The Government Might Ban TikTok, So Learn Your Dances Now

Did you, a millennial, finally break and download TikTok? Did you tell yourself you were only doing it so you could lurk at first, and now you’re spending your days learning full-fledged choreography? Well, your shot at TikTok stardom might be short-lived, if the Trump administration gets its way. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the administration was considering banning TikTok over privacy and security concerns. Anddd this is why we can’t have nice things. Is TikTok nice? Maybe not. In that case, this is why we can’t have mildly entertaining things.

Pompeo expressed to Fox News that the administration’s concerns with TikTok have to do with whether the company is giving private user data to the Chinese government, since it is owned by Beijing-based tech company Bytedance. But Bytedance insists they’re not doing that, and told Business Insider in a statement, “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy in the US.” Indeed, on June 1, they hired Kevin Mayer, Disney’s former head of streaming, to serve as the CEO. They added, “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

The United States is not the only company who has issues with the video app, and on July 1, India banned TikTok (as well as a slew of other Chinese apps) after it was discovered that the app could secretly access user’s clipboards in a beta version of iOS 14. And I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too: if the Chinese government wants a draft of the text calling out a f*ckboy that I’m first sending around to all my friends for approval, they can have it. Right?

Ehhh maybe not. I spoke to Cyber Security Expert Vinny Troia who explained that apps copying your clipboard could pose security issues, for instance, if you use a password manager and copy and paste it into various apps. It could also copy things like email addresses, account-reset links, personal messages, and cryptocurrency wallets (lol good thing I was already too stupid to figure out cryptocurrency).

But there was another issue, as Troia explained: “it appears when people are on other apps, like Instagram, Tiktok is grabbing that content.” He explained that this could have been set up for benign reasons, “like predictive text”, but says, “there’s really no reason it should be monitoring what you’re typing in other apps.” A TikTok representative claimed the feature “was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior. We have already submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam feature to eliminate any potential confusion.”

Even though TikTok claimed the clipboard copying was a technical bug due to an anti-spam filter, the damage was already done, and the Indian government pulled the app, claiming it (along with 58 others) “engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.” So, whatever the reason may be, the app appears to be (or appeared to have been) collecting users’ data without them knowing. To what end? Well, that’s the bajillion dollar question.

The ban also came after a border dispute between China and India turned deadly, and there are also more subtle concerns that the app restricts free speech, especially with respect to criticizing the Chinese government, so maybe it’s not about the pasta clipboards at all, but something a lot deeper and darker than what I presumed when I initially thought I’d be writing a quick piece on if TikTok is going away.

If you (again, like me), are wondering WTF any of that means, this issue can be loosely translated to various governments saying of TikTok:

Do Not Trust Her

So, is TikTok in fact a fugly slut? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, you have Mike Pompeo literally telling Fox News that you should download the app “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” On the other hand, TikTok says they are like, totally chill and would never sell your info out. And of course, you’d have to take both those sentences with more grains of salt than you can find in a Himalayan salt cave since of course both those parties would say exactly those things.

Donald Trump has also expressed his desire to ban TikTok in the U.S., but for less… shall I say… altruistic reasons. Trump said in an interview with Gray Television’s Greta Van Susteren, “Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” adding that banning TikTok is “one of many” ways his administration is considering for getting back at China. Ah yes, that sounds more like the Trump we know and… know. And I’m sure it has nothing to do at all with the fact that TikTok was the main social media platform on which his rally in Tulsa got trolled.

Before you freak the f*ck out, one thing to keep in mind is, as Troia notes, “I’m not seeing indication that this information is going anywhere. So it could be just bad programming.” Basically, just because TikTok is storing this information doesn’t necessarily mean they are necessarily sending it somewhere, and TikTok has asserted that they are, in fact, not sending any stored information to the Chinese government. Also, it’s not just TikTok, and a bunch of your apps are doing the same sh*t with the clipboard copying.

So is TikTok a not-so secret weapon by the Chinese government or an unfortunate victim in a power grab, like a child caught between two parents in a divorce? I have no answers, so whether you want to keep using TikTok is up to you—for now. Somebody call Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin, because it’s complicated. All I’m saying is that none of this was happening back when we had Vine.

Images: Kon KarampelasUnsplash

One Millennial’s Quest To Understand TikTok

TikTok: the video app that’s confusing as sh*t and makes me feel old.

