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The Whippet #112: I spent two weeks straight on TikTok and now I can perceive the infinite

McKinley Valentine — 9 min read

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Hey all!

For new subscribers… this is a weird issue.

I spent the last fortnight looking at nothing but TikTok, and since the content of this newsletter comes from the media I consume, now you are getting an issue that’s nothing but TikTok.

I suspect the majority of readers will be like me, in that for TikTok they were like “nup, I’ve reached my limit of new social media things I can be bothered understanding. The kids can have TikTok for themselves.”

But I’m a new convert and I love it so I’m gonna tell you what the deal is with TikTok.

  • Endless feed of videos that are less than 1 minute

  • This means people get to the point very quickly. Good if you have no patience for long-winded intros. For e.g., this 10-second comedy video (It’s-a me, Mario).

  • Extremely smart algorithm that learns what you like and gives you more of it, and stops showing you stuff you don’t like. The vast majority of TikTok content is probably for teens, but I don’t see any of that. I see lifehacks, advice for people with difficult families, ADHD tips, decluttering before and afters, comedy, science facts, etc.\

  • The algorithm is REALLY smart. It’s figured out that I like videos of cats, but hate videos where the owner does a voiceover pretending to be the voice of the cat.

  • But it also gives you occasional random new content so you can discover new interests. For example, it turns out I love gravestone cleaning videos:

    Source: This TikTok

    First they scrape the lichen off, then spray on various non-destructive cleaning sprays, scrub it down and dry it. It’s so satisfying. I did not know I loved this until TikTok showed it to me. Now I get quite a few of them in my feed.

  • Since it’s more chance-based, it feels kinda special when you stumble across a new corner of TikTok you had no idea existed. Sometimes it gets incorporated into your feed, sometimes you’re just like “oh hey! Knitting TikTok! Cool that you exist! But also goodbye forever!”

  • They are a mega-corporation and they would feed me to literal sharks if they could monetise it effectively. I enjoy their service but they are parasites who have no love for humanity.

  • The algorithm is mainly based on whether you watch a video through to the end. This is really good for me, because it means I don’t hatewatch stuff. I know if I watch it all the way through, I’ll end up getting more in my feed. So I skip fast.

  • Similarly, while you might hit the Like button on content you approve of and think you “should” enjoy, you probably won’t have the patience to watch it all the way through. So the algorithm gives you more of what you ACTUALLY like, not what you wish you were the kind of person who liked.

    At the end of this newsletter, I’ll give a quick How To to make TikTok show you stuff you like.

Turn your handbag/purse into a backpack instantly

This… this shook me. I still can’t get over it. My whole life, I could have been living like this. (If you’re like “why not just buy a backpack?” the answer is that women’s clothing usually doesn’t have pockets, and a backpack puts your phone and wallet out of reach so you have to sling the whole thing off every time you want to access them.)

If you don’t carry a handbag, show this TikTok to someone who does: TikTok link.

The difference between constructive criticism and just criticism

Genuine constructive criticism helps a person achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

If your advice helps them do what YOU think they should do differently, it’s just criticism and judginess.

TikTok link

(This is why unsolicited advice and corrections are so rude. Because you don’t know whether that person actually wants to work on their English grammar, or make a more convincing argument for feminism, or whatever you think they’re doing a bad job of. If you haven’t asked first, then your advice is about what you think they should change, not what they want to change.)

“But surely everyone wants to [do objectively good thing]”

No. Shush. People prioritise different goals at different times in their life because attempting to optimise every part of your life simultaneously is a recipe for disaster.

If you had to go into battle with only the items tattooed on you, would you survive?

Seems like a good time to remind you this newsletter has a comments section:

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This question delights me because you would think I don’t stand a chance: my visible tattoos are a key, a lantern, and a crow, all of which are pretty much the kind of tattoos you’d expect me to have. But I also have a covered-by-clothes tattoo of an attack helicopter. So unless someone else has a tattoo of an aircraft carrier, I think I got this.

TikTok link

Tape measure tip

You know when you’re measuring up to a wall, you can’t get the measurement exactly right because you have to bend the tape measure awkwardly at the corner? (Image 1)

It turns out this is unnecessary! Go look at your tape measure. Underneath the clippy thing, it should tell you the exact length of the tape measure (Image 2). That way, you can just lay the tape measure flat into the corner (Image 3), then add the length of the tape measure case to it.

TikTok link

It’s kinda funny though, because I could have been doing this all along by just measuring the tape measure case myself. Like how if you want to weigh how much flour you have, you first weigh the bowl, then you weigh the bowl+flour and subtract the weight of the bowl.

The Garcia Effect

You know how if you eat, say, apricots, and then you get really sick (the throwing-up kind of sick), you won’t be able to eat apricots again for a long time, because you associate them feeling sick?

