I swear, I don’t just write about Tiktok.
But it is a cultural phenomenon and fast becoming a political one. In case you aren’t on the app, or you (wisely) don’t read the news every day, the possibility that there will be a ban on the app in the United States just got dropped. I don’t think this comes as a huge surprise to many, considering the widely-known fact that Tiktok is owned by a Chinese company, which means it is functionally owned and operated by the Chinese government, and every other app collects data–which means that a foreign government is collecting mine.
But it is a bit of a disappointment, since I LITERALLY just wrote an eBook entitled “How I Got to 30,000 Followers on Tiktok: A Millennial’s Guide to the App You Just Downloaded Because You Can’t Go To Work and Everything Is Cancelled.” Ignore the fact that I misspelled “millennial” in the Amazon title. I’m a writer not a saint. The lessons in it apply to more than just Tiktok. But I DIGRESS.
Honestly, the revelation that the Tok could be leaving us, didn’t disappointment me nearly as much as it could have. Or, according to some, perhaps should have. I read the article and essentially shrugged.
But how!? I’ve spent the last three months developing a bunch of content, investing in relationships, and laughing on rough days. I’ve never had this much success on an app in my life. How can I be okay with the prospect that the app could go caput? Lots of reasons.
Here are five ways to thrive when things go haywire and it’s out of your control.
#1: Be grateful.
Gratitude, quite literally, will change your life. If you commit to engaging it whenever you see the opportunity, waking up to it, going to sleep to it. It will heal your mind and change your brain, put you on a new path, and one day you’ll wake up slightly confused as to how you ended up so happy.
As soon as I heard about the possible ban, I began to recount everything I’ve learned from the app. I learned how to be consistent. I learned how to treat everything as an experiment and experiment as often as I could. I learned how to churn out content in a content-hungry world. I learned how to let go of apparent failure. I learned how to engage with followers and make friends out of skeptics. I learned how to push through self-sabotage when a video went viral, not overthink and just keep putting things out there. I learned how to ask for help.
I met some amazing people. I had some fabulous conversations. I laughed over comments with others. I got into deep topics. I was gifted some great ideas. I learned how to shrug off negativity. I changed as a person.
Not too shabby.
If you are coming to some kind of end, one that isn’t in your control, while I don’t recommend pretending to be happy, I do recommend verbalizing at least a little gratitude for what you learned and what you got out of it. People often look at a commitment to gratitude as somehow toxically positive. Being grateful doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy; it just means that you’re recounting the good, as well as the bad. We have no problem recounting everything that’s going wrong–it’s human nature.
When we also remember what’s good, ironically, we’re being more realistic than the person who stays in the bad. And I’ve been there.
#2: Remind yourself of the truth.
The world existed before this thing. It will exist after it.
I know what it’s like to assume that something will always be there–a person, a community, an aspect of my health, an opportunity. And, when it’s taken away, the world seems to teeter. Trust me when I say that the world was there before it, and it will trot along after it. And you have everything you need to not just get through this, but actually thrive.
I mean that, absolutely.
It’s time to start telling yourself these things: “I am resilient. I have everything I need to figure this out. I am becoming the type of person that just thrives, no matter what. I am a problem-solver. I come up with great ideas all the time.” Seriously. Say it aloud. Do it. Or not. You know. You might be somewhere that you can’t say it aloud. It’s cool.
#3: Appreciate that everything is fragile.
When the news dropped about Tiktok, I couldn’t help but think about social media as a whole. If tomorrow it was discovered that Facebook, Instagram and YouTube were all actually being operated by a foreign government, and that we were being nefariously spied upon (whether there is any other kind of spying, I don’t know), and they got shut down, how many influencers, models and internet-made personalities would essentially disappear?
This is a great wake up call to one-app, or even internet-only creators. If your present body of work would disappear if a single app were to go down, it is definitely time to examine other mediums and other modes of communication.
In a more general sense, when you realize that so many things can be taken away, you appreciate them more while also leaning on them less. They return to being gifts and blessings, as opposed to things we take for granted. Death makes us appreciate life. The possibility of something being taken away, makes us appreciate it more, as long as it’s with us. If you can learn to do this, before things are actually taken away, you will live a charmed existence.
#4: Think of it as making room.
A friend becomes an acquaintance. A child moves away. A tree you grew up with, gets cut down unexpectedly (I can’t be the only one).
The fact is, life is bittersweet. As we age, we get better at making choices but the window of opportunity narrows. When we’re young, we have all of the potential in the world, but none of the wisdom. We start building our own adult lives, but now we don’t see the people that made us who we are as often.
And, some days, life is more bitter than sweet. The trick is to not let the bitterness overtake the sweetness permanently.
One way I do this, is to remind myself that everything I seem to lose, is actually making room for something else. In many cases, it’s something better. Sure, I didn’t do well on one audition; but it might be opening me up for an opportunity I couldn’t have foreseen (this has happened). Yeah, that trip fell through; but now I have a ticket to anywhere in Europe, I just need to figure out where to go! I moved right when COVID hit, so I haven’t made any friends out here and spent weeks in a depression; but, you know what–I made a lot of progress on some projects that were really important to me!
No joke: Losing something might be the best thing that happened to you. Last December, when I broke my own heart over someone who hadn’t earned the status I gave them, it took me a long time to see that everything happened exactly as it needed to. It took four months for me to feel not-awful. Another month to feel okay. Six months later, what I thought was the worst thing ever, was actually a prison break! No way would I be as happy, purposeful, developed professionally and grateful if I hadn’t gone through that. I would not trade losing that person/relationship for anything
And to my Tiktok users!? The sky is the limit! Maybe we’ll all discover a new app that’s US-based (it’ll still spy, but they’ll be our spies). Maybe you’ll realize that your content is actually great for long-form videos or podcasts. Maybe you’ll realize that social media really isn’t your thing, that you did it just to pass the time, and you’d rather write a book, plan a trip or pick up a new hobby–phone-free. You just don’t know.
But there is no rule that says this won’t be the best thing to ever happen to you and your personal goals. I’m serious.
#5: Let go of past glory.
This might be the hardest thing, because humans like to look at metrics, analytics, data. We look at past performance to dictate future success. The thing about numbers, though, is they really only tell you what’s happened, not what’s going to happen.
When you get stuck in the numbers, you start to reflect your past more and more, rather than reflecting a future you’re excited about. My brother and I were talking about this last night, about how tennis rankings can be so problematic, because your mind is consumed by a number instead of the vision of winning.
The same goes for Tiktok and life. If I had spent the last three months basing my future plans off of that past performance on Tiktok, assuming that Tiktok as a success metric would always matter, of course I would be totally freaked right now. And I totally understand if you are. But know that at least one mid-level creator is not freaked. My success on Tiktok is literally a fraction of a fraction of the most important part of who I am and who I am becoming. The same is true for you.
No matter your level of success on Tiktok, it barely touches on who you are and all that you could become. You are bursting with ideas and were built to succeed. Believe that.
This year is an opportunity. Everything we’ve been through thus far has been an invitation to deepen our wills and decide how we will react during future difficulty. The fear you might be feeling is a call to develop a vision of your future and your future self living in it. Once you do that, you’ll find that you aren’t shaken by the tides and winds, when things go haywire.
As ever, remember:
You have a powerful mind, an iron will and the heart of a lion.