TikTok, the short-form video app that is wildly popular among teenagers, has attracted users to lip-sync to popular songs, perform comedy sketches and complete their favorite internet challenges—but that's not all.
Dark Humor is a popular genre on the app. And increasingly, creators are using the platform to make content about school shootings.
On Monday, a Twitter user posted a video pointing to how teenagers are creating "active shooter dark humor TikToks." Dancing to La Roux's famous number "Bulletproof," the video featured a boy searching for bulletproof vests and bag packs on the internet.
The video got mixed responses. "I don't know whether to laugh or cry," one user commented. Another wrote, "I mean I guess it's better than being swallowed by a nonstop sense of dread and impending doom when you're 14 years old."
Hashtag #darkhumor is a popular search on TikTok, with over 51 million views. Some of the videos in this category include content on mass shootings. Additionally, the hashtag #schoolshooting has been used to create hundreds of videos and amassed over 1.7 million views.
In one such video, titled "When the shooting is finally over," a user posted a clip lip-syncing a quote from Micheal Rosen's poem, "No breathing in class." Pretending to get up after hiding during a shoot out, he is seen commenting on the "casualties."
There are multiple videos of teenagers acting out sequences to the line, "You better outrun my gun" from Foster The People's hit song "Pumped up Kicks."
Earlier this month two mass shootings—first in El Paso, Texas, and then in Dayton, Ohio—killed 29 people within a span of 14 hours. As of Tuesday, there have been 257 cases of mass shootings in the United States, according to Gun Violence Archive.
Out of these, 22 shootings have happened in U.S. schools, CNN wrote in July. Experts say teenagers aren't making videos to trivialize the issue, but to communicate effectively on a topic that has been at the center of conversations in schools and at home. For others, it is a coping mechanism, a means to manage negative feelings.
"Social media is a means to speak on important issues like this. There is no good evidence to suggest exposure to such videos can lead to violence or inappropriate behavior. So should there be regulation on platforms because a child might see something violent? No. There could be regulation to identify people who are struggling," Arielle Baskin-Sommers, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale University, told Majazihaon Monday.
TikTok has a set of Community Guidelines that prohibit users from posting content that could be harmful, dangerous or lead to bullying. Wildly enjoyed by teenagers across America, experts say the intention of these videos should not be misconstrued as malicious.
"This doesn't look like schadenfreude (pleasure derived from someone's misfortune) because it's missing all of the critical elements that are usually predictive of schadenfreude," Mina Cikara, Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, told Majaziha.
With over 1 billion monthly active users, TikTok is one of the fastest-growing apps in the world. It was the most downloaded Apple Store application for five consecutive quarters till May this year.
The app completed it's one year anniversary in the U.S. in August and has quickly become a social phenomenon. It helped propel the song "Old Town Road" into a hit and took over VidCon as the freshest new platform, The Verge wrote on August 2.
However, TikTok has also faced flak for weak regulation of its content. The minimum age to sign up is 13 years old, giving access to teenagers to material which often can be explicit. Oversight can make TikTok's influence dangerous, and rampant unregulated growth can lead to the exploitation of children, according to a report this month published by The American Genius.
Apart from the U.S., India had also tried to regulate TikTok's content by attempting to ban it citing the application was prone to having "risky and criminal content."