Last night, I saw my lab for the first time in person. We were all (but one) fully vaccinated and we stayed outside.
I was surprised at the grief I felt when they left. We’ve had a really productive lab this year, even though we have only seen each other as Zoom blocks every week since August. To see them in person was delightful. It was like seeing my family again. But three of them are graduating and I don’t want them to go. It physically hurt when they left and that shocked me. I have to ponder this in terms of my two decades plus of research on online groups but that’s not the really surprising thing that happened last night.
The surprising part was talking about how many TikTok videos that we’ve all seen. Early in my research, I argued that as TV became more Balkanized through cable, we no longer believe that we all spend time with our Friends on Thursday night. We no longer gathered around the water cooler on Friday to talk about the latest episode. Virtual communities allowed us to move across time and space to interact with like minded others. And as long as those virtual communities overlapped with our local communities, we could increase social capital.
Skip forward two decades to TikTok. TikTok feels very individualized. Our likes of other’s videos creates our own curated play list, which becomes something of a cross between TV, YouTube, and Instagram. We watch on our own based on our own peculiar likes and interests. But what has been surprising to me is how many of the same TIkToks my lab and I have all seen:
Dawn the British woman who tried Ranch Dressing; ADHD TikTok; Le dollar Bean Tiktok; Witchtok; The older woman playing drums; And then just a variety of songs, sayings, and dances that nearly everyone in my entire lab has seen.
It’s the first time since before cable TV and after Netflix and that ilk that we share a media consumption. There are other things that happen on TikTok that encourage community (replying to others, following others, getting in on sound, video, or lipsynch trend) that increases community. But I’m surprised how much we share in what we’ve seen.
Tiktok has problems. Obviously, they are there to make money and they allow vaccine and election information to be widely shared, even when it goes against community standard.
But it strikes me that few people I know watch Doctor Who. And a lot of people have seen Dawn try Ranch dressing and might have started dipping a few more things in their Ranch dressing, too.