How TikTok is a platform for performance and play for women in Sri Lanka

TikTok is a mobile platform for creating and sharing 15-second videos. Or as described by Wired, “a short-form monitised musical meme machine”. TikTok users lip sync, dance and perform to popular songs, dialogue or voiceovers from films and television shows and other audio clips from popular culture and edit the videos creatively using the templates and effects provided on the platform. It is currently the fastest growing social media app for short-form mobile videos and is experiencing a surge of popularity in Asia, including Sri Lanka, with Mobile Action showing TikTok to be the third most popular app on Google Play Store in Sri Lanka. The mobile research firm Sensor Tower estimates that TikTok had been downloaded approximately 800 million times worldwide by the end of 2018, and this figure does not take into account downloads by Android users in China.

The rising popularity of TikTok is unique for several reasons. For one, it is Chinese-owned and was initially popularised by users in China and Asia before being noticed by users in the USA. Approximately only 80 million out of 800 million TikTok downloads are from the USA. This piece focuses on the top 30 videos under the ceylon_tik_tok hashtag and the comments on those videos. Aside from being a popular hashtag for Sri Lankan TikTok users, ceylon_tik_tok also brings together a community of TikTok content producers who meet in person in public spaces and create content together that they then publish on TikTok. The users are Sri Lankans and the majority are based in Sri Lanka, with a few exceptions.

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