It is difficult to explain to adults TikTok, the social network of the moment, with its 8 million Italian users between 18 and 24 years old. We need what “grownups” never have when it comes to young people: time.
The galaxy of videos viewed by millions around the world appears to them as an uncertain nebula. We can summarize it, sinning with imprecision: a social network that speaks only with videos. They can be music, cooking, travel, tutorials, day journals. Made to give some advice or just to show your skills. Or there are the challenges, which are “challenges” launched by users on various topics: comedy, dance, acting. The videos last a maximum of sixty seconds, they are perfect while waiting for a bus or taking a study break. And they are fast, with an instant usability that other social networks – even Instagram – are unable to achieve.
Yet even TikTok hides a part that remains far from the cone of light and, within those seconds, the shorter and more harmless video can reveal a hidden meaning. As always, it depends on the beholder. The eyes of an adult observing a challenge see only a ballet, those of a teenager much more.
Inside this corner that remains blind to adults, real traps can be nested for the youngest. It happens when “doom-scrolling” – the obsessive scrolling of published videos that turns into a condemnation (“doom”, in fact) – leads young users to gulp down everything they see without judgment, a spiral that leads to dangerous challenges.
Let’s think about the last, tragic case of news: a ten-year-old girl from Palermo who died, it seems, by emulation of a deadly challenge on the social network: the blackout challenge that invites participants to tighten a rope around their neck to test their resistance. The causal link between use of the social network and death is currently one of the investigative hypotheses underway, and for this reason an investigation has been opened for instigation to suicide. But these dangerous challenges have been present on the net for years and cyclically regenerate themselves, changing social networks from time to time, always towards the one in which they are more teen. For example, there was already talk of ‘blackout challenge’ in 2012 at the time of Youtube. It is not a real novelty for adults, while it is new for those who started their “social life” on TikTok, which is today the most downloaded platform in the world.
In other cases, there is often a light behind that blind corner: in recent weeks, for example, in Russia TikTok has been used by young people to organize demonstrations in support of the dissident Navalny. Last year, in America, an activist denounced violence against Muslims in China by pretending a make-up tutorial.
One thing is certain: with the numbers constantly growing, TikTok has become the social network of Generation Z, that is, among those born between 1995 and 2010. The informed and kind generation, that of civil rights and Fridays For Future, of “brains” on the run ”and second generation Italians.
While the “grown-ups” ask to let go of those phones that look like a giant closed door, boys and girls with their eyes on the screen open to the world. Here in Italy gay people come out to their parents, black girls ironically dismantle prejudices racists, young women collect sexist insults and from there they begin to dismantle gender stereotypes. Millions of likes and shares. There is a difference compared to other platforms that put users’ lives on the scene: observing TikTok is like taking a look at the behind the scenes Go beyond that closed door, sit down with this generation and listen to fragility, hopes, fears and courage.
“Have you ever been told you’re a no. shit because you were black? Has anyone ever changed seats when you arrive on a bus? Did they ever tell you that you spoke Italian too well to be who you are? Has anyone ever asked you how much you get for a sexual performance? Has anyone ever answered you when you asked for information “sorry, I’m not buying anything” ».
Reply to @ s4iro.fn when too much is too much ..? original sound – Selena
20-year-old Selene’s (@mirroirouge) outburst has reached 1.7 million views. His profile has more than 120 thousand followers. Originally from Cameroon, she lives in Belluno and studies communication in Belgium: “In the month of May, boredom made me want to open a profile on TikTok”, she explains: “I decided to tell my experience which immediately went viral”.
The surprise, he says, is that of the messages he receives every day. To write are the children of the second generation of immigrants, the most difficult: you no longer have a home in the place where you come from but it is hard to feel at home here. Born and raised in Italy, but with Africa in their faces. “They are people who tell me about their lives, experiences of racism that are common to many.” Selene also receives the adolescent messages: “I especially remember a little girl. Her days at school were hell: they isolated her desk, told her she was too ugly, too black. All with the silent assent of the professors. I was that little girl too. When they write to me I always say to resist. You have to impress them with your success, I suggest. Of course, you feel powerless but outside nobody listens to them ”.
