ikTok and I have been getting to know each other. For my part, I’ve been trying to learn how to save funny videos. For its part, it’s been sucking the soul out of my body and feeding it back to me bit by bit so I don’t catch on too quickly. But last week, it stopped playing games. It decided to tell me exactly who I am, and I am shook.
I had thought TikTok was just a fun delivery system for rapid-fire recipes, extremely large litters of puppies, and “You go, girl!” inspo from recent divorcées. I’d made a meat loaf that required me to send away for a bottle of Chick-fil-A sauce—it was pretty good—and also a “one pot” dinner that involved both chicken and cream cheese, like I’d lost my goddamn mind. I’d followed a couple of sex workers, some public defenders, a lawyer who taught me how to win every personal argument (apparently, it has something to do with listening, so I haven’t tried it yet), and many new moms showing off their babies.
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But, as I’m the last person to discover, TikTok is not just a fun delivery system of endless distractions. It’s a “Get behind me, Satan!” bit of trickery. It doesn’t just know about your meat loaves and your sex workers. Every time you log on, you’re shedding blood cells and hair fibers. Attempts to assert yourself against the machine—scrolling past some videos, rewatching others, leaving a bread-crumb trail of your own humanity in the form of likes and little DMs—only solidify TikTok’s power as your master. It shucks off the husk of “personality” encoded in these decisions, and adds what’s left to an ever-more-thorough profile of your DNA.
Read: I’m scared of the person TikTok thinks I am
It was through these dark arts that I learned I am a “coastal grandmother.”
No, I’m not a grandmother—I’m a coastal grandmother. If you know, you know. If you don’t—I’ll help you.
t was late afternoon, and I was sitting on the couch scrolling and probably wondering if there was anything in my refrigerator I could squirt some Chick-fil-A sauce on and call dinner, when: boom.
An older sitting at a desk, talking in an authoritative way, half playfully, half