The lull of the anthropause

As an Internet Elderly™ who had been spending my time online since I was 15 — that has been aeons ago — I am equally baffled and fascinated by the phenomenon that is TikTok. It’s social, it’s political (to the point it is nearly banned in America) — two criteria that should have immediately made me jump into launching research about the platform, but not yet as far.

Because of the pandemic, I haven’t seen my nieces and nephews for over 130 days, despite living only half an hour away from some of them. We had occasional video calls, but they were just not the same. Over the first few months as we kept having the calls I sensed we experienced some Zoom fatigue, so they were getting less and less frequent. Texting and normal calls could never replace in-person interactions, so I just missed seeing them in their natural habitat as kids, loud and exuberant and disgusting but just as lovable.

One of my nieces had been re-posting the TikTok videos she did to her Instagram. Most of her posts were ones where she did some form of dance where the anatomy of the dance is almost identical of all the other TikTok dance videos I came across — the TikTok dancer would often stand in one place, the choreograph would always include some intricate and sequential hand movements, sometimes followed by a hip wiggle, complete with a facial expression that was devised in a way that the dancer would lock eyes with the viewers all the time. The moves are fast and formulaic, and I observed that she improvised the moves to every different music on other different TikTok posts. I never knew if she had devised a choreograph of her own, but I am tempted to ask her one day. The movements seem easy, but I gave up trying after a while. It’s very fascinating to me because I have always known how dance techniques have always been influenced by their spatial and temporal limitations

For ballet, the confines of a stage instruct choreographic patterns that cater to the rows and tiers of seated audience members. Breakdancing was developed on the streets of New York City, where cardboard was used as a surface on which the technique was perfected. TikTok dancers are ruled by the necessity to fit their choreography within the restrictions of a one minute time frame if they want to appeal to the attention span of an average user.

There is also a social aspect to TikTok dances, as the article suggested. Some of the dances my niece did included her younger brother — who tried to emulate how his sister did and failed spectacularly, but still cute. It’s also something fun you can concoct with the rest of your family, in the case of this Malaysian family who, amidst having to celebrate Eid in the middle of the pandemic lockdown, posted this video that had managed to garner 9 million views.

Humans, despite all our shortcomings, have the way to adapt to every terrible situation we are thrown into. These social platforms might be prone to the abuse of power given any opportunity, but along the years they have served as ways for us to get in touch with each other, or to offer a window into one’s soul — to get to know how one is truly is, or what things they like. The pandemic might have brought us farther in distance from each other, but in a way, these TikTok videos of my niece doing the things she enjoys is the closest thing I could get in a time when being out and touching any random doorknobs seem like radical action, until it is safe to do so.

Reading in my tabs:


  • Reading: Sasha Costanza-Chock’s Design Justice, Mercè Rodoreda’s Death in Spring (Translated from Catalan: La mort i la primavera), and Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s We Cast A Shadow.
  • Listening: “You don’t get to pick your family of origin or the place you grow up. But you do get to choose your friends, and those choices say something about the kind of world you want for yourself.” This episode of Call Your Girlfriend on navigating relationships with deep divides of identities, which makes me grateful for my small circle of friends and how our differences brought us together. Also, this is exactly how I sing Taylor Swift’s Exile.
  • Viewing: This 14-minute stop motion animation set in Mumbai about a father-daughter relationship. The animation took 8 years to make! The details! Check out also the behind-the-scene video.
  • Food & Drink: We made nasi impit and peanut sauce as a delayed Eid dish.

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