Since YouTube, video has become part of our daily lives. Most of us watch, but only a few actually make them because there were barriers like expensive equipment and competition for viewers’ attention. Not anymore! TikTok has changed that. The Chinese video-sharing platform now has one billion users worldwide, and thousands of directors/producers. Thanks to its myriad of features, TikTok is helping the average person turn their innovative concepts into high-quality content.
While Jamaican users are just a drop in that vast ocean, views for videos tagged with hashtags related to Jamaica (like #jamaica, #jamaicancomedy, #jamaicans) number in the hundreds of millions. Individual Jamaican content creators are getting thousands of views and likes per video, and entertaining the hell out of TikTok’s audience. These aren’t just high-profile ‘influencers’ or ‘celebrities’ with fancy equipment and major sponsors. They are average people creating original and innovative video content, recorded and edited with nothing but a phone and the TikTok app.
Ease of producing is one of the things that separates TikTok from other content platforms. While you don’t need technical equipment and editing software for YouTube, you do for most other channels with thousands of subscribers. Not so with TikTok. Creators can add almost anything – voiceovers from other videos, background music, even visual backgrounds – to their videos just using the app. Want to “Signal Di Plane”, while signalling a plane? TikTok. Want to turn a classic Jamaican roots play into a one-woman show? TikTok. With such a low barrier for entry, anyone with acting skills, dancing chops or great comedic timing can easily create entertaining videos for their audience.
The elephant in the room with TikTok, however, is its Chinese ownership. Developed by ByteDance, TikTok emerged in the U.S. in 2018, after the merging of two other popular Chinese-owned apps, Musical.ly and Douyin. Since last year, ByteDance has faced accusations that its data collection potentially allows the Chinese government to spy on Americans. After the U.S. Senate voted to ban the app from all government devices, President Trump also signed an executive order that will ban the app entirely, unless it can find a U.S. buyer by September 21st.
And what’s this to us? Though born, or at least partly raised here, several of Jamaica’s most popular online personalities, from Trabass to Dy Dy and Prince Marni, live in the States. Comedian Sarah Cooper has made headlines and been toasted by the late-night talk shows for her hilarious impersonations of Trump’s press conferences. And there are many other popular #jamaicancomedy videos on the app like AshNYC. It they were all to disappear it would be a crushing blow to them, and the appreciative audience.
We’ll have to wait and see what comes of the ban, but until then, be sure to check out TikTok. You’ll be amazed at the magic Jamaicans are creating with nothing but a few swipes in an app.