When I first noticed TikTok videos seeping into my Instagram feed here and there, I was like, “why is anyone using any social media platform other than Instagram? These people clearly have some extra free time on their hands. What losers!” But then I kept seeing the videos pop up and kept hearing people rave about how addictive the app is, and I thought, “okay, I guess I have some free time, too.”

Upon downloading TikTok, I felt utterly confused. My first observations were as follows:

☆There are more teens in braces than not
☆I’m hearing lots of music (mostly pop and rap) that will forever be stuck in my head
☆I’m seeing lots of dumbass dances (sorry) set to said pop and rap music
☆These weird voice filters are making these teenagers sound like robots

gI simply did not understand the point of this childish app! Gen-Z has really lost it. But then, I stumbled upon fashion influencer Brittany Xavier’s TikTok and was like, “this is some sh*t I can get behind!” She posts fashion and beauty videos, but they always have a cool and unexpected twist, like in these posts here and here, that makes me question if she is the next Steven Spielberg.

I chatted with Brittany to get the inside scoop on how the hell she makes these videos and any tips she has on using the app in general. So if you’re a millennial who feels ancient trying to understand TikTok, this one’s for you. 

Actually Spend Time On The App 

“The most important thing to do is to spend time on TikTok to understand the culture and what’s trending,” explains Brittany. “If you post a video just as you would on Instagram stories, it won’t do well.” 

VERY true. The second you open TikTok you will know v well that you are not on Instagram. You barely have to put any effort into IG Stories (well, who am I kidding, we all have f*ckboys to secretly impress, but you know what I mean), whereas on TikTok, you better have your self-timer set up and that dance routine mastered. (So much work…)

You also better be familiar with the “for you” page—the place where all the trending videos are posted. “I follow the ‘fashion’ and ‘beauty’ hashtags as well as the ‘for you’ page to check out what’s trending and if I like any of those,” says Brittany. Which leads us to her next tip… 

Use The Trending Songs 

“The trending songs will help your videos spread more,” Brittany explains. This, here, is the key to TikTok and a totally new concept for my useless, IG-programmed brain! Certain songs have gained popularity on TikTok—for what reason, I’m not totally sure, but it’s usually because one of those stupid (again, sorry) dances went viral using the song. So, if you use a trending song, you are way more likely to get a spot on the coveted “for you” page. Unless you’re not even posting and are merely using the app to stalk your ex and his new girlfriend, in which case you might benefit from an article with a different set of tips.

Take The Time To Plan Your Videos 

“If you want to perform well on TikTok, you really have to set aside time and commit. It really needs to be a priority,” explains Brittany. “Some of my videos take two hours to make—I want to make sure I have all the right clothes and lighting set up. And if I’m trying to do a smooth transition, that means I have to exit at the exact right second, which takes time.” 

This was comforting for my overly competitive, narcissistic and social media-obsessed heart to hear. Why am I not able to make my TikToks as entertaining as hers? OH, because I’m too busy watching Bravo. Brittany makes it look so easy, but there’s a ton of thought and a huge time commitment required from her to make these videos so damn good. She said she even goes so far as to mark the spot where she was standing to make her transitions seamless. “People don’t want to spend time on the app, but that’s why their videos don’t perform,” Brittany says. And THAT’S why you aren’t a TikTok influencer, Sydney Becky!!! 

Make Sure Your Videos Always Have A Takeaway

“I don’t even look at TikTok as social media. I look at it as entertainment,” Brittany explains. “You can’t just post selfies of your makeup; there has to be a big reveal at the end or some kind of value-added takeaway.” It’s true—I personally don’t love watching videos that don’t have some kind of punch or surprise to them. 

“I’m still trying to obtain followers that are into fashion and beauty, while also incorporating whatever trends I’m seeing.” I think this is where popular fashion/beauty influencers are having trouble translating onto TikTok—they just repost whatever videos they’d normally post on Instagram, without putting any emphasis on a solid takeaway, or, tbh, trying to appeal to teenage monsters with zero attention span. 

Don’t Make Your Videos Too Long 

As just mentioned, attention spans are basically—wait, what was I saying? oh, right—a thing of the past. So, “keep it simple, don’t overthink it, and maybe only showcase 3 outfits vs. the 10,” says Brittany. 

While Brittany is really only using the app for fun and to fit in with her 12-year-old daughter, Tommy Hilfiger (whom she was already in talks with) has already asked her to include their brand in two of her videos, so I think we all know where this app is going: $$$$$!!! 

I’m super interested to see what the next wave of TikTok influencers will look like. Musicians are even using the app in hopes of having their songs blow up, so maybe the next Lil Wayne is really just one weird-ass, robotic dance away! Come to think of it, will underground rappers be the next Flat Tummy Tea influencers? Only time will tell!

