Like a lot of adults, I downloaded the app TikTok at the start of the pandemic, only to promptly get overwhelmed and forget about it. After all, relative to TikTok’s main demographic, I’m old. I part my hair decidedly on the side. I wore Juicy Couture tracksuits unironically in high school. To me, Spider Man is Tobey Maguire, and the only Charli D’Amelio I know is a drink order at Dunkin’.
But during a week trapped indoors during a historic snow storm amid an unprecedented global pandemic, I found myself avoiding the anxiety inducing Instagram and Twitter, refocusing all my scrolling energy toward Gen Z’s app of choice. Fortunately I had spent enough time last spring curating my algorithm — less teens dancing to Doja Cat and whatever Jason Derulo is doing, more weird funny people. And I mean, it’s weird on there, but in the best way. I can’t speak to what TikTok looked like pre-pandemic, but today it’s truly a hotbed of D.I.Y. creativity and talent, with one staggering two-minute set after another all helping to dull the mounting stress. I hope all of these people get writing jobs on late night shows, or at least have some big brand pay them a lot to do a little.
Whatever is going on with my TikTok algorithm (I don’t like to think too hard about that stuff) also ensured a lot of Texas-based content made its way to my “For You” feed. Inserted squarely between videos of Miley Cyrus and Lizzo were random TikTok creators in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, all just as flummoxed as I was about the state of their cities — except they were much funnier about it. Also, “random” isn’t really the right word. I may have no idea who these people are, but some have hundreds of thousands of likes on their videos.
Here’s @bocajbackwards accurately capturing the diminishing returns of waking up to snow in Texas, or @FlossyBaby building a snowman in Austin with her siblings (if you’re wondering, her creation is a she — “I would never build a man, he better build himself up”). @Shiningnathan produced what appears to be an award-worthy short film in San Antonio. There were plenty of Titanic references, but this one is my favorite.
@shiningnathanthis lighting at least##texassnowstorm2021 ##fyp ##texassnow ##Texas ##snowpocalypse ##tiktokgay ##foryoupage ##texasgay ##texassnowday♬ Angel – Sarah McLachlan
It can’t all lighthearted though. Heartbreaking videos show flooded kitchens and collapsed ceilings (if you’re in a position to give, please consider doing so), along with a few kindhearted northerners encouraging others to offer support for Texans instead of ridicule. At this point, you’ve probably seen the video by Dallas’ @kianarosek, who now famously chose the one parking spot in a seven-floor lot where a pipe burst, creating a dramatic giant icicle and one deeply frozen car. Her latest video currently has 1.8 million likes — can that somehow be monetized to buy a new car? I hope so!
But the chaotic mechanics of TikTok ensure you never dwell on one thing too long. One bite-sized gem is served up after another in the kind of never ending content cycle Quibi wished it could have been. One moment you’re moved, the next you’re laughing alone beneath a bundle of blankets loud enough to scare your cat. (Also, the TikTok cat content, unmatched.)
It’s been a brutal week in Texas, although the great thaw of 2021 does finally seem to be upon us. When things do finally begin making their way back to normal (whatever that means in 2021), I won’t soon forget the ones that kept me entertained.