We only listen online. But forget Facebook or Instagram. Young people are not found there. Evelyne (@ evelynesukali87) who is 33 years old, a health worker from the Democratic Republic of Congo, arrived in Monza for ten years, on the TikTok platform was brought by them. “I was talking about immigration in the school of my city. The boys and girls I met told me: you have to come to TikTok, tell everything there.” So it was. From 500 to 900 thousand views. In his videos he tells the crossing to get to Italy , the reception center, the rebirth.
“That journey that few tell in first person because it is never easy to talk about it.” The messages she receives are of thanks from those who survived like her and young Italians who have never heard those stories. Evelyne also tells Africa as a tiktoker : “I like to tell what’s on the other side. To make our culture understood. This for me is a way to build bridges. To say we are different but we are made to fight only to complete ourselves ”.
Diversity is the key to this social network. Elide (@modern_cinderellas_ita) is 35 years old, an engineer who lives in California introduces herself: “I am a researcher on the seismic risk of the natural gas infrastructure.” In Italy it would fall into the category of brain drain. But the only label that feels its own is that of “feminist popularizer”. “Modern Cinderellas” was born from a conversation with friends via Skype. “About our lives, those long thoughts spoken aloud that had to find a place”. So at the beginning of lockdown he opens a TikTok profile. Result: 22 thousand followers in a very short time: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s videos, Michela Murgia’s dialogues, short videos on the history of feminism go viral among teenagers, which is surprising even Elide. The insult among the many likes is always there. They come from what she calls “the average misogynist of TikTok: the anonymous user with an empty profile who always comments on things like” shut up and wash “,” make me a sandwich “,” do the washing machine “. But in particular there is one thing that always triggers hatred on the net: professional women. “Who knows why Italy has this problem with words?” she wonders. There are several videos in which Elide collects poison jokes and tries to explain the Italian language and its evolution. But there is not only irony. Empathy and sharing comes above all when she talks about “non-motherhood”: theme that I hear a lot. I’m not interested in having children. Women can be perfectly happy even without them. Every time I speak I get a lot of emails. The last one was from a 50-year-old lady. Reaching different and distant people from other generations is the most interesting possibility of this social network ».
It also reaches the closest people, from one room to another. Your parents for example. Gabriele finds the courage to come out to his mother, that video taken secretly in just 3 days reaches 4 million views. Twenty years old, receptionist from Taranto hides his mobile phone in a corner and immortalizes the most delicate moment for a parent, the one in which fathers and mothers are called to “redefine themselves”, to reflect on what they have taken for granted and the most difficult moment for children who seek the strength to think about themselves outside the frame of the expectations that fathers and mothers have nurtured up to that moment. It is a moment of truth. The passage from the unspoken to Gabriele’s open conversation with his mother is immortalized in 60 seconds of anxiety, very nervous hidden, silence: “Your mother already knew”, “Did you already know? Why ”,“ I’m your mom ”.
Gabriele says: «The reaction was not obvious. But I wanted a testimony. At fourteen I was looking for Italian coming out videos. Never found. So I said: I’ll do it. My mother’s reaction was the best surprise. Yes, it could have gone terribly but no. Then came the comments of the other mothers who compliment mine. A virtual Pride. There are also the negative comments: insults, death threats. I don’t look at them or even think about them. “
Gabriele who has a boyfriend and now a mother who welcomes him, focuses on the good that exists: «So many write to me because they reflect, because they find each other. So many young people who are there just listen to them ».
No more lies? original sound – avocadogabb
There are worlds inside this little app. There are young people who end up in the news for “dangerous challenges” and there are those who try to repair a time torn by hatred and prejudice. There is always a light to signal how close the shadow is. The generation of viral videos tells the great loneliness and the desire for revenge The need to listen Each one grows only if dreamed, wrote Danilo Dolci. Now it is different.
Source: L'Espresso – News, inchieste e approfondimenti Espresso by espresso.repubblica.it.
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