A well-intentioned content creator reflects on the (unnecessary) ire that TikTok is facing in India.
Many years ago, when I got super active on Twitter to cover lifestyle, travel, and other topics in my beat, my purist media friends were quick to deride me for endorsing this format of content, at the time diametrically opposite to long-form content. But soon enough, the world got used to Twitter.
A few years later, when I started getting active on Instagram, with travel videos, style hacks, #ootds, room tours, and giveaways, the very same traditionalists deemed the photo-heavy platform and its users shallow and frivolous. But it didn’t take long for Instagram to welcome the most cerebral media houses and people. When I got on TikTok two months ago, I was again met with a fair share of criticism, with some friends and followers calling this move “tacky” and “age-inappropriate” (I am 38). Several viral videos, a verification blue tick, and a fast-growing active community later, I am loving every minute of making TikTok videos.
No doubt, TikTok in India has found itself in hot water lately, with the viral YouTube vs TikTok argument, a recent unsavoury video provoking many to cry foul, and a slew of boycott hashtags on Twitter. But there’s a lot to love about it. Its editing tools are unparalleled, and the overall format of the app pushed me to learn how to edit my videos, how to create short-form, easy-to-consume content, and build a new base of followers. But most importantly, it allowed me to do this within my content genre. I stuck to what I specialised in — luxury, cars, lifestyle, travel, planes, and grooming. As a result, now, I am simultaneously creating great content across different platforms — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
Isn’t that the whole idea of a content creator’s job? To build engaged communities and to tailor-make different kinds of content across different platforms?
Take YouTube, for example. It is one of my favourite mediums because it satisfies my long-form journalism background. I am particularly passionate about making long-format videos and speaking to the camera, giving out as much information as possible. In fact, during the lockdown, I have been pushing out an average of three videos a week, each between eight and 10 minutes. I love every minute of my YouTube life, as much as I enjoy posting random snippets of my daily life, product reviews, and travel experiences on Instagram stories.
Bottom line: I am as comfortable making a 10-minute YouTube video as I am doing a 30-second style tutorial on TikTok. It’s a free country! Don’t like it, don’t consume the content!
Which brings me to my next point: Why does one have to boycott anything at all? Why can’t people exist on one or more platforms of their choice? If there’s something you don’t like about a particular platform, simply unfollow, block, or delete. But to shower creators with unsolicited hate is not fair. Remember, the beauty of social media is that you always have the choice to curate your feed, whether it is YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok.
This brings me to the subject of unsavoury or irresponsible content. This is unfortunately present in every social media platform. From anti-nationalism and extremism to homophobia, masochism, and extreme abuse, every platform has it. It is up to the moderators of each platform to step up screening and blocking processes, to ensure that well-intentioned users and creators are not sucked into a larger trend of negativity. By no means do we as content creators stand up for unsavoury, socially dangerous content on any platform, but this does not mean that one can dismiss entire platforms.
Be that as it may, if you could look beyond the clutter, TikTok might just surprise you. International creators like Vladimir Grand (@callmegrand), Marcus Wissing (@iamwissing), The Wade Twins (@thewadetwins), Rahul Rai (@therealrahulrai) are doing some stellar work in the fashion, beauty, and food category. In fact, in India too, most popular Instagrammers are now simultaneously pushing out TikTok videos. You’ll find some great makeup tutorials, style hacks, grooming tips, and more… if you cared to look at the good side.
The next question people ask me about my recent foray into TikTok: “Dude, it’s a Chinese company, you should boycott it.” How do I say this as honestly and bluntly as possible? I have a family to support and content creation is my job. If I was to dismiss a brand and product from a particular country every time our two nations had the slightest ideological or diplomatic tussle, I’d never get any work done. If you have the luxury of consuming only products which are an “ideological fit”, by all means, do so. It’s easy for many to pontificate from an armchair or a keyboard.
Basically, live and let live. While individual apps need to step up their moderating efforts to ensure a clean, ethical, and progressive environment, content creators must also be left to do as they please, without being at the receiving end of hate from keyboard warriors.
My message to my content creator colleagues in India: If you don’t like TikTok, no one is forcing you to do it. If you don’t like YouTube, don’t do it. If you don’t like Instagram, stay away. Do as you please. Stay clear of the negativity, shut out naysayers, and do what you feel is best for your audience, convictions, and bank balance.
The author’s views are strictly personal.
All images: Courtesy Getty