I'll admit that what I'm attempting to write about this week I know nothing about. Conventional wisdom would be to not touch a subject you know nothing about. Yet I've been fuming all week about TikTok.
For months, I've been jokingly telling folks that when I think or hear TikTok, I think of the "tick tock" of a clock. That's it. For a piece of trivia, and to think deeper, there is also a song by the artist Ellem called "Tic Toc" that was featured in the film "16 to Life" starring Wilton grad Brendan Dunphy — a best friend and classmate of mine. It's a great song.
That's the extent of my knowledge of the term tick tock. Yet one of the latest social media apps sweeping our youth is "TikTok," a video app where people make (from what I'm told) short videos set to music. They seem to often involve choreographed dances — or perhaps that's how it began?
Sadly, it's another flash in the pan social media fad for the ongoing quest — primarily by our younger generations — for "likes."
I'm not sure when society made a shift to searching for virtual "likes" as opposed to real-life "likes," but we're there now. We live in that space.
Is it a quest for one's "15 minutes of fame" as they used to call it in show business. With our 30-second attention span these days, I'd modify that to a "15 seconds of fame" mantra. Who knows? But's it's sad, and often becoming sickening and/or dangerous.
Case in point last week when, for the first time in my career, an ongoing sporting event had to be stopped because of a crime.
The Durant school was vandalized during a Regional volleyball match with Columbus. Video evidence caught two Columbus High School students running from the men's bathroom early in the match. The next two to enter were two Durant elementary students, who immediately went to adults in the concession stand to report vandalism to the boys' restroom.
See our story on page 1 for more.
Never in my (apparently old) mind would I have thought that there was a social media connection to the crime, but Durant Activities Director Matt Straube immediately knew what was likely going on.
I made my way to where he was seated later in the match to talk about what had occurred. He showed me photos, which we're presenting on page 1, and asked me if I knew about the "TikTok challenge" to deface schools.
Of course I didn't, and was sickened to learn about it, as he told me what he knew, and later showed me some lists and investigative reporting done by large news sources as the "devious licks" TikTok challenges have been one of the latest things to sweep the app.
One of my first introductions to TikTok — from afar — was reading and hearing news stories about its creation and deep ties to China, where all your data goes upon using the app. Perhaps along with all the pub about the "Chinese virus" we could lump "Chinese apps" in with it. I digress.
Yet our addiction to "likes" supersedes where our personal information may be going. Being seen and heard by people we'll never know or meet — who don't really care about us — has become our latest drug. It's causing people, young and old, but so often young, to make very poor choices; even break the law.
At the time of our story, Durant had easily found out "who done it" with regard to the vandalism. It was unknown at the time of the story whether or not charges would be pressed, but it was being pursued. I hope it happens. We see a lot of wrongdoing occurring around here, even nationwide. But not enough discipline and punishment, in my opinion.
I refuse to download the TikTok app. I have zero interest in taking part in it, or watching it for pleasure. People show me things on it every once in awhile, and I constantly find myself shaking my head, always being left with the same thought with whomever I see featured — "You're better than that."
Insert any name you want in that statement above, and perhaps switch the word "better" with "smarter" at times. I see our youth making these videos, and it leaves me equating it with the idiocy of the political garbage I see people my age and older sharing on apps that are now reserved for the older crowd, such as Facebook.
We're all better than this, we're smarter than this. Yet sadly, we don't care. We are so addicted to the "likes" and that 15 seconds of fame, we'll put our own integrity, responsibility and reputation on the line.
Have we totally lost the ability to think of our own image and likeness first, rather than how, or better yet if, we're going to be seen by others — mostly strangers?
I'm afraid so.
To think this is only a Columbus High School problem, think again. Vandalism had already been occurring at Durant, by its own students. Not to the extent of what happened during that volleyball match, but students had already been warned about serious discipline, if problems persisted.
Why would you trash your own school? Please someone make me understand.
Don't get me wrong, I see some videos by some of our students that are somewhat cute, or make me chuckle. Yet the pessimist (or perhaps realist) in me always thinks they are walking on thin ice. In other words, it's only a matter of time before harmless, fun posts become more polarizing. Why? Because the more polarizing, the more "likes."
I've written countless stories in my career. Some are hard to do for a myriad of reasons, but this one really made me cringe. I'm embarrassed to have to present the "devious licks" challenges a know-nothing like me was able to find with a simple Google search.
Yes, I was in high school once too. And no, I didn't have a computer in my pocket and access to the world via social media. However I do know that I never would have committed a crime or defaced property for a meaningless "like."
We're better than that.
I have a challenge for our youth. Rather than make a 30-second video for what you believe is the world to see, how about having a conversation? If you look up from that 4-inch screen that rules your world — and us older folks as well often times I'll admit — there's a big, real world still out there. Remember actually talking on the phone? How about sitting in someone's room or office, face-to-face, and actually conversing?
My belief is that may scare our youth more than anything. If you want attention, don't commit a crime vandalizing property. Talk to someone — a real person — who may just, I don't know, listen.
The door to my office is always open. Stop by, I'd love to meet and/or hear from you!
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