The Sincere Energy of Tik Tok's #Don'tLetItFlop
#DontLetItFlop is No Child Left Behind for the kids who only know George W. Bush as Ellen's friend.
Screenshots via @allen.pinkerton
In a radical oversimplification of recent human experience, it would be safe to conclude that each generation has their crisis. Gen X-ers faced the Gulf War, Millennials faced the post-9/11 years (and the Second Gulf War), and now, Gen Z faces an insurmountably broad spectrum of urgent global catastrophes. The way a generation reacts to these crises defines them, with the coping mechanisms of these masses yielding some of our most prominent cultural touchstones, like Bill Clinton or Freedom Fries.
For those of us born between 1996 and 2010 our lives have always existed in oversaturation: the continuous consumption of nihilism makes the imminence of our demise feel all the more pressing. In the face of these depressing odds, we have not yet given up hope, choosing instead to combine our efforts to make the world a better place.
We have created Tik Tok.
(Did you think I was going to talk the Climate Change March? Because, yes we also did that, but this one is more important.)
Tik Tok houses endless content siphoned through an AI algorithm and served directly to you. Directly to us. (Tik-tok, time goes by, tik-tok, while we laugh and cry with content!) While this app should have already succumbed to the toxic celebrity of Vine (RIP), the banality of Instagram (have I been shadowbanned?), or the self-righteous piety of Twitter ("let that sink in"), it has resisted all of this, and it has produced the most earnest hashtag out of all the spaces on the internet: #DontLetItFlop
Our world is obviously becoming increasingly digital, and with it our clout is more and more important each day. Clout is a tired topic (mostly if you don't have any), but it bears elaboration, particularly for those of us growing into our own in front of a live platform-specific audience. Social media success is one of the most universally valuable and attainable currencies one can accumulate. The ways we define and dole out validation on social media determines our value both online and off, creating stratified online communities that reflect our social customs IRL.
Take, for example, Instagram. Instagram birthed the true Social Media economy, creating real economic value in likes and followings. The OG Influencer itself was born on Instagram, from a need for a creative solution to high unemployment and economic downturn. Capitalizing on the market value of social media engagement, the Influencer creates a career out of online clout: they’re a capitalist icon with a digital flare.
But Tik Tok’s #DontLetItFlop turns the whole fucking thing on its head. #DontLetItFlop's popularity comes from its association to the most viral, over-the-top Tik Tok memes. As the app overflows with content, only the most dedicated of creators get the visibility they crave, but those who go the extra mile for views risk the typical high school consequences. Creating art takes time, but creating Tik Toks takes guts.
In exchange for their sacrifices, #DontLetItFlop asks you to respect the earnest work of the artist, and offer your support in exchange for the laugh. Taking it one step further, #DontLetItFlop moves beyond individual post engagement, appearing under videos promising continued production of absurd content, such as pasting 500 layers of clay mask on their faces every day, until the user reaches a new, higher follower count. It’s a hashtag that surrenders itself to the algorithm, and demands you play along (because it knows you will anyway).
In a bold rejection of our social (media) norms, #DontLetItFlop acknowledges the importance of digital validation, but inflates the currency to the point of absurdity. It has, in a way, socialized the internet economy. It would be easy to lament #DontLetItFlop as a Gen Z online participation trophy, but that would be a typical boomer view (In My DaY tHeRe WaS oNlY oNe WiNnEr AnD lOsErS wErEn'T cOdDlEd) that's completely missing the point of what it means to participate in the online discourse.
As Gen Z grows into the world, #DontLetItFlop and other online initiatives provide a hopeful insight to our future. These platforms offer accessible spaces to envision and create the culture we hope to see form. When I watch #DontLetItFlop videos, I see a world where creativity is supported en masse, where entrepreneurial spirit exists in new and uplifting forms, and, most importantly: I see a world that looks funny as hell.
(This post, I mean, please don't let this post flop.)