Image description: a silhouette of a hand holds out a phone with the TikTok app open
In my time writing for OxStu, I’ve written on a wide range of different issues. Typically, I have tended to avoid talking too much about myself, with the exception of discussing my relationship and my partner James.
Talking about James, someone so grounded, so authentic, so not-Oxford is always a welcome reprieve from my student schedule.
James is someone who seems to constantly have a new obsession, picking them and forgetting them just as quickly. His latest addiction, like much of the rest of Gen-Z, is TikTok. Here’s the story of how his exploits led to me having a (brief moment of (almost) fame.
“No Rob, you have to show them you’re angry”.
It has been many years since I did anything even resembling acting, and apparently my efforts are not up to par with the expectations of my boyfriend-turned-director.
TikTok has been one of those trends that has passed me by, and it seems some of the finer nuances are lost on me. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to be supportive and I didn’t see the harm in indulging him. It wasn’t as if anyone was going to see it.
Besides, I have always admired the way that James throws himself in completely to whatever he does, and I reckoned unsporting not to match his enthusiasm.
Unlike him, I am fairly introverted by inclination, but again, I had reason to suspect that the video (only 15 seconds in length) would be seen by anyone beyond his handful of followers, most whom I knew personally.
It wasn’t as if anyone was going to see it.
After some effort on both our parts, I was finally able to suitably convey ‘anger’ and our video was finished. It was reasonably inoffensive all things considered.
The end result is a short clip in which I spend most of my time looking at my laptop, while some mildly humorous audio plays over the top.
The ‘money shot’ (less exciting than it sounds in this case) is me pouting with my arms crossed after turning my reversible octopus inside out. In many ways, the reversible octopus is more the star than I am.
It’s a cute novelty gift James got for me, with a ‘happy’ side and an ‘angry’ side, designed to convey my emotions (this clearly being a consistent weakness of mine).
Clearly, it is just the sort of the thing that appeals to a platform like TikTok. James first became aware of the octopus after seeing it in a TikTok video.
I had little reason to give our offering any great thought, but within half an hour James was back, excited to tell me we’d reached 5,000 views.
Over the next 48 hours, I proceeded to get updates like this every time we reached another milestone: 10,000 likes, 100 comments, and so forth.
Even then, as the views and likes expanded far beyond the small social circle I’d assumed would see it, I still did not quite process the experience. I was happy that James was happy, but beyond that, I was not greatly invested in the whole affair.
Ironically, it was when people I knew started messaging me about the video that I began to think differently. People from Oxford, who had never met James, much less followed him on TikTok, were seeing me on their ‘For You’ pages.
This isn’t our ticket to our own show on Channel 4, much to everyone’s relief.
I remember very suddenly feeling exposed, as though there were suddenly tens of thousands of people all stood in the spare bedroom wanting me to ‘look angrier’. Of course, I soon came to my senses.
A lot of the people who reached out to me were queer, and it not surprising that content that self-identifies queer and is vaguely popular should have appeared on their radar.
At just under 200,000 views at the time of writing, the video has done well but is certainly not competing with the output of the influencer giants on the platform. This isn’t our ticket to our own show on Channel 4, much to everyone’s relief.
My flickering moment of not-quite notoriety is over, drowned out into obscurity by a billion other voices.
Yet, I can’t help but reflect on the experience. This was not my first, nor will it be the last appearance in a video with James.
What made this one especially unique I couldn’t say, and while I doubt we shall ever exceed this admittedly moderate milestone on the platform, it has given him a somewhat larger following, so it was not perhaps a completely meaningless exercise.
I would say my main takeaways from this experience would be firstly, the amount of time creators put into what on the surface appears to be low-effort, facile content. Just our 15 seconds took at least an hour to plan out, perfect and edit.
Secondly not to underestimate how pervasive a large platform can be. Neither of these are particularly ground-breaking, but I do think that in both cases, actually experiencing them, even in the limited capacity that I did does re-shape your perspective.
Hopefully, I’ve been able to get that across without sounding too much like a boomer.