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This week in TikTok: These kids got “quarantine famous”

Plus, pandecorating!

Rebecca Jennings is a senior correspondent covering social platforms and the creator economy. Since joining Vox in 2018, her work has explored the rise of TikTok, internet aesthetics, and the pursuit of money and fame online. You can sign up for her biweekly Vox Culture newsletter here.

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, and subscribe to The Goods’ newsletter here.

While millions of people have lost their jobs, a lucky few are just starting to build what they hope might be lucrative careers in entertainment. The thing they all have in common? They went viral on TikTok.

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t only been a boon for TikTok the company but also for the users who’ve published hit videos over the past few weeks. For Refinery29, Kathryn Lindsay covered a handful of TikTokers who’ve become “quarantine famous,” like the guy who wrote the “bored in the house” song and the kid who created a series of elaborate reality show parody videos, the latter of whom says “all the opportunities that I dreamt of are suddenly like, at my fingertips.”


When one of your friends coughs except it’s reality TV #fyp #foryou #realitytv

♬ original sound - bomanizer

Even entertainers who’ve been trying for years to succeed in traditional pathways are finding it far more quickly on the app. This week, the LA Times covered a 27-year-old comedian who’d been on the LA comedy circuit for three years without much luck and is now making a living on his slapstick videos on TikTok. That trajectory is not new, but with comedy clubs, concerts, and other IRL events canceled for the foreseeable future, TikTok offers a rare shot at finding new audiences.

The phenomenon starts getting a little bleak, though, when you start to hear stories like this one, about a computer scientist who lost his job and was only able to get hired after he made a viral TikTok about his resume. That’s great for him, obviously (apparently he got four “serious” job offers), but a rather depressing referendum on the job market as a whole: full of lots and lots of qualified applicants, but only enough jobs for the select few that manage to game the algorithm.

After all, thousands of people go viral on TikTok all the time, and the vast majority likely won’t turn their content into a career. Last night I saw one video from a girl I follow who’s had a few hit videos, replying to a comment that accused her of “trying to stay relevant.” “You’re right,” she says. “I’m chasing a high that probably won’t happen again.”

TikTok in the news

  • TikTok briefly crashed last week, but it was Facebook’s fault!
  • Major meme accounts like @Daquan and @Betch are expanding their presences on TikTok. Some are using shady tactics, like commenting on popular videos and misleading viewers to follow their account, to grow (just like they, uh, do on basically every other platform); and TikTok’s eventual transition into America’s Funniest Home Videos is imminent!
  • Ring lights used to be something you bought only if you were a YouTuber, TikToker, or otherwise slightly vain person. Now that we all have to stare at our own faces on Zoom all day, regular people are buying them, too.
  • Anthony Hopkins did the Toosie Slide. Who had this on their “celebrities having no idea what to do with themselves during quarantine” bingo card?
  • Everybody wants what the roller skates girl has. Back in March, Paper Mag profiled Ana Coto, whose video of herself skating down the street to J Lo’s “Jenny From the Block” is everywhere right now.

Meme watch

I have to assume the increase in sales at home-improvement stores is a direct result of the dozens of home makeover TikToks I’ve seen over the past few months. But it was this one, of a woman who transformed her childhood playhouse into a dope hot tub hangout spot, that I realized I had to write about.

“You go to a home-improvement store and there’s so many people out, because they all just don’t have anything to do,” Gracie Stephenson, the Virginia 23-year-old told me. Household projects have become a wildly popular pastime during quarantine, from windowsill gardening to peel-and-stick wallpaper. Call it pandecorating: It’s that uneasy restlessness that comes from staring at the same four walls every day for two months straight, masquerading as domesticity.

P.S. Look at this adorable little water bottle craft project. I gasped at the reveal!

One Last Thing

I’ve never been more stressed out than I am watching this video on how to get the “perfect” Instagram feed.