding. Trump and his staff thought they were seeing a surge in numbers, they started to plan for ‘overflow’ stages to accommodate the growing numbers. But when the day came, the seats stayed empty.
The power of the TikTokkers has not gone unnoticed by Republicans and Trump. A few weeks after the flop of the Tulsa Rally, the federal government started to issue statements that TikTok was on the chopping block to be banned from use in America. Trump’s main reasonbeing that TikTok was owned and operated by a Chinese company and thus a security risk with the amount of date sharing the app required of its users.
What also needs to be mentioned is that for 2 years, TikTok has been running in the US yet it wasn’t until June 2020, that it became a threat. While TikTok has yet to be officially banned, videos continue to be made and share, communities are being strengthen, and the resistance is continuing. Let’s keep up the fight, demand justice for Vanessa and Breonna, and VOTE.
Anjeanette LeBoeuf is hunkering down during this pandemic and hopes all that reads this are safe and well. She is the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She is focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. During this pandemic, she has started to tackle to read the mounds of books that have piled up and is simultaneously reading YA fantasy books and strenuous academic books.