I thought I was over social media. Initially, I welcomed the distraction as an escape from the real world – a place to relax. Then, some platforms morphed into a showcase for the worst aspects of the real world. So, I deleted the apps from my phone and saw my usage plummet. Then I invested the time I saved on ‘doom-scrolling’ in to online courses from FutureLearn and Coursera. However, in a twist, I did a few courses on digital marketing with an eye on creating social change. Now I’m beginning to see social media in a new light, particularly TikTok. So if, like me, you thought TikTok is just an app full of dancing teens, think again. Its moved on.
I was aware of the app from younger relatives, and I looked at it probably a year ago. I thought it was brash and shallow and a massive waste of time. So, what changed? First, TikTok has changed, and this is user-led. When people adopt innovations, they often use them innovatively. With social media platforms, it’s never just about the content; it’s how we can use them meaningfully, both personally and culturally.
The catalyst for me revisiting TikTok was the re-publication of my confidence book. The publisher’s marketing team mentioned it. I agreed to have another look and discovered #BookTok. And I soon realized that there is a ‘Tok’ for pretty much anything! Yet, I still found the app to be brash and bewildering, but I slowly started to warm to it. My first move was to call in the experts to help me make sense of it, that is, my nephews and nieces. I only had to say, ‘Can you teach me about TokTik’ for them to laugh and ‘Show the oldie how it’s done’. Next, I signed up for a webinar on #BookTok and then did the Coursera specialization ‘Marketing with TikTok’, which I highly recommend. So with more information and a renewed sense of purpose, I changed too.
Now, it’s early days, but after following a few people on TikTok, I’ve realised that anything goes. That is, if I can get my sausage fingers to press the right keys on my phone at the right time. Quickly, I came to enjoy the sense of community on the app. To me, as a social psychologist, it is the most appealing aspect. We all crave connection and belonging and want to tell our stories to anyone who will listen. Also, as a coach, I appeal to clients’ imagination and creativity. TikTok is based on fun, creativity, a sense of belonging and collaboration. Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.’ And as Oscar Wilde is supposed to have said ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’ These two quotations sum up TikTok.
The platform’s ethos is about creating a place where people get to express themselves in an authentic way. There’s less need for Instagram’s surface gloss and glamour. What appeals to me personally is TikTok’s brevity. Although we might argue that it’s contributing to shorter attention spans, it’s also an encouragement to ‘get to the ******* point!’ We can say a lot in 60 seconds. In that time, we can tell a complete story. And as a psychologist and coach, in a minute, I can give you a tool, tip, or technique to help boost your confidence. TikTok can be a goldmine for this type of content. But like anything else, the platform can be a timewaster. It is designed to keep you there as long as possible. And that’s where your goals come in. You need to use TikTok with a purpose in mind. That could be entertainment, empowerment, or education, but it helps to set a time limit. TikTok should break up the day not take over the day.
I know I will use TikTok in line with my values. My book is called ‘Confidence Karma: How to Become Confident and Help Others Feel Great Too’. And several themes in the book align with TikTok’s ethos. The central pillar of the book is ‘you boost your own confidence as you seek to build confidence in others’. The book is about helping you feel comfortable in your own skin and helping others do the same. I call it self-help with a social conscience, or self-help for social good. And running through the book is the theme of writing your own 60-second ‘elevator pitch’ to sell yourself which is perfect for TikTok. So do check out the book and join me on TikTok too. I’m still figuring it all out so it would be great to work it out together. Let’s have fun making sure what goes around comes around, that is, kindness, confidence, compassion, and creativity. See you there.
And I’ll end on the line from my first TikTok: Confidence loves company. Be the one to pass it on.
- Gary Wood’s TikTok account
- Gary’s book Confidence Karma
- Coursera’s Marketing with TikTok
About the author: Dr Gary Wood is a social psychologist, personal development coach and broadcaster. He works with companies and individuals to translate evidence-based psychology and coaching into down-to-earth, workable solutions. He has taught psychology and learning skills in several UK universities and regularly appears on radio and television offering expert analysis and coaching tips. He has been an agony uncle for magazines and websites and is widely quoted in the press. Get in touch with Gary to discuss you goals, or just to ask a question about the book.