Images: brittanyxavier / Instagram

What Are VSCO Girls And Why Are They A Thing?

Over the last month, I’ve been on an odyssey that’s opened my eyes to a lot of new things. It’s not a fitness journey, or an Eat, Pray, Love type of situation, but rather, a journey that’s taken place entirely on my phone. I’m talking about TikTok. Yes, TikTok. Aside from all the people I already told you to follow, TikTok has been an enlightening look into a younger generation, one that’s grown up fully attached to technology, and it’s jarring.

There are whole teen subcultures that you’ve probably never heard of, with layered stereotypes and characteristics. The one I find most personally interesting are E-girls and E-boys, which I’ll get to in another article soon (buckle up), but the group that’s starting to get the most mainstream attention are the VSCO girls. What are VSCO girls? Let’s get into it, and like, get ready to feel reallyyyy f*cking old.

Before we dive into the “girls” part, let’s quickly cover VSCO. As you likely know, VSCO is a camera and photo editing app, known for its hazy, grainy filters that negate the fact that your iPhone camera is actually very good. You definitely know a couple of ~artsy~ girls who use VSCO for all their Instagram pics, but for people born post-1996, it’s a phenomenon. You can also share your photos within the app, but we’re not really here to talk about the app itself.

Now you know what VSCO is, so what are VSCO girls? Basically, imagine you’re in Mean Girls and walking through the cafeteria: VSCO girls would now be one of the tables you would com across. VSCO girls were born from the app, but they’ve grown into so much more. While using the VSCO app is an integral part of the VSCO girl identity, there are a number of other key identifiers:

-Scrunchies. Scrunchies in the hair, scrunchies on the wrists, just generally many scrunchies.

-Hydroflasks. You know, the metal water bottles that are heavy enough to be lethal weapons. The handles on these bottles are perfect for attaching the end of a friendship bracelet while you’re working on it, as VSCO girls love to do.

-Stickers on Hydroflasks. The water bottle is a start, but true VSCO girls deck them out in vinyl stickers.

-“Sksksksk.” The VSCO girl mating call. It’s like the Gen-Z equivalent of when you used to type “asdfghjkl” to express that you’re overcome with emotion—also similar to saying “I’m screaming” when you’re not, in fact, screaming.

-“And I oop.” The other VSCO girl mating call. This phrase was first coined by drag queen Jasmine Masters, so naturally it’s been co-opted by teenage white girls driving around in their mom’s Jeep.

-Metal straws. Because most VSCO girls are still only like 16, they don’t have a lot to worry about. But they definitely are worried about saving the turtles! VSCO girls are constantly talking about saving the turtles, which is why they carry metal straws everywhere they go. Usually the fancy ones that collapse down and come with a case.

no one:
absolutely not a soul:
vsco girls:

— vic (@chilloutvic) August 9, 2019

Those are the primary traits, but there are a lot of other things that are broadly associated with VSCO girls. These include Vans sneakers, Fjallraven backpacks, oversize T-shirts and sweatshirts, Polaroid cameras, puka shell jewelry, rosewater spray, and Birkenstocks. If a lot of these things sound low-key normal, that’s because they are. Being a VSCO girl isn’t about being weird or different, it’s about being the same as everyone else. Half of these things were popular in the 2000s, but most of these girls are too young to even remember that.

When it comes down to it, it’s not that important for us adults to understand exactly what teens are getting into these days. That’s why I only follow people who are 18 or older on TikTok, because I just can’t be invested in what a 15-year-old is doing. But the concept of a VSCO girl really isn’t different from anything that was going on when we were in high school. There were always goth girls, or hipsters, or any number of other groups that you either fit into or actively made fun of. It’s the circle of life.

tumblr girls walked so vsco girls could run

— sim1 (@simoneeorlando) August 9, 2019

Actually, VSCO girls really aren’t that different from the norm-core aesthetic that’s been around for years, but most VSCO girls are too young to actually know what that is. But while norm-core is a low-key style that usually feels pretty natural, VSCO girls do the absolute most. It’s all about trying super hard to have the most scrunchies, the coolest stickers on their Hydroflask, and do the most to #SaveTheTurtles.

there’s a vsco girl in all of us, some just choose not to unleash her

— James (@CaucasianJames) September 17, 2019

But even if you’re not going to download TikTok and get fully immersed in the world of VSCO girls, you can at least laugh at some of the excellent memes and tweets about them. Personally, my number one goal in life is to be a suburban wine mom, so I’m considering buying a Hydroflask to begin this journey. Am I okay? Probably not, but please respect my privacy in this time of crisis.

vsco girls grow up to become suburban wine moms

— flan (@jelloflan) August 7, 2019

As always, I’ll be on the lookout for more teen things that you definitely need to know about, because Gen-Z is basically like, a different species. But for now, enjoy trying to explain to your boyfriend/mom/group chat when they text you asking, “what are VSCO girls???” You might not feel like an eskskskskpert, but at least you won’t be totally clueless.

