The weirdest thing happened recently. My wife, Penny, took our granddaughter to a swanky retail establishment, Dollar General. They were looking to buy something of incredible import, but that has nothing to do with what happened.
As they waited in line, they heard this mother and her two daughters talking excitedly behind them. The weird part was that they seemed to be talking about our granddaughter.
“Excuse me,” the mom finally said. “Are you on Tik Tok?”
If you, like me, live outside the mainstream of the social media ecosystem, you might not know Tik Tok, an app that allows people to upload and share short music videos of three to fifteen seconds or looping videos that go up to a minute. What can you do in 15 seconds? Not much. Most the videos are millennials doing goofy things. It’s basically Vine with a slightly longer time limit.
If you’re old enough to remember the old TV ads for compilation albums from K-Tel, then you could imagine Tik Tok. Here’s a snippet of Elton John followed by a couple of seconds of Tony Orlando and then a few notes of Rod Stewart. It seems that my favorite 15-year-old has found her place between Vickie Lawrence and Bill Withers.
When the mom asked, our girl turned and replied, dramatically, “Maybe.” What followed was absurd. The mom and daughters took photos with her. They expressed their admiration. Afterward, we learned that our little celeb has a huge following–something like half a million people–on the platform. She’s a Tik Tok star, and she now gets recognized from time to time when she’s out living her life. She has received a number of different pieces of fan art and is currently filling 200 orders for merchandise. In short, she’s turning this into a paying gig.
But here’s where I trip up. What sort of hollow life does someone have that makes them enjoy watching tiny little blips of video of a girl acting silly, perhaps lip-syncing to some song or busting into a dance move? In fact, these people don’t just enjoy watching these absurd little clips, but they get excited to meet the “artist” who filmed herself eating a bagel or forcing out a belch. They draw portraits of her. They buy hoodies with her name or image or something plastered on them. It’s just too weird.
Who would it excite you to stand in line with at Dollar General? I might find it fascinating to have a conversation with John Piper or N.T. Wright. A few months ago, I had my picture taken with Peter Furler, the former singer of Newsboys, but I did that for the benefit of my daughter. But who would excite me just for the sake of being able to say that I had a personal encounter with them? I’m hard-pressed to name anyone.
We like the idea of having a personal connection with the famous and significant, but in the end, the only connection worth having at Dollar General or elsewhere is a connection with Jesus, because anything else is just an exceptionally short video in the grand epic of eternity.