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This week in TikTok: MAGA meltdowns and Gen Z revolutions

Plus, will the internet go back to being normal now?

Hello from The Goods’ twice-weekly newsletter! On Tuesdays, internet culture reporter Rebecca Jennings uses this space to update you all on what’s been going on in the world of TikTok. Is there something you want to see more of? Less of? Different of? Email rebecca.jennings@vox.com, and subscribe to The Goods’ newsletter here.

Wow, so many things have happened since last Tuesday! Here is a partial list:

It’s possible that a few things are missing here (for actual politics news, visit pretty much any other part of the website Vox.com) because being online — especially on TikTok — was an unusually bizarre experience this week. Like many other platforms, TikTok’s feed isn’t chronological, so it was easy to stumble upon videos drawing from outdated information in a period of time when the news (and the mood) seemed to be changing every hour. Also, people were losing their shit.

In the span of a few minutes, I heard a detailed explanation of Walter Benjamin’s theory on the aestheticization of politics to explain why people continue to support Trump and also watched an uncomfortably theatrical dramatization of what life would be like under a Biden presidency by a blonde girl in a red hat. (Spoiler: The government murders her because she refuses the Covid-19 vaccine. God responds: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”)

In between these two extremes, there are other growing divides: those between Democrats celebrating the Biden win with heartfelt supercuts or Hamilton covers and leftists who won’t “let people enjoy things”; and between people who are play-acting the Gen Z-led “revolution” and those who retort that Gen Z can’t even make their own doctor’s appointments. I’m reminded of the viral tweet from last week that quipped, “I don’t have friends on ‘both sides,’ I have friends in 400 varying leftist splinters and they all hate each other.”

What this really illustrates to me is a trend that’s sort of refreshing: The end of the Trump administration means we might be able to go from paying attention to two distinct and opposing internets to one that is at least dysfunctional in a way we’ve experienced before.

Of course, just because Trump will no longer be president doesn’t mean that we can or should ignore his family’s immense power and the concerns of his enormous swath of supporters. But it does mean that at least we don’t have to wake up in the morning dreading to find out what the president might have tweeted, or what conspiracy theory he might have supported, accidentally or otherwise.

This is when social media is at its best: It is not fighting against dangerous mass conspiracy theories (social media is actually very bad for that), it is exacerbating tiny, largely insignificant divisions between groups of terminally online people who basically want the same things.

TikTok in the news

  • Like the rest of the social media platforms, TikTok was rife with misinformation during election week. But by all accounts, the company has done a pretty good job at removing it quickly.
  • A very thorough analysis of the fancam from internet culture reporter Brian Feldman’s newsletter: “The fancam, a once-niche video format is now commonplace, I think, because it lets anyone adopt the facade of being a stan without actually putting in the effort to be one. It’s why it’s tough to read how sincere or ironic any of these clips are, and it’s also why some people think ‘everything is fandom’ nowadays. The reality is a bit more complicated. If it’s now easy to stan anything, then how do you know who really qualifies as a stan?”
  • A very cool Q&A with indigenous Inuk creator Shina Novalinga, who shares videos of herself throat singing with her mother.
  • Welcome to shoplifting TikTok.

One Last Thing

I am losing my mind over this Hallmark movie actress revealing how they film fake figure skating scenes!!!!!