For me, TikTok is the future — and everything else


Editor’s Note: This is part of a Washington Post series focused on the technology of the future, “The Next Big Thing,” as it’s imagined for us. We’ll explore the implications of advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, big data and countless other emerging technologies.

I’m the roommate of a good friend of mine, and I’ve had a lot of recent industry stories to check out. Mostly, he likes to hear me talk about how goofy mainstream web things are, and about the various seed funding companies I’ve come across.

Today, though, I don’t think I have anything else on my mind but TikTok, the video app that was recently acquired by Google’s parent company Alphabet.

It’s not just that I’m living my dream job of tracking the latest and greatest music trends, like rapper XXXTentacion, who has over 4.5 million followers on TikTok.

More important, I’m looking back fondly at a man who convinced me (and my other friends) that every YouTube edit of “The Hills” (an SNL spinoff series that sent actors to take on the roles of real-life, LA-based Instagram stars) was the cutest thing ever.

Since some very young people have had at least some of their lives influenced by TikTok over the past few months, I think it’s important to put aside our broader fixation on tech and open our minds to the idea that the next big thing could also be cutting-edge.

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I don’t know about you, but I fell in love with TikTok as soon as it got an official redesign a few months ago.

I like the way you interact with your friends and with the video clips you are shown. I like the animation that dresses up so-called “totems” that trigger a new take on a particular video clip. I like the so-called “ear” that makes it so you can shake the phone in order to lip-sync to an audio clip. I like the way cute animal clips are like studio records with sound effects.

But it’s the music videos that really piqued my interest – mainly because of the genres they fall into. One of my favorite TikTok videos right now is of popular rapper Lil Uzi Vert. In the clip, the caption (seen above) is actually six different stickers that you can apply to the front of Uzi’s head. Each of them has a different tattoo of a skull with the word “Freakazoid” underneath.

The tattoo on Uzi’s lower jaw looks like a faint pierce on his skull, but the right pierce makes it look like something else: The teeth of a Komodo dragon.

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Those seven stickers are not the only ones you can apply to Uzi’s head. You can, for example, place five different photorealistic heads around his head – including those of Uzi’s best friends and Soulja Boy, right now, he’s into body art – or other famous people who share his interests, like Joe Biden, Wu-Tang Clan and Wiz Khalifa.

And you can see how all of these stickers can vary in style and emotion: If you superimpose a heart sticker over Lil Uzi’s head, you can see how it would change when you mimic some subtleties in his speech.

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I don’t know where all this is going to go, or how TikTok’s takeover of the world will go down in history. But I’m pretty confident that it will.

It’s changed the trajectory of my career and worldview. And TikTok is going to be everywhere in the future.

Just look at that front page right now: Are you feeling like the old millennial? Then you’re probably already a teenager.

Everyone seems to have TikTok, and nothing is ever off-limits to their ideas about what kinds of content they want to see.

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