Folklore, Storytelling and Coping with the Internet on TikTok


  • Joseph Hewlett-Hall Goldsmiths



Social media platforms such as TikTok are often regarded as constituting a fundamental shift in everyday modes of sociality; their immense scope, mysterious algorithms and darker subsections seem to pose a threat to ‘traditional’ forms of social communication. In downloading TikTok during an undergraduate degree in anthropology, however, and furthermore in conducting that degree during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have in fact found some of the most essential components of ‘traditional’ sociality, and thus the traditional subjects of anthropological inquiry (specifically folklore and storytelling), to have emerged in my interactions on the app. As I have studied anthropology during a global pandemic, so too have I learnt the varied social rules and collective norms of TikTok, which provided many with a sense of sociality which was lost during lockdowns, and in my involvement with the TikTok Ethnography Collective at Goldsmiths I have found new possibilities of conducting ethnographic fieldwork at a time when it seemed impossible. In this article, I draw on my experience of using TikTok whilst conducting my degree in order to highlight the richness of sociality which is present on the app and the ethnographic possibilities which it holds.