Why TikTok Memes Work


Credit to Photo Submitted

Senior Tim Buchanan sits and browses on a new social media app called TikTok. Buchanan has enjoyed using the new app and wants more people to join in on the new app.

By Connor Peper, North Star Reporter

First, Social media app Musical.ly was acquired for $1 billion by Chinese company ByteDance in November 2017.

Second, ByteDance then fully released TikTok in 2018.

The third step for the communist Chinese government was simple: to corrupt American youth with the worst content imaginable and then usher in a new era of communism; however, they didn’t account for one thing: the Internet. China’s tool of global destruction backfired and instead of generating only “so bad it’s good” unironic content, produced ironic parodies and mockeries that were a highlight of the 2018.

TikTok resembles Music.ly. The formats are similar, audio samples could be placed over user created videos and most of the early content utilizing TikTok’s new features was genuine and unironic, but new features helped contribute to the rise of ironic TikTok content.

In November of 2018, the content of TikTok started to change. The addition of the “duet,” a TikTok feature that allows a split screen of two TikToks, allowed people to easily transform unironic content, into ironic content. Examples include the Living Tombstone’s “No Mercy,” Mia Khalifa’s “ iLOVEFRiDAY” and others.

In the example of “No Mercy,” unironic TikTok users typically placed themselves in the role of one of the singers choosing between characters in the video game Overwatch. These users made mistakes that proved they had never played Overwatch before. Ironic users capitalized on this and created videos either pointing out the mistakes or exaggerating them to ridiculous extents. These memes followed the classic joke format: a reference to the original work, a comedic twist on expectations and then a Fortnite dance. They’re easily replicable and widespread; perfect meme material.

However, something must be addressed. In order for TikTok memes to be funny, they must not outweigh the unironic content on the app. It’s just physics. Every reaction needs to have an equal and opposite reaction. If there is only ironic content, all that the ironic content will be parodying is itself. As of 2018, that balance hasn’t be interrupted. We can only hope that it won’t be.