I’ve spent the past few weeks experimenting with TikTok. Mainly because I realized my mental health was getting shredded by “doom scrolling” on Facebook, especially after discovering a decent chunk of people I grew up with really should be getting fitted for their KKK robes.
I’m the dad of two Gen-Z-ers, one 18 in college and the other 15 in high school. For them, Facebook is where all the old people hang out – my kids mainly use Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. The younger also uses Line to stay in touch with the family she stayed with while in Japan. Snapchat is still too weird for me, but I have found myself enjoying TikTok. Armed with these few weeks of knowledge, I’m surely an expert now, right?
I went into this experiment with the best of intentions posting mainly about geeky stuff, the types of things I post here. And I’ve done that to some extent, but I’m passionate about politics, history, and social justice, so that’s been the bulk of my posts. I’m going to write a little bit about what I’ve found, both as a consumer and producer of videos.
If you’re unaware, TikTok videos are limited to a minute in length – originally, they were limited to 15 seconds, and that’s still a fairly popular length. From my own experimentation, my 15-second videos get many more views than my longer ones. TikTok has two main scrolling pages. First is the “For You Page” panel, which is an endless scroll of videos that TikTok thinks you might like – it seems akin to the way YouTube’s algorithm recommends all sorts of weird things. The other panel is an endless scroll of people who you follow, a lot like your main Facebook feed. People use a variety of hashtags for content.
As I’ve spent time on TikTok, I’ve found a fair amount of D&D, Star Wars, and literature content, though not too much along the lines of weird fiction or non-D&D stuff. I’ve also found myself directed to a lot of cute 20-something ladies dressed up as Star Wars or superhero ladies – and the occasional sultry Obi-Wan whose use of “another happy landing” makes me suspect I might need to consider myself one higher on the Kinsey Scale than I’d thought I was.
It’s not a great platform for specifically looking for things, at least not the extent that YouTube is – you can certainly search for stuff, but it really relies on you following certain people and stumbling onto stuff on the For You Page.
I’ve experimented with creating content as well, which is rather intimidating for me, a chunky middle-aged dude with a crooked smile. And yes, just like in middle school, there are assholes who will bully you. The difference is while I’m a chunky middle-aged dude with a crooked smile, I have a wonderful family, a career more successful than I’d ever imagined, lost over 20 pounds in the past two months (still miles to go), and am a shit-ton more comfortable in my skin than I was in middle school – or high school for that matter. (Truth to tell, while college sometimes had its awkward moments, I generally loved it). To give you an idea of some of the nastiness out there, here’s a sample of what I’ve received (almost all of it in response to political videos I’ve made) – I’m paraphrasing a lot of these, but these are flavors of what I’ve received:
- “Your opinion is clearly invalid as the way you can’t control your fat body is indicative of the way you can’t control your mind. Stay in your basement libtard till mommy calls you for dinner.”
- “You look like a pedophile.”
- “A face like yours should not show itself on social media.”
- “I’ll support abortion, but only for black babies or for the fake whites like you.”
By the way, even if you’re not a chunky middle-aged dude with crooked teeth, the assholes will find something to mock or harass you about. From the cute cosplayers (“why don’t you show your boobs on OnlyFans?”/”You’re a slut”/”Your ass is to fat to wear that”) to the LGBTQ+ community (a gay doctor I follow gets a decent chunk of homophobic replies to his videos) – make sure you are comfortable with your skin. My advice – these are not the people you want to engage with. Delete their bullshit and block them. It’s a lot easier to ignore hateful stuff from people you don’t know vs. people you went to high school with (I’m looking at you, Facebook). I’ve not seen much toxicity in my geekier posts, but there is a fair amount of toxicity in various fandoms, so I’m sure it’s out there.
It’s not entirely a wretched hive of scum and villainy. I’ve met some very nice people – and I’ve had some awesome and respectful political discussions with people I disagree with. As far as traffic goes, I do a lot better with political discussions vs. geeky topics. My earlier geeky posts tended to get only around 100 views (does anybody care?) though more recent stuff has been pushing 1k. On the other hand, my political content goes above 1k more often than not and sometimes into the tens of thousands.
Part of that discrepancy is related to length. Shorter videos (though not too short) seem to get more views for me – though I’ve had the occasional long video get a decent number of views. A view is only counted if watched to the end, so obviously, longer videos have a higher potential for an earlier swipe. But discussing things like lethality in Call of Cthulhu need both more time and have a smaller audience.
One thing I don’t like is there’s no closed-captioning available. I, like many other content producers, tend to add my own captions.
If you’re interested, you can find me via my profile @dan_of_innsmouth. As a warning, most of my content is on the political side, the perspective of an infamous “Massachusetts Liberal.” Some of the videos that might be of interest to our audience here include:
- How Lethal Call of Cthulhu?
- Transitioning from D&D to Call of Cthulhu
- Ruth Emrys’ Winter Tide
- Warriors, Come Out to Play
- Harlem Unbound
Take a look, let me know if you’d like to see more – and feel free to join in. I’d love to see more gaming content, especially around stuff like Call of Cthulhu, to find its way on TikTok.
~ Daniel Stack
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