TikTok is “a highly musical version of social media because it works based on endlessly repeated snippets of audio.” On TikTok, users can make videos using popular audios as a type of template.
TikTok audios themselves become “memes” which -in their endless repetition and use as an intelligible creative starting point- are ultimately more significant that any visual cues that a user will find repeated on the platform.
Part of what makes TikTok compelling is that audio is very intimate and therefore emotionally engaging. Audio sticks in human memory and creates a nostalgic feeling. For example, some popular TikTok audios are the most emotive moment of a contemporary song. Endlessly repeated, these snippets can put the user-listener in a trance-like state.
Audio is primal. As humans we can “reproduce” audio naturally and instinctively by speaking, singing or humming. Reproducing a visual -as in a scene or picture- is much more challenging and abstract.
TikTok has taken this fundamental component of human culture -reproducing audio- and automated it. I’ve already called TikTok audios “memes” but I think that might understate things. What are they though? Poetry? Incantations? Chants? War cries? Maybe something entirely new.