Blog The Bizarre World of TikTok Lives

Dalam era yang terus berkembang dengan pesat, informasi telah menjadi komoditas yang tak ternilai harganya. Dari revolusi digital hingga transformasi teknologi, dunia kita kini tenggelam dalam lautan informasi yang tak pernah kering. Artikel ini mengajak kita untuk melangkahkan kaki ke dalam kompleksitas tatanan informasi saat ini, mengeksplorasi tantangan dan peluang yang muncul dalam mengelola dan memahami gelombang informasi yang terus menggulung. Dari algoritma cerdas hingga arus berita yang tak kenal lelah, mari kita telaah bersama bagaimana kita dapat menjadikan informasi sebagai alat untuk mendobrak batasan dan memahami dunia di sekitar kita dengan lebih baik.

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TikTok trends go just as fast as they come, and more often than not, they’re unpredictable.

Think about it: just six weeks ago, we were obsessing over billionaires trapped in a Titanic submersible. Two weeks ago, it was NPC livestreams on TikTok, thanks to livestream “Queen Bee” Pinkydoll.

As I write this, the hype surrounding TikTok’s NPC livestreamers is slowly fading, but my fascination has not. I started finding myself hovering over to the little television icon at the top left corner of the TikTok app, scrolling through livestream after livestream from creators around the world.

The TikTok Lives started with videos of creators singing. Normal. Then the algorithm began serving up live shopping content. Normal. Then it served up tarot card reading sessions. Still normal.

Slowly, I began to land on livestreams of paranormal hunts in abandoned prisons, sexually suggestive ASMRs, and a goblin-like figure mixing up a magic concoction. Finally, I landed on a livestream that stopped me in my tracks. A muscular man in a mask, topless, sitting in a pitch black room. He’s breathing very slowly, and is holding what looks like a long sword.

“Send enough gifts, and you’ll get an invite to my Discord channel for a face reveal,” said the masked man.

Credit: (left to right): Raul ASMR, Small Creek, Misplacedface

TikTok Live: People are invested

Majority of viewers who tune in to these TikTok Lives are invested, both literally and emotionally. In one livestream that I watched, an American woman who describes herself as a medium continuously toyed with a pendulum board that had “Yes”, “Maybe”, and “No” carved on it.

“Did he just use me?” “Will I have a baby boy?” “Will I get a nice house for me and my family?” were some of the questions viewers asked.

“Yes, you should do that,” “Probably not, it’s a bad idea–oh, thank you for the gift!” The woman was constantly sidetracked. She was giving out life advice better than Oprah would, and some took them as gospel.

Such fortune-telling content could go on for hours. Depending on the gifts they receive, these creators are able to earn between hundreds to thousands per stream.

For some, live-streaming = livelihood

What I’ve also noticed after several days of exploring TikTok Live, is that there is a strong distinction in terms of content depending on which part of the world the livestreamers are from.

For livestreamers in developing countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, most TikTok Lives consisted of live shopping content. For example, one was of a seller from Indonesia putting on a live demonstration of a skin-whitening product.

She covers herself in a thick dark brown substance that looks almost like chocolate. Then, she uses a sponge that contains the skin-whitening products and scrubs off the brown substance in one swipe.

To viewers from the Global North, her content may come across as strange or even offensive to some. However, at one point in a livestream, the creator explained in Indonesian that she was merely trying to make a living.

“If I don’t demo it, who would believe me and buy it? This is what I do. Leave me alone,” she said. 

Credit: 3sshop

Another creator who spoke Mandarin was selling life-sized sex dolls. In the video, the dolls are neatly seated on a long wooden chair – sort of like they’re in a sex cult (iykyk). “They’re new arrivals from the manufacturer. Really good quality,” the seller said.

One viewer asked if they had a sex doll with the face of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, to which the seller said no. “We’re not allowed to sell such dolls because of copyright issues,” he explained. 

Credit: pdtj6208

Such bizarre live shopping content, presumably, is just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, this is also not to say that creators from developed countries don’t promote and sell products on TikTok Live.

Dr. Crystal Abidin, Professor of Internet Studies at Curtin University and founder of the TikTok Cultures Research Network, tells me that developing markets including Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia have always had a legacy of using social media for e-commerce, and not so much social networking. TikTok Live’s existence thus fits nicely into said legacy.

According to data from The Information, TikTok Shop – an e-commerce feature integrated with Live – recorded a GMV of $US4.4 billion ($6.6 billion) in Southeast Asia alone. TikTok is very well aware that its Live platform is now a giant player in regions like Southeast Asia. So, when it is a vital source of income for those in developing countries, one has no choice but to be bold in order to stand out in the attention economy. 

What is it about TikTok Lives?

Why is it that such bizarre, frightening, yet amusing content finds a community on TikTok, of all platforms? Why not Instagram Live, for example?

“Generally speaking, there are two things happening here. One: there is a similar legacy of people trying to evaluate how real and seamless these ‘characters’ look. Two: fans and audiences are trying to tease or ‘throw off’ the ‘characters’ by repeatedly making them do awkward actions as though they are glitching,” she explains.

The result of either one of those is high rewatchability. I personally found myself in a sort of trance while scrolling through TikTok Lives. Many of the content served to me isnt’ particularly enjoyable, most don’t have high production value, but as a viewer you somehow get pulled into the loop and accept whatever is broadcasted.

For all the ‘weirdness’ on TikTok Live, it looks like it’s a matter of the right time and place. Strange content has always existed in dark, dusty corners of the internet, but TikTok’s powerful algorithm has found a way to bring them to the front of our mobile screens.

“The conflation, cross-streaming, and linking of all these silos is what makes TikTok so unique from its predecessors, and it’s what makes it so addictive. You’re constantly discovering new things being fed to you… there’s hardly saturation,” Abidin said.

As I write this, a friend shared with me yet another niche, spooky genre of content on TikTok Live: a person is fast asleep on screen. The room is dark. A creepy clown looms in the background, and viewers have to send gifts to stop the clown from waking the person.

Nope, not for me.