Images: chilloutvic, simoneeorlando, caucasianjames, jelloflan / Twitter

WTF Is TikTok, And Should You Download It?

Let’s face it—we’re not that young anymore. Our transition into relative old age means that there’s a whole generation of people younger than us, and with that new social media apps and trends that we’re just not meant to understand. Chief among these is TikTok. Seriously, people ask me almost every day to explain TikTok to them, and honestly, I barely even know what to say. TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular apps among Gen-Z, but it’s still a mystery to most of us in the post-college crowd. Lucky for you, I’m venturing into the depths of the youths to figure out wtf TikTok is, so STOP ASKING ME. Thank me later.

In less than three years, TikTok has become a global force, with over a billion downloads in 150 countries. As you might recall, the current app was originally known as, which was already super popular with teenagers. Last year, TikTok’s parent company bought, and rolled the two apps into one. But like, what is it?

The easiest way to describe TikTok is that it’s like Vine, but on steroids. Instead of six-second clips, TikToks can be up to 60 seconds long, and you can incorporate music, stickers, filters, and text. Just like Vine, you can record a lot of short video clips and put them together, which makes it easier to get creative than on, say, Instagram stories. There’s a lot going on, which is both a blessing and a curse. People get really creative using all the features that the app has to offer, but actually creating the videos can be a little overwhelming.

Here’s the first TikTok I ever made, which was approximately one hour ago when I was starting this article:

Look, I’m no Quentin Tarantino. I have approximately one follower on TikTok, and both the comments on this video are total spam, but you have to start somewhere.

I decided to keep it simple for my first time, but the possibilities are endless when it comes to TikTok. One of the most popular features, which was a staple of, is adding music to videos. You might recall this video of TikTok user Reese Hardy dancing to Mariah Carey’s “Obsessed,” which went viral last month:

This video has over 20 million views, not counting on Twitter and Instagram, and even Mariah Carey herself responded to the “Obsessed” challenge. While the whole world of TikTok is a lot to dive into, it’s not that different from any other kind of memes. While there’s a lot of original content being made, there are certain popular formats that come and go.

Right now, one of the biggest TikTok memes is using E-40’s song “Choices (Yup),” which was originally released in 2014. I don’t know how this stuff gets resurfaced, but I don’t make the rules. Here’s David Dobrik’s take on the meme:

You might not know who David Dobrik is, but literally every Gen-Zer does. He started his career as a Vine star before moving to YouTube, where he has 13 million subscribers. His friend group is known as “The Vlog Squad,” and they basically run sh*t. Or, to put it in easier terms to understand, he has eight million followers on Instagram, and he just bought his best friend a Lamborghini. Joke’s on you!

But even if you don’t get the whole TikTok culture, a lot of the stuff on there is just objectively funny. If you’re the kind of person who follows 87 meme accounts on Instagram, you should probably download TikTok. Even America’s Funniest Home Videos is on TikTok, and now I’m not going to get any work done for the rest of the day.

I’ve basically spent the last day messing around on TikTok, but I still haven’t decided if I’m going to keep using it. Sure, it’s a total waste of time, but I spend approximately 100 hours a week wasting time on Instagram, so I’m not really precious with how I use my time. The thing is, as someone who was born before 1999, I don’t really know anyone who uses TikTok. There are lots of random funny people out there, but there’s no one that I’m invested in yet. Just wait though, because by the end of the day I’ll probably have a huge crush on some 20-year-old straight boy who makes dancing videos. We all have weaknesses.

If you’re one of those people who still watches Vine compilations on YouTube after all these years, you definitely need TikTok. If you’re scared of getting older and are desperate to keep up with youth culture, you probably also need TikTok. But if you already feel like you spend too much time on your phone, and still feel like you don’t get it, you can probably skip it. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

Images: Shutterstock; dylanhafer, reesehardy_, daviddobrik, afvofficial / TikTok