On a very mundane and ordinary day I decided to take a break and scroll through Tik Tok for fun content. My For You Page, which is personalized and catered to the individual by the algorithm, was full of booktok and gymtok content.
Or, it would’ve been, if the Ukrainian and Russian war hadn’t reached a new level; a level of global attention by the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2022.
Suddenly my For You Page was one thing and one thing only; live feed from Ukrainian soldiers protecting their borders, or Russian soldiers trudging through the streets on their apparent way to Ukraine. There were videos of American soldiers being deployed to Ukraine, and wives saying goodbye to their husbands as the war escalated.
Many of these videos, after further research, were old YouTube videos of soldiers coming home to their families. Many of the videos themselves were clips of unrelated content on the internet, but were put up to elevate the feelings of compassion and fear among the public. People suggested a possible World War III, as NATO was involved in the discussion.
There was hearsay, assumptions, and a lot of panic on Tik Tok all of late February and early March.
But Tik Tok nonetheless became a source of news outlet and entertainment for the younger generation. No longer were we resorting to CNN or FoxNews for the news, but an entertaining app normally used for comedic skits and dancing.
The younger generation communicated and updated one another through 30 second videos of content that, most likely, hadn’t been fact-checked.
As per why the war would go viral, Communication major and Monmouth senior Kayla Kennedy said, “Tik Tok is a mass communication social media network where people are allowed to express themselves through videos. On Tik Tok it is very easy to become a trend.
As more people discuss the Ukraine and Russian war, more people tune in, and it starts trending. News is being spread to more people everyday and the topic becomes viral.”
It is important to note that not all that was posted on Tik Tok should be dismissed. Tik Tokers from Ukraine, such as @Valerisssh and @Alina_Volik provide live and on scene content of the Ukrainian-Russian war.
@Valerisssh, for example, shows us what living in a bomb shelter is like, and what the streets of Ukraine look like. @Valerisssh’s life, a photographer and native of Chernihiv, completely changed not only by the war but also by fame. After sharing her “My Typical Day In a Bomb Shelter” video, ammassing 45 million views, she has 1 million followers on Tik Tok and 127k on Instagram. She captioned the video, “Living my best life; thanks Russia!”
People praised @Valerisssh for her humor, and how she has coped with the war, by creating light-hearted Tik Toks of a very traumatizing situation. She is now a refugee in Italy, after having crossed Poland, and continues to make content of her everyday life.
Though she is away from home, she continues to petition for help for Ukraine and her city Chernihiv.
Tik Tok star @Iamlegallyhype gained the majority of her 550k followers on Tik Tok through her series, which attempts to explain the Ukrainian-Russian war in terms that the general public can understand. She breaks down the conflict into a dialogue that feels casual and conversational. Said video amassed 18.2 million views and the comments are full of thank you’s from people who did not fully understand what has been going on. She continues to update her followers on the war, as well as creating more social justice content as a law school student.
@Alina_Volik is a smaller content creator with 77.7k followers on Tik Tok. She is a native citizen of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, though she is currently a refugee in Spain. She creates melancholic videos, often posting what Kyiv used to be like before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Her most watched video, “POV: You Live in Ukraine”, has 16.5 million views and shows what living in Ukraine in fear of Russia is like.
She lists, “1. Emergency backpack beside your [bed] with documents, money, aid kit. 2. Your windows are sealed, so splinters won’t be scattered. 3. You sleep dressed because the alarm can sound suddenly. 4. Your friends send videos from the shelters.”
Luckily, Alina has found refuge in Spain but many Ukrainians continue to live in fear of Russia’s next move.
Hence, we should continue to support in whatever way we can. While we must be mindful of what we see on the internet, and fact-check at all times, we can also use the internet to our advantage. It can be through the power of social media and sharing helpful posts, donating, or uplifting the voices of Ukrainian citizens.
Either way, Tik Tok just like any entertainment app can be of great help and support if wisely used. Creators such as @Alina_Volik and @Valerisssh provide tools and aid opportunities for those outside Ukraine on their social media.