Do you want to feel old? Consider this BBC headline: “TikTok overtakes YouTube for average watch time in US and UK.” If you’re like me you first heard of TikTok at some point during the pandemic and had only a vague idea what it was. A new platform yes, but platforms come and go and I was really just starting to get into YouTube. In fact, I remember when I first heard of YouTube. A colleague at Gorgias Press was telling me about it. It was a place to post videos. I didn’t own a video camera and besides, what does a washed-up professor have to say? No only that, but my computer didn’t have the memory capacity to upload and edit videos and who even has the (figurative and literal) bandwidth? (I do have a YouTube channel, but it turns out that a nine-to-five and writing books on the side take up pretty much all of your time.)
Speaking as a homeowner, YouTube has been a lifesaver. Most of what I have to do in household repair (a lot) I learn how to do from YouTube. I know younger people who prefer YouTube to movies and never watch television. It turns out that people are pretty good at entertaining each other even without the studios telling us what to watch. (Although discoverability benefits from sponsorship, so money does change hands and the economy is happy.) I was just beginning to get YouTube figured out when TikTok came along. I was under the impression it was a music app—does Napster even still exist? CDs are getting hard to find, as are DVDs. I guess I can learn out where to buy them on YouTube. Or TikTok?
I recently watched a horror movie on one of those services where they break in with a commercial at the absolutely worst moment time after time. As the excitement began to build the commercials became more frequent. As soon as it was over I was wishing for a DVD. Too much content is on somebody else’s terms unless you’ve got a physical disc that you can slide in on your own timetable. It’s strange being in that transitional generation between print and ebook, vinyl/VHS and streaming, paper maps and Google maps. Now I guess I have to figure out what a TikTok is and how to use it. I think I’ll go to the library and see if I can find an old-fashioned reference book on it.