Marcella is eighteen years old and lives in the suburbs of Texas so quiet that sometimes it looks like a ghost town. She downloaded TikTok last fall, after watching TikTok videos posted on YouTube and Instagram. They were weird and funny and reminded her of Vine. I’m A Girl I Just Have Better Hair Than You Shirt and the discontinued platform that young people once used to upload anarchist six-second videos played in a loop. She opened TikTok and it started showing her an endless video roll, most of which was fifteen seconds or less.
She watched the things she liked a few times before continuing, and typed twice her favorites, to look like them. TikTok is learning what she wants and I’m A Girl I Just Have Better Hair Than You Shirt! It shows her silly and superhero comic sketches drawing murals, and fewer videos in which girls make fun for other girls because of their looks. When you watch a video on TikTok, you can press a button on the screen to respond to your own video, recorded on the same track. Another tap calls up a set of editing tools, including a timer that makes it easy to film yourself.
The video became a meme that you could copy or riff on, quickly multiplying in much the same way that the Ice Bucket Challenge was popularized on Facebook five years ago. Marcella was lying in bed looking at TikTok on Thursday night when she started watching the video after the video was put into a clip of the song Beautiful Swag Boy, Soulja Boy’s Boy. I’m A Girl I Just Have Better Hair Than You Shirt and In each person, one would look at the camera as if it were a mirror, and then, as soon as the beat down, the camera would cut into a doppelgänger shot. It works like a punch.