“DEAR CONGRESS, JUST PLAY DEAD”: TIKTOK’S ABSURD GUIDE TO SURVIVING #LOCKDOWN
Keywords:youth, TikTok, memes, play, imitation public
AbstractThis paper examines how young TikTok creators enact strategies of playfulness and absurdity in response to gun violence and trauma. Through a ludic-carnivalesque reading of young people’s irreverent engagement with school shootings, we demonstrate how youth use TikTok to reclaim emotional control of uncontrollable situations. We situate our analysis of playful #schoolshooting videos as part of an imitation public that is constituted through practices of mimesis, replication, and imitation. However, we broaden our focus to consider the latent political potential of the publics that memetic practices create. Within this framework we ask: What discourses and shared practices emerge through playful #schoolshooting memes on TikTok and what are the implications for the everyday politics of youth citizenship? Our methodology consists of two phases conducted over an 18-month period. The first phase of analysis, performed August–December 2019, relies on collated systemic searches for specific hashtags and sounds that young people use to memeify school shootings. In the second phase, we identified two seemingly unrelated events that young people discursively and memetically linked to school shootings: COVID-19 lockdowns from March-May 2020 and the storming of the U.S. Capitol building by radicalized Trump supporters on January 6, 2021. By analyzing these practices through the lens of the ludic-carnivalesque, patterns reveal the ways young people enact strategies to demarcate boundaries, articulate cogent critiques of policies and policymakers that do not prevent school shootings, and to turn painful and traumatic realities into a fun and harmless Bakhtinian carnival.
How to Cite
Vickery, J., & Cardenas, J. (2021). “DEAR CONGRESS, JUST PLAY DEAD”: TIKTOK’S ABSURD GUIDE TO SURVIVING #LOCKDOWN. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12257