It's easy to get lost on TikTok — and what else?
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TikTok — you know, that Chinese platform where you can swipe through millions of short video clips — has a reputation for being a time waster.
Parents curse the app their kids disappear into.
Adults themselves are vulnerable to their pull.
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TikTok and its powerful algorithm: This is where stars are created - and people burned
How not: TikTok lives on an algorithm that is designed to keep users like me in the app for as long as possible.
It determines which videos interest me the most and offers me more and more similar content.
This can be dangerous if, for example, I enter a negative spiral of grief and loneliness.
It can be harmless-inconsequential when I'm just watching dance videos or golden retrievers chasing their own tail.
But can it also be instructive?
For four weeks I searched TikTok exclusively for informative and helpful content - and got an impression of the areas in which you can really learn something from the app.
Spoiler: Some things might take longer than 60 seconds.
hacks for life
The concept and the word "hack" (be sure to pronounce it in English!) are not invented by TikTok.
The term has been around on the Internet since its early days, and the offline world knows tricks, or even: tricks that make life easier, at least since the invention of the wheel.
What's new is that thanks to the TikTok app, I have access to the collective knowledge of its global users - from the ice fisherman in Siberia to the ukulele builder in Hawaii.
And that I don't just get hacks for everyday problems, but also for my love life and how to fix a nuclear reactor.
However, there is also quite a lot of crap among the »life hacks«.
For every useful video there are ten superfluous videos, and for every eleven serious videos there are eleven satirical videos.
If you really want to learn something, I quickly notice that you need more specific search terms.
In the name of DIY
During the pandemic, I discovered DIY for myself.
While all other pleasure palaces were closed, I sometimes made a pilgrimage to the hardware store several times a week.
Between dowels, flower boxes and 300 types of adhesive tape, I found the reassuring realization that there is a solution for everything, at least in the household.
In the meantime, resourceful do-it-yourselfers from all over the world are also flooding my TikTok feed.
They drill, saw, brush and explain their tricks more compactly than any smartass YouTube tutorial - after all, they only have one minute to do it.
And this is how I learn: Putting a rubber band in their head makes it easier to unscrew a stubborn screw.
If you blow-dry an adhesive label, it can be removed more easily.
If you want to hang a picture straight on two nails, you simply align a strip of masking tape on the wall and drive the nails into it.
Inspired by the wealth of ideas of the other users, I tackle a number of projects in my apartment.
Although in the end each of them might not have been necessary (yes, I mean you, sunrise painting over my bed!).
Italian, Hacking Level B2
Because I find it embarrassing to still order my pizza in German after 30 years of vacation in Italy, I've been learning Italian for a few months.
Admittedly with strongly fluctuating motivation.
So a bit of input from native speakers can't hurt.
I can find quite a few of them on TikTok.
They share vocabulary tips that are rather missing in my language course.
I learn to swear (»Che palle!«) and flirt (»Complimenti alla Mamma!«), and a good-humoured Italian woman also introduces me to the use of the powerful all-purpose word »Boh«.
Strictly speaking, after a few days I might not be that much smarter - but definitely a lot cooler.
I still have my textbook for grammar.
Get to work
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At 30, I'm already a thing of the past at TikTok.
I'm painfully aware of that as I turn to the tricks of the trade to work better.
I already know the Pomodoro technique, and in many arduous hours I also got to know the most important functions of Microsoft Word.
And I've also read most of the techniques for more productivity somewhere - when procrastinating, of course.
For young professionals, some of these hacks may be new.
But they should probably stay away from TikTok in their new job rather than looking for tips for more concentrated work there.
The only thing that really impresses me is the variety of tricks NOT to work.
In the pandemic, TikTokers have apparently learned tricks to appear productive in their home office - when in reality they watch Netflix and throw peanut shells in the trash can.
But of course I didn't let that inspire me, after all, my boss is reading along.
Child, organize your home!
Many people would probably say that they had messy children's rooms.
But when I was younger, post-apocalyptic devastation really was constant in my realm.
Back then I found my own way of dealing with the chaos: if I was looking for something, I would climb up on my bed with a digital camera, photograph the room and then scroll through the photo to find what I was looking for.
Now that TikTok exists, that's no longer necessary.
Instead, I let the magic called Home Organization Hacks into my life.
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Tips from the organization professional: How to tidy up your lifeBy Ann-Kathrin Nezik
For this you need one thing above all: »Storage Baskets«.
Those who sort their lives into thousands of baskets, boxes and bowls have reliable success on the platform.
Professionals each have their own compartments in the bathroom for toothbrush heads, hair ties, cotton buds, tampons, cosmetic brushes and disposable razors.
I decide to apply the principle to my bathroom cabinet and at least get away from the all-in-one dumpster solution.
With three plastic containers, I create three rough categories: “I need it all the time” – “I rarely need it” – “I never need it”.
Not so bad, I think, when I close the bathroom cabinet again.
And because things are going so well, I'll continue with my sock drawer: long socks, short socks, thick socks, normal socks.
I'm almost tempted to share my success on TikTok.
But I've agreed with myself that we won't even start with that.
Chopping heads made easy?
Finally, I venture into more complicated territory: the human psyche.
Because people, I get the impression on TikTok, are basically no more complicated than an ordinary household screw.
Instead of a screwdriver, you just need the right »psychology hack«.
If you want to snag someone's chewing gum, you should first ask if you can have the whole package.
If the other person refuses, ask for a single piece of chewing gum.
And according to TikTok, it is always successful.
This technique, known as »Door in the face
, is presented to me in a short drama in which - typical for TikTok - one person takes on both roles.
This person is Josh Otusanya, who presents numerous psychological tricks on his account and gets millions of likes and views for it.
Through Google, I find out that Otusanya used to be a professional athlete and then a stand-up comedian.
Which qualification is unfortunately missing in his biography: psychologist.
I still try my luck.
"Are you giving me all your savings?" I ask my friends in our chat group.
"Okay, how about ten euros?" I follow.
"No," replies a friend coolly, "Leni, do you have problems?" asks another.
I admit – I didn't expect it to work anyway.
However, after a few days of "Psychology Hacks," I'm definitely disappointed in this category.
Because apart from kitchen psychology and the usual truisms of like-and-share accounts ("Call other people by their name!", "Pay attention to your breathing to fall asleep!"), there's really nothing to learn here.
But maybe people around me wouldn't think it was great if I hacked off their affection anyway.
After my four-week test phase, the hacks are far from over.
»Food hacks«, »Women hacks«, »Excel hacks« – there is so much I don't know yet.
Because I was only looking for life hacks at the time, my algorithm has got used to showing me videos like this.
However, my motivation is waning.
Constantly seeing something new to try and learn?
And so TikTok ultimately failed due to its own effectiveness.