That’s called the Garcia Effect. Because chemotherapy makes you feel really nauseous, there’s a company that makes bizarre-flavoured icecream (like grass clippings and so on) so that people undergoing chemo can eat something for breakfast and not lose their ability to eat all normal breakfast foods.

TikTok link

Astronauts develop a distinct space accent

I mean that astronauts returning from the International Space Station have a slight but  noticeable accent. I talked about the Antarctican accent in a previous issue of The Whippet, but I couldn’t tell anyone what the accent was. So I’m happy to have more detail on the space accent.

Living in zero gravity makes all your muscles atrophy a bit because they have to do much less work. Your tongue is a muscle, and in space it’s no longer working against gravity. So astronauts put slightly less effort into lifting their tongue when they make sounds (eg K and L sounds). When they return to Earth, their tongue isn’t lifted as high in their mouth, and it changes the shape of the sounds being made.

TikTok link

This makes me speculate wildly on the Antarctican accent. Is it just living in a mixed-language place away from home for a year? Or is it that the cold teaches them to open their mouth the minimum possible so they don’t lose heat? Lil tiny-mouth accents.

How to buy someone jewellery when you don’t really “get” jewellery

Take photos of the jewellery they already own or wear and take them to the jewellery store. Staff should be able to extrapolate the person’s taste out from their existing jewellery, and recommend something.

TikTok link

How to make your TikTok feed good

So when you download the app, the Home page is called the “For You” page, and that’s all you need.

At first, you’ll get a lot of generic comedy that’s like… fine? but not really good enough to be worth it. It takes a day or two for the algorithm to learn what you like. So bear with it.

  1. If you like something and want to see more of that type of thing, watch the video all the way to the end. You can also Like it, but watching it to the end is more important.
  2. If you want to see less of something, scroll past. Be ruthless and impatient.
  3. Because the algorithm rewards watching videos to the end, sometimes people will caption them “Make sure to watch to the end!” or “Wait for the surprise at the end!” — there’s never a surprise. It’s the equivalent of clickbait. If you’re not enjoying the beginning or middle, don’t wait for the end.
  4. If something annoys you, SCROLL PAST. DO NOT COMMENT ABOUT HOW IT’S WRONG OR ANNOYING. You will just see more of it.
  5. Don’t click on the comments on any video, to be honest. The feed itself will be tailored to your interests, but the comments section will not be. For example, in this funny fake-tutorial about forgetting someone’s name, a commenter replies with advice about what to do in that situation, apparently unaware they’re seeing a comedy sketch. You don’t need to read that. It’s bad for your blood pressure.
  6. If you REALLY want to see less of something, press-hold until a menu comes up. Hit “Not interested”.
  7. From the long-press menu, you can also click “More” and from there you can click “Hide videos from this user” or “Hide videos with this sound”. (A lot of videos use the same song; it’s the equivalent of visual or text memes on other social media. So hiding a sound hides the meme. Remember that you can hide videos by sound because at some point you will become annoyed by one.)
  8. Follow a user if you want to see more of their videos (e.g. I follow the woman who makes the grave-cleaning TikToks).
  9. If you like something, look at the hashtags and see if they relate to what you liked about it. Click on the relevant hashtag. Click “Add to favourites”. You can also search for hashtags you know might interest you (e.g. maybe you like painting Warhammer figurines or linguistics or dressmaking).
  10. If you liked any of the stuff I posted above, sign into your account and go watch those TikToks through to the end. Add any relevant hashtags to your favourites. That should speed things up.
  11. At some point you’ll get a push notification. Turn off all notifications from TikTok forever.
  12. For the first day or three, you’ll be like, “this is okay I guess.” Then it’ll start showing you stuff in your niche and you’ll be like “oh my god I get it”.

More pleasing to watch TikToks

This cockatoo is me at museums and art galleries, esp if the paintings have really textured paint (link)

People in Korea move into and out of high-rise apartments using these genius escalator things that latch onto the side of the balcony — Link

More lifehack TikToks

How to re-seal a half-eaten packet of chips (with no clips) — Link

Cute t-shirt tuck method — Link

How to make an image have a transparent background in MS Word (kinda janky. but it’s for rubes like me who do all their “photoshopping” in Word) — Link

How to easily make post-its lay flat instead of flipping up — Link

PS You haven’t lost your sense of time, this issue is a day late. In good news, it is not for any terrible pandemic reasons. Australia has 0 Covid cases at the moment, so I went to see some friends (in their house, indoors, it was wild). I was going to leave early to finish The Whippet, and then I thought: You haven’t seen these people in 10 months. Have some perspective.

And it was the right move because someone brought out a mulberry cheesecake like 5 minutes after I made that decision.

The next issue will be in the new year and presumably a more balanced mix of content. For example, I will explain whis coat of arms includes a chicken wearing trousers:

With love, especially to those of you find this time of year complicated and difficult.


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