TikTok is full of (and reusing) old internet memes


Forward this email to ten of your contacts or expect a nasty surprise the next morning. Reblog this post before midnight and you will receive good news. Share the cat’s money and you will be rich. We are all victims of the chainmail industrial complex of the 2000s.

And while we might think we’re safe from superstitious messages these days with the advent of spam filters and privacy tools, TikTok (an app that’s both the bane of our existence and the love of our lives) simply ushered in the next wave of chain mail positions. Is this a sign of regression, or just another way TikTok users are reusing old internet culture?


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TikTok’s favorite form of chainmail is more positive than the oddly menacing “reblog or you die” posts of a decade ago. Instead, users upload videos of themselves with meditative music or viral sounds behind them, alleging that the audio brings good luck and prosperity. Users write captions like “This sound not a joke actually! I’m making more money than I’ve ever seen now and my life is gr8!” or simply, “Don’t jump.” They could just show something really cool that happened to them, like buying a new laptop and alluding to the sound effect. Some don’t even care if you post the audio to your public profile, encouraging users to simply save the audio or video to their favorites folder or keep the video in their drafts (doing this, of course, always helps the original creator to get views, engagement, and prioritization of their content in TikTok’s algorithm).

Thanks to TikTok’s unique duet feature, these users can then return to their posts weeks or months later with awesome updates, encouraging users to keep using the sounds or liking their videos. It’s a new form of chainmail, but still reeks of those old emails and Tumblr posts behind the screen.

This kind of redesign also happens in the app in multiple other ways.

Cursed TikTok mashups — like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse/Adele crossover, the particularly shocking mashup of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and WAP, or even meme remixes like “Chrissy, wake up!” — are a shining relic of the Internet Past, invoking the shuffle-song masterpieces that made up much of YouTube’s homepage decades ago.

While the rise of Hip-Hop revolutionized the practice of creatively mixing instrumentals and lyrics, the first mashup of “cursed” songs is frequently credited to The Evolution Control Committee, an experimental music group that now calls it a “mash-up group”. “. In 1994, the band released a mash-up version of Public Enemy lyrics in addition to instrumentals from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. YouTube meme creators caught on to the trend, and today, thanks to the magic from TikTok, mashups of cursed songs pop up and go viral, almost daily.

TikTok isn’t just continuing the trend, it’s also bringing back old names to the online remixing game. The nocturnal rise of TikTok’s “Corn Kid” spawned a now immensely popular corn kid song, which ties together TikTok lines above a fun synth-based beat and electronic harmonies. The jingle was created by @Schmoyoho, a project and original YouTube channel created by musical group The Gregory Brothers. TikTok user @RubyRoseu noticed that it was the same guy behind other remixes of classic memes like the songs “Double Rainbow”, “Oh My Dayum”, and “Bed Intruder”. Schmoyoho is also behind the Stranger Things remix that’s probably been taking over your FYP for months.

Other internet icons, not just music creators and celebrities, are also finding fans on the app. Taking advantage of trends encouraging users to post in eras past or when they were kids, many former Vine icons are rising to TikTok prominence in a revival of their old 6-Second claims to fame.

Internet historians (read: older TikTok users who were chronically online at a young age) also point to the app’s repetition across the internet, such as the juxtaposition of a TikTok user going viral for having learned the dictionary definition of “kill”. alongside the old vine of a young girl doing the same (“I promise I will NOT kill!”).

What is this quote again? “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

It seems fair to say that much of this could be the product of Tumblr’s stranglehold on mid-2000s internet culture and lexicon, including TikTok’s revitalization of fandom interests like fanfic and editing creation, the love of an out-of-context and slightly surreal memes or gritty media like Disney’s Cars or Dreamwork’s Shrek, or even the way social justice jargon is used (for better and for worse). worse) among young Internet activists. Its role as Tumblr 2.0 just makes sense.

As an app that long ago shed its musically dancing and singing origins to take on the role of a favorite internet gathering place, TikTok has also moved many Gen Z users towards romanticizing the Millenium aesthetic. (and Tumblr), from fashion to technology. The app is usually flooded with an overwhelming yearning for childhood nostalgia. If they’re bringing back low-rise jeans and frosty eyeshadow, why not bring back chain mail and memes too?

For older users who were around in the days of Charlie the Unicorn, LOLCats, and the switch to (and death of) Vine, it might be slightly boring to see glorified chainmail, surprisingly familiar remixes, and squeaky memes reposted straight to their FYP. But isn’t that the natural cyclical process of the Internet? If it’s not repurposed on every new social media app, how will this early Internet language live on?

In the application’s myriad uses, perhaps its most important contribution is the preservation and redistribution of the Internet tradition of past generations, a digital conversation between users of all generations about how the humor has changed and how it has stayed the same. (And also the universal success of a good beat or a slight threat.)


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