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Busting treatment myths, English tutorials — look closely, TikTok is more than just cringe

People perceive TikTok as a bastion of unemployed youth, but many are actually using the platform to educate others, sustain themselves and use the platform as a career launch pad.

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Concerned by the rampant misinformation among patients regarding their ailments, Delhi-based doctor, Dr. Animesh Gupta decided to start a YouTube vlog in March 2019, to bust myths regarding various procedures, ailments, surgeries and treatments. “Once you Google, you’ll find millions of misleading videos and articles, so I thought here I had a chance to put at least one that doesn’t misguide patients,” the general surgeon, who runs a private clinic in Gautam Nagar, tells ThePrint. 

But it wasn’t until he uploaded his videos on TikTok (@surgeryonline) last May that he went, well, viral. Hundreds of anxious patients started getting in touch seeking help and guidance — his comments section was bombarded by people asking him to address illnesses ranging from kidney stones to erectile dysfunction to acne. 

The TikTok fame has helped business, too. The 29-year-old doctor finds a long line of patients waiting for him at his out-patient department every day, nurses line up at hospitals to get a selfie with the celebrity doctor and random people stop him on the street to thank him. “It just fills my heart with happiness when people from rural India or poorer households write to me telling me I’ve saved their life.” 

But he’s not the only one. An app infamous for its cringe content and seen as a bastion of India’s unemployed youth, TikTok is proving to be a powerful tool for micro-content creators across genres to earn fame and money, yes, but also to help other people. 

TikTok for education and activism

TikTok has been downloaded more than 1.65 billion times according to analysis firm Sensor Tower’s estimates, surpassing Facebook as the most downloaded app of 2019. It mostly attracts teenagers on its platform and in India, it is far more popular in smaller towns and rural areas. The sudden boost in its growth is often attributed to cheap data rates, right after Reliance Jio was launched. 

While nobody can deny the glut of poorly scripted, tacky content on the platform, it is also true that is what gets the most attention and tarnishes the reputation of the platform, says Geet (@theofficialgeet), a social worker who makes motivational videos on TikTok. “Cringe is easily shared across platforms, but if you’re actually on the app, you’ll see some quality content.” 

Take 17-year-old Feroza Aziz’s video (@ferozaaziz) about the plight of Uighur Muslims in China. It masqueraded as a make-up tutorial and went completely viral. Post Aziz’s video, a slew of teenagers all over the world started using the platform as a tool for awareness generation and online activism. Think the Hong Kong protests, climate change and queer-positive videos.

Also read: ‘Better to be TikTok-er than a rioter’ – Delhi violence has divided TikTok users


In order to fight for its reputation (the app was banned by the Madras High Court briefly in 2019 because the court believed the platform encouraged child pornography), TikTok has also launched various incentives, the most popular of which is #EduTok where you can learn and prepare for exams through snappy, interactive and fun videos

Geet, who is also a part of the #EduTok programme, started making small English tutorial vlogs on the platform, the response to which has been overwhelming. “I mostly do motivational videos, but a lot of people would ask me to teach English on my channel, so I did that too,” the young social media celebrity says. She admits she was skeptical about the idea of teaching a language through byte-sized videos, but got confident about its effectiveness when more than 10K people followed her within a week.  

Money, money, money 

Many of the young people who are ridiculed and talked down to for spending so much time on TikTok are actually canny business heads who are minting money off the platform.

For instance, Vaibhav Vora (@style_centric), a student from Anand, Gujarat, became an overnight sensation last year as the “mature bag guy”. In the video, Vora extols the virtues of carrying a particular bag to college in order to look cool. His confidence and earnestness in the video broke the internet.

Vora hadn’t thought in his wildest dreams that a random review of a bag would earn him so much attention on the internet, he tells ThePrint, but he ended up earning more than Rs 50,000 and a brand endorsement on the strength of that TikTok video. “I did a lot of brand collaborations back then and would charge Rs10-15k per collaboration, easily.”

For artists, too, TikTok has become a road to fame and a way to earn a living. Delhi-based singer Angel Rai (@angelrai07), who recently signed a three song deal with Zee Music, says, “Today, if a song is hit on TikTok, it’s a guarantee that it’s a smash hit.” 

Rai joined TikTok to promote her music in August last year and has risen to star status, amassing five million followers within six months. She feels TikTok is an extremely supportive medium for artists. “If you upload videos regularly, TikTok boosts your content on its own, and all the followers on the platform are genuine – absolutely no bots.” Her first song with Zee, Ek Nazar, has about four million views on YouTube. “Through the platform, we get to do what we love, earn more than enough money, and be our own bosses. If you still think the app is stupid, your loss.”

Also read: Also streaming on TikTok now — climate change videos and social experiments


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  1. What about those so called TikTok stars who are boasting 15-20 M followers without any skill of their own.

  2. well in that case, everything about the app is not about frivolity and will help young people find ways of employment

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