My students can’t stop dancing in their seats.
They look across the room from each other and do a quick arm pump to a friend.
Pairs, almost always girls, face a wall, chair, or window during lunch, practicing complex choreography in unison, but without moving their feet much.
What is this?
Is it practice for the dance team?
A new initiative by the cheerleaders?
No, it’s none of that. And if you’re under 30 years old, maybe only if you’re under 25, then you already know exactly what I’m going to say.
And if you’re in the Millennial generation, and certainly if you’re older, you’re 90% likely to still be clueless as to what this article is about.
Those kids are practicing dances, doing short moves, and recording themselves doing dances that have become popular on the social media app Tik Tok, formerly known as the lip-syncing app called Musicly.
The app has spread unlike other social media. I started teaching right as Instagram and Snapchat started to become popular, but this is totally different, in a very interesting and “2020” way.
It’s affecting kids’ behavior offline.
Sure, Instagram made kids present themselves differently via clothes, makeup etc. Snapchat made kids say DJ Khaled jokes.
But I’ve never seen a new app take off so quickly, and leave kids so obsessed, as with their behavior of watching, mimicking, and creating videos on Tik Tok.
There’s a strange, almost creepy, lesson to all of this.
Imagine you are a 55-year-old substitute teacher at an American high school. You have two kids in their late twenties. You watch cable news for your information and have a Facebook profile to talk with old friends and family.
You could walk through a day – a week! – at the school, and observe kids doing these dances over and over again. First, you might not notice it and think nothing of it. Teenagers like to dance, after all.
But second, even if you did notice it, you’d have no idea the reason behind the dancing. The kids often don’t even have their phones out. And if they do, it’s almost impossible to tell what app they’re using.
If you stop and ask 1 kid, you’d get an answer. Then, ask three more during the same day, and you’d end up with a full education of what’s going on. I know this is true because this is what I did.
Now, I can see a kid practicing dancing moves in their desk and say, “Liz, take it easy on your Tik Tok moves for now…” – with 100% certainty about what she’s doing. And I don’t say it to get a laugh or be “liked” – I say it to show, subtly, that I make at least a small effort to understand what’s going in the culture of my students in 2020.
Download Tik Tok to understand the phenomenon. And more importantly, consider what “Tik Tok”s might exist among the educators, career-changers, and parents you help with your product or service.
What part of their inner lives are you unaware of? How might you better serve them from having a deeper understanding of the part of their lives they believe only insiders understand?