TikTok has been around since 2016 and caught on like wildfire amongst young people all round the world, as quickly as Facebook did when it first took off. It is fast and furious, and because of this terribly addictive, leaving you wanting more. Essentially, it is a social media platform primarily targeted at GenZ, who spend hours making and viewing their’s and each other’s short, snappy and slickly-edited videos. Each TikTok video typically lasts less than a minute. After clicking on a random video, the viewer can easily find themselves immersed in watching hundreds of other videos from that person’s account and then before they know it are onto someone else’s videos. An hour or more can easily pass by just as the videos do.
The choice of topics covered on TikTok is endless, but most videos are about the stuff that young people are into these days, including dance moves, fashion, jokes, adorable pets, lip synching and slapstick pranks. They also include skills that traditionally most kids have not shown much interest in, such as cooking. I was listening to The Food Programme on the radio the other day which just so happened to be featuring the growing trend amongst young people watching TikTokers demonstrating how to cook, that is quick and easy, without fuss, while looking yummy. Collectively called #FoodTok, videos in this genre have been viewed many billions of times. The mind boggles.
One of the people mentioned in the programme was Poppycooks, who has made a name for herself by specialising in how to cook the humble spud. Her video of how to make roast potatoes went viral which she then followed up with several other recipes of cooking potatoes, from crispy to crunchy to fried to mashed. She was really clever in working out how to keep viewers coming back for more, by adding a new video each day of the advent calendar, this Christmas just gone, comprising 25 recipes. The best was left to the 25th December, salty, super-thin, mouth-watering chips. They are indeed moreish. Poppy also has a cheeky look, adding a pinch of humour every now and again. You can’t but help fall for her and her style of cooking. The sound of her breaking open and biting into a crunchy potato is mouthwatering – and would make most people want to peel some potatoes and get cooking.
Like with other social media platforms, the secret to which TikTok videos become viral is largely down to a combination of algorithms, appeal and advertising. The trick is working out how to sustain interest. Many people may have a one hit wonder while a few go on to make a career out of it. Poppy, for example, has nailed it. She now has over 2 million followers. But staying high in the leagues of TikTok influencers creates huge pressure. The FoodTokers have to keep conjuring up new recipes they can show off in consistently tantalising ways always under 60 seconds! It is an amazing skill. Unlike the celebs of yesteryear, who have become famous through wealth, being in the know, being a looker, and/or having a huge talent, these youngsters can rise to the top through their deft video-making and editing skills, making things look easy and super cool. They may only discover they have a real talent to entertain when beginning to create the videos. And literally anyone with a smartphone/camera can bubble up and become a star over night. This is one of the joys of this media – its serendipity.
Sometimes, people experience autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) when watching FoodTok videos, which essentially is a tingling body sensation that starts on the scalp and then progresses down the back of the neck and spine. For some people, this kind of sensation can be triggered by listening to crunching, slurping and other whacky sounds. SamSeats, for example, has made an amazing video of many tingling sounds associated with preparing a fancy ratatouille dish. The sounds include ice cubes being dropped in a bowl, a knife slicing through an assortment of veggies and the rapid and fine chopping of garlic cloves and sprigs of herbs. It is music to the ears and makes you want to watch and listen to the video again. Each time you do, you hear something new. The second time I viewed it, I heard the glugging sound of oil being poured from a bottle and the frying of onions. Such food performances, speeded up to fast-beat tempos, are simply sumptuous. I can see how addictive they are (although sadly I never experienced the ASMR sensation of tingling).
And now I am tempted to upload to TikTok my old fashioned YouTube video (10 years old now) of ‘a plate of sizzling food’ being served up. Here it is: sizzle sizzle.
(Image of roast potatoes from lianaskitchen.co.uk)