I have a TikTok actively going viral
and I'm sorry, but I can't possibly write a Sternal Journal tonight
Est. Read Time: 8 minutes. Read Time brought to you once again by the Ashburton Energy + Hair Logistics Group, in association with the Bradley Hills Bureau of Corrections.
I was in the middle of editing the long awaited return of the Sternal Journal Interview Series. And as is the case with the Sternal Journal, you’re gonna wait even longer than you thought you would.
And that’s because tonight, I finally had a damn TikTok go viral. Of course, viral is relative. At the time of writing, it has 58,500 views and 14,600 likes. I’ve got friends and comedy ~colleagues~ who regularly get into the hundreds of thousands and millions of views (probably likes too!). For them, a measly 14,600 likes might not be viral.
But for me? Considering the best I’d ever done was a video of me singing the Family Matters theme song (Which I know very well. I’m very good at it.) that got like 60 likes, this is viral. Or at least 243 times more viral.
And perhaps this will be the best a TikTok of mine ever does. But whether it’s the first or only time it happens, I thought maybe I should commemorate the moment with some thoughts or at least stop looking at my damn phone to watch the residual likes trickle in, and the only thing that I think will tear me away from watching it is writing about it.
First of all, let’s be clear. It’s probably bad.
I ended 2021 with a real, real strong desire to delete Instagram and TikTok. This is because I know that they are bad for my general mood and productivity, and I know that they are designed precisely to do the things that ruin my general mood and productivity.
So why didn’t I? Well, I promised myself I’d take 2022 to phase them out of my life or get my usage of them to a much more mindful place. Which is 100% addict behavior. “Don’t worry! I can kick this harmful behavior! Just give me… uhhh, one year!”
I still wanna do it! But I also felt like coming out of the pandemic (*fingers and toes crossed*), I—a perennial Hollywood failure—needed to be firing on whatever pistons I had access to to try to “make something happen” this year. And for better or for worse, TikTok is a big place for comedy and creativity in general right now.
With most of the legacy sketch and improv theaters still closed or dormant (your UCBs, your Groundlings, etc.), TikTok is where people consistently perform and consume sketch and character-based comedy. And even for stand-up and writing, you always hear stories about bookers and producers and whoever else doesn’t want to have to do the work of vetting talent themselves so they rely on social numbers… relying on social numbers to book shows and hire comedians and writers.
In one week, I talked to two comedians I really respect about “what if in ten years, we look back and it’s only the people who tried at TikTok who were good?” One said, “I think that’s how it is going to be. I think this is the future.” Another said, “That’s a hell I don’t wanna live in.” And I sort of agree with both of them.
So it’s not good, though it feels like it might be necessary for my professional success, which is especially not good (i.e. needing something you don’t like for your own professional success).
But I’m trying to feel good about it.
The TikTok algorithm is some big dumb secret, but the gist of it is that, when you make a TikTok, the algorithm shows it to ten people. If enough of those people like it, they’ll show it to twenty people. If enough of them like it, they’ll show it to one hundred, then a thousand, then five thousand, ten thousand, and so on. And once people stop liking it, the algorithm stops showing it to more people.
It’s like handing out a sheet of flyers and saying “If you like this, pass it on. If not, you can just toss it.” My single viral TikTok was a flyer that reached 58,500 people because 14,600 people wanted to pass it on. That also means it reached 43,900 people who didn’t want to pass it on. Which is okay! I’m actually very perfectly fine with that. Everything is not for everyone, and anything that is is likely pretty uninteresting.
If I’m going to continue to be on social media—whether just for social upkeep or as a platform to vault or bolster my career—and want to do it in as healthy and sustainable way as possible, I should obviously try to never let the likes, follows, and views dissociate from the people who they’re attached to. So I do recognize the people on the other side of the likes and comments, and am trying to really enjoy the fact that almost fifteen thousand people saw a bit that I’ve worked on for months and thought it was funny. That’s fuckin’ cool.
Double-But I’m not trying too hard to feel good about it.
Because none of those people are being handed one flyer. They are all being handed a fat stack of flyers (the for you page) that they’re hurriedly and glazingly flipping through. And that’s bad for two reasons. From a selfish standpoint, I want them to be giving their full attention to my bit when they like it! Maybe some of them are, but a lot of them are probably binging Love is Blind or listening to The Daily at the same time.
And on a more communal level, I don’t want people to be addicted to TikTok. When I was a true nobody with only a few hundred likes across all of my posts, I wasn’t even a molecule in a drop in the ocean of TikTok. I had no attention-blood on my hands! Now I’m maybe like a quarter of a really, really small drop in the ocean.
I want to be a bigger drop because that would be good for my career, but do I want that at the expense of helping chain people to their phones? If TikTok ever actually gets me the success I want, will I be able to ditch it or will I be chained to my phone as long as I want to keep the potential success train going?
And is this what everyone thinks about when they have a single TikTok do well, or am I spiraling irrationally because of having OCD, which is what the TikTok was about? Which is all to say:
Having a viral post is good and unhealthy and I’m trying really hard to not be disappointed it’s over.
I mean, for the hour that it was jumping tens of thousands of views every few minutes, it was pretty fun! You’re watching people organically discover and respond to a thing you made in real time on a scale that was unimaginable only a few years ago. But then again, you’re staring at your phone for an hour straight, refreshing, refreshing, and refreshing. It’s not healthy!
So I don’t know. I guess this is all a long way of saying I got distracted tonight because I felt like I had to try to have some success on TikTok and then I did, and I’d really prefer you either support the Sternal Journal (as so many of you already do) here-
-or come to a show!
3/26 — Next Up’s Block Party (Silver Lake)
3/27 — Sunday Funday @ Hollywood Comedy (Melrose & Vine)
4/2 — Tinseltown Saturday @ Hollywood Comedy (Melrose & Vine)
4/8 — Speakeasy Showcase @ Flappers (Burbank)
4/12 — Roast Battle @ The Comedy Store (Hollywood)
Alrighty, next week, I think we’re actually back to your regularly scheduled programming, but first…
Burden of Proof. Album. Nonstop lyrical miracles on this 2020 album from Benny the Butcher.
Wild Boys. Podcast. I haven’t listened to the other seasons of this scamming podcast anthology, Chameleon, but found this season fascinating. Two boys walk out of the woods into a small Canada town in 2003 and claim they were raised in isolation. Nothing is as it seems.
Tom’s Diner. Song. Discovered this cover by German bands AnnenMayKantereit and Giant Rooks on… TikTok of all places. I like the original better, but their voices are insane and I can’t stop listening.
Survivor. Television show. You know Survivor. It’s back. Its actually really good.
Also, here is my favorite comment from THE tiktok:
And with that, goodnight!