tiktok makes me feel old and i’m only 19

Sarah Spruill
Sep 15, 2019 · 6 min read

I have lots of memories of growing up and having my dad come over and clown me for what I was doing/watching/listening to. Whether it be when I started listening to older music only to have him come in on some “what you know about this music youngin’” foolery; or when he would pull out pictures of him and my uncles in high school to make sure I was aware that he was wearing baggy jeans and chunky sneakers before me back in “his” day and now “all this 80s and 90s shit” is back again.

I always bickered back with him, as is the dynamic of a grouchy sarcastic father and daughter duo, but never thought much about it beyond that. Now, years later, I know how he felt in all those moments; when something you remember from your younger years suddenly becomes trendy again and all the kids hop on it without knowing or caring to know, about its history.

You’d think I would at least hit 20 before this grandpa-esque feeling began to manifest in my life; but alas, here we are thanks to none other than TikTok.

I’ll admit it, I’ll even say it with my chest: I like TikTok.

The app has some really funny content and even more bizarre and cringey content, the kind that you cant’s stop watching because it’s a trainwreck. The kind that truly shows you the deep depths of human diversity. From a branding and design standpoint, it’s no surprise the app is so addicting; TikTok has mastered leveraging our mindless scrolling tendencies as they bombard you with a constant stream of quick content to give you that instant dopamine gratification.

At the heart of what makes TikTok unique as a platform are “sounds,” or “audios.” Usually, small segments ripped from different songs, vines, twitter videos, youtube videos, and even live streams that people turn into memes, lipsync to, and more. A couple of months ago I was scrolling through TikTok and stumbled across this dance chain,

I opened the comments, probably out of compulsion, and then I saw this comment:

WhAT sOnG IS thIs?!?!?

At that moment, I became my dad; how could kids these days not know about one of the most ICONIC songs ever written yet still be making TikToks to it. The audio is, of course, Nicki Minaj’s talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular verse on “Bedrock” by YoungMoney, a true bop to end them all.

For as personally offended as I got, it really isn’t that shocking that today’s pre-teens and teens don’t know this song. Given a majority of the creators on the app seem to have been born between 2001 and 2005 and the song came out in 2009, it makes some sense. Despite that, I’ve been boppin’ to this song since I was 9 and can’t believe people only a few years younger than me have never heard this classic of the 2000s.

Another TikTok that sent me spiraling into dad-mode was this one that went crazy viral a couple of months ago. The moment I saw it, I knew exactly where the audio had come from. However, that wasn’t the case for everyone.

I was watching The Boondocks with my dad long before I should have been. Boondocks holds a special place in my heart; it’s hilarious, set in Maryland the state I’m from, and shows a truly skilled execution of satire. Beyond that, although this isn’t a piece about the need for representation in media, having a cute animated character who’s biracial and Black and looks kind of like me meant a lot to me as a kid and it still means a lot now.

All of that aside, the audio is a remix of 0:30–0:55 of this video.

I can’t be too upset with this one because there were a slew of comments excited to have heard an audio derived from a Boondocks clip. But, after some quick sleuthing, all the comments mentioning the origins of the audio were coming from people my age or, for the most part, older. Beyond that, recognizing this one has a lot to do with not simply age but location, and I’d argue, even Race.

Now, maybe I’m being harsh. I can remember eleven year old me stumbling upon a song set to autoplay on someone’s Tumblr page and searching through post after post to try and figure out the title of the song; or finding a gif of some movie or tv show and frantically googling every keyword I could think of to try and figure out what I was missing out on. Maybe even messaging the blogger in hopes of figuring out what the song was or where the gif was from and thus curing my pre-teen FOMO.

What I’m saying is I’ve been there. I think gatekeeping culture is petty and unnecessary. But all that sure as hell ain’t gonna stop me from harking on these kids that don’t know CULTURE.

There are many many many more examples of this that are beyond the length of this piece, although I do have to give a quick nod to the fact that the Red Nose is back with a vengeance.

Now I will say, I genuinely like this trend of people running around subtly shimmying and clapping in front of an unknowing audience before straight-up bussin’ it down. That doesn't minimize the fact that we’ve got teenagers running around doing what they think of as a TikTok trend as if the song AND the dance weren’t the hottest shit 5 years ago at my 9th-grade homecoming dance.

As much as I’m complaining I am being facetious and I’m not really upset at this entire phenomenon. However, it does shed light on some interesting facets of TikTok as a platform.

Songs, quotes, and TV clips are now known as TikTok audios; in turn, the audio content is being homogenized and compacted, the average TikTok audio being only 30–60 seconds, while also being completely recycled and reborn. Different sections of the same song are even going viral separate from each other and no one seems to notice to the point that “exposing” this is a trend in itself.

Moreover, creators tend to name their audios random names or references to their profile so that if an audio creates a trend, people are referred back to the original uploader of the audio not to whoever actually wrote/performs the song. This adds to the strange sense of pseudo ownership TikTok has, as creators argue over “original content” meanwhile they’re using recycled songs and quotes that were never theirs. It also adds a certain sense of gatekeeping.

Even trends and memes from Twitter have been absorbed and digested by TikTok before morphing into their own entities. So-called VSCO girls, thanks to TikTok, are now known for saying things like “sksksk” and “and I oop-.” Now, as a veteran of stan twitter and stan Tumblr back in the day, I am qualified to decisively say that the keyboard smash “skskdnksdjfjkfsjk” started in online stan culture and lingo years before TikTok and Gen-Z got a hold of it. “And I oop-” comes from this video of drag queen superstar and twitter icon Jasmine Masters.

Now, her quote that took Twitter by storm has made it’s way to TikTok and has arguably been appropriated by a slew of teenagers. This example opens up the broader conversation around media and the appropriation of Black and Queer cultures, but y’all ain’t ready for me to pop off on that topic just yet. Point is, Put some RESPECT on Miss Jasmine Masters name chile’. Periodt.

So where does this all leave me? Nothing new, nothing changed, I’m still addicted to an app that is stupidly entertaining yet also makes me feel like a grouchy old man from time to time.

…I guess I should go apologize to my dad, I guess we on the same wavelength now Kevin ma man. Anyways, go stream Bedrock.

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