Lockdown has driven people to many desperate measures over the last few months. Being isolated from those we usually see on a regular basis and unable to socialise with friends and loved ones, many have tried a variety of different methods to stay connected.
Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of social media and technology with many different platforms being thrust into the spotlight which were vague entities previously. Microsoft Teams and Zoom are just some of these which have suddenly become a lifeline to many people working from home and some who just want to still feel part of something bigger.
A few months ago, I jumped on the TikTok bandwagon and created an account to see what all the fuss was about. This online culture introduced me to a whole world of dances, hilarious stories and even online communities.
First of all, allow me to explain the concept of TikTok and why it has become such a success, not just to the teenagers trying to stay in the know with the latest viral videos but also the older generation who are getting to grips with technology and social networking.
TikTok is a video-sharing, social media platform which allows you to create short videos of whatever you want and share them out into the world for ‘likes’ and ‘followers’. Using hashtags and popular songs, your videos can go ‘viral’ for a variety of different reasons, attracting views and followers to increase your online presence.
This app, like many others, works on algorithms which assess your ‘liked’ videos to find a pattern. This then impacts other videos that are shown to you on your ‘for you’ page which essentially then begins to show you more videos that the app thinks you may like.
I began by seeing all the generic dancing and story time videos but the longer I was on there, the algorithm seemed to do it’s job and I found myself immersed in a plethora of videos of book reviews, book discussions and recommendations.
I soon became mesmerized by the more experienced ‘book-tokkers’ who appeared to be part of a whole community of fellow book lovers where discussing books was a regular occurrence and the more books you could read on a weekly basis, the better equipped you were to join in with debates and reviews.
As a result of this, I found myself posting my own videos about my favourite books and reviews of what I had just finished reading and even became a member of an online book club.
I don’t consider myself to be a techno-phobe on any level and have grown up with the MSN, Myspace and Facebook generation so social media has always been very familiar to me. However, I will admit that I was completely ignorant to this sociable and welcoming world of online book hype which has clearly been active a lot longer than lockdown and social distancing.
It got me thinking what a useful outlet this could be for the book community. With libraries shut and Amazon’s delivery times significantly fluctuating, it was incredible to have a connection to others that share a love of literature and allowed me to indulge in my passion on so many different levels.
Gone are the days where groups of people would take it in turns to host a book club dinner party where the monthly books are discussed over a glass of pinot at the living room coffee table. Now, we are all members of Discord where we discuss books by chapter and tune in to our favourite book-tokkers ‘lives’ to have Q&A’s about various genres of literature.
Does it make me sad that everything has gotten so technical? Not at all! I think such a concept could make a passion for reading even more possible. Young people from all over the world are sharing their varied tastes in books and contrasting opinions regarding characters they love to hate and the ones they desperately wish were real.
I have been filled with hope and pride to find such a community of spirited and enthusiastic people and have benefited massively from being exposed to books I had never heard of and ones I had seen but (shamefully) may have judged by the cover!
The media love to portray online platforms as toxic and damaging and in many cases, this can be true. That is why it has been so refreshing to find an app like TikTok being used for a wholesome and pure purpose.
And if fellow book lovers unite and stick together, well then we could be an unstoppable force to spread joy and a love of words across a world that is too often a bleak and hostile place.