There are almost 8 billion people on the face of the planet right now. And for every eight of those people, one of them is on TikTok.
That’s right: In September this year, TikTok saw its billionth user roll onto the video-sharing platform.
No small number of users have come from Southeast Asia, one of the platform’s biggest markets. Last year, almost one in three Southeast Asians — 240 million of them, as of June 2021 — had downloaded the app.
And it’s no wonder why. From relatable videos about Zoom mishaps to deciding whether it’s a bones or no-bones day, TikTok is responsible for some of the most gripping trends of 2021.
But as entertaining as TikTok is, it’s not just a space for stirring sea shanties and recipes for feta pasta. TikTok has also been a crucial space for creators in all manner of communities to come together and share knowledge with each other, from cooks to carpenters to even survival enthusiasts.
In 2019, the #EduTok initiative saw the platform partner with leading institutions in India to create short-form educational video content. 140 billion views later, the hashtag is showing no signs of stopping, with more and more videos being added every day.
Meanwhile, the #LearnOnTikTok initiative — featuring content from high-profile creators such as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and scientist Bill Nye — is just over a year and a half old, but already has garnered more than 210 billion views.
What makes TikTok such a powerful platform for education?
The company’s own commitment to supporting educational initiatives cannot be understated, of course. For instance, TikTok launched the evergreen #LearningIsFun hashtag to give way to the rise of educational content in the platform. From learning flower arrangements to piano tutorials, the hashtag has since been the home for passionate hobbyists and the curious.
The accessibility of TikTok as a platform has also gone a long way towards its growth. Young users in particular are gravitating towards TikTok as a space to share and learn about topics that matter to them, be it about politics, gender identity or racial issues.
“Increasingly, we've seen unique, multidisciplinary educational content find a home on TikTok,” says Ms Doreen Tan, User & Content Operations Manager at TikTok Singapore.
“From literature to architecture, fitness and more, it's heartening that TikTok has evolved into a platform that has not only enabled vibrant communities to bond over a common love for their craft, but also allowed users to broaden their horizons in learning something new.”
So whether you’re a passionate hobbyist, a curious individual looking for like-minded people, or simply interested in understanding TikTok, there’s an account or hashtag for you to follow on the app.
Dive deep into lesser-known parts of Singapore history
For starters: Have you ever wondered what happened when the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency tried to bribe then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew? And did you know that Singapore has its own super-secret spy agency, just like the British MI6 of James Bond fame?
These are the topics explored in the short-form videos of Mr Dhevarajan Devadas, 30 (@historyyogi), a graduate history student at the National University of Singapore.
Mr Devadas had always dreamt of getting more people interested in the lesser-known aspects of the little red dot’s storied and colourful history.
“While many perceive it to be boring and irrelevant, history holds many important lessons for modern societies,” he says.
But word of mouth could only do so much. TikTok was just the platform he had been looking for, with Mr Devadas citing its “short-form format and attention-grabbing features” as crucial to making his content more accessible and engaging to younger audiences.
Despite having only started his channel in January this year, Mr Devadas saw explosive growth almost immediately. Today, he has more than 30,500 followers and over 850,000 collective likes on his videos.
“I think TikTok has helped to dismantle some of the common misconceptions that people seem to have about history,” he says. “My followers often share how they are constantly fascinated by the stories that lie behind the old photographs and videos shared on my platform; and how these objects seem to help the past come alive once more.
“I'm glad that TikTok has helped people to rediscover all the wonders that history has to offer.”
Learn English in a jiffy
Even the most seasoned of writers may get tripped up on when to use “defense” or “defence”. Or sometimes, we might not know when the best time to use a semicolon is.
That’s where Mr Mack Lim, 27 (@english_pros), comes in, with his one-minute videos detailing the tricky little nuances of the English language — the sort of thing you were perhaps always curious about, but too embarrassed to actually ask.
As a full-time English teacher, his curiosity about TikTok was first piqued by his students, who all seemed to be constantly sharing content on the platform with each other. He then started to explore the platform for himself and found a whole new world of content that, in his words, “ignited a spark within him” to do likewise.
“I saw how easy it was for content to be seen, the passion that people had on the platform, and a connected global community,” he says. “So I wanted to be part of this platform and share educational content to help people grow and discover their own personal journeys and add value to their lives.”
As his channel approaches its six-month anniversary, he has amassed over 41,000 English learners, and shows no signs of slowing.
“What makes TikTok unique is its ability for users to make connections,” he says. “Once you’re on TikTok, you are plugged into a global community and you become part of something beyond yourself.
“TikTok is not just a platform, but also an opportunity to discover new content and expand your horizons.”
Stretch your knowledge on relieving muscle aches
With the Covid-19 pandemic making in-person healthcare consultations difficult, long hours cooped up at home in front of desks have brought about another pandemic of an entirely different nature: Back problems.
While there’s no vaccine available for the latter, @re_chiropractic is here to help. A group of registered chiropractors and medical professionals, the team dispenses chiropractic knowledge through short-form videos like stretching techniques for loosening tight hips, or household items that can be used to relieve back pain.
The channel has garnered over 119,000 followers to date.
“With limited access to chiropractic care when working from home became the default during the pandemic, our team wanted to find a platform to share information and our knowledge on the topic,” says the group’s founder, Ms Jenny Li, 37.
“It is inspiring that there are already many doctors, lawyers and medical professionals who are already using the platform to share important and useful insights from their respective fields.”
But the Re:Chiro Singapore team has learned just as much from TikTok as they teach. Starting out as beginners in the field of content creation, advanced filming techniques were beyond them — but this turned out to be a non-issue.
“For novices like us who know nothing about camera settings, lighting, scripting and shooting, TikTok, with its many supportive and intuitive features, has made content creation easier,” she says.
Learn more on TikTok
These are far from the only hashtag campaigns brimming with educational content on the video-sharing platform. The festive season saw an explosion of activity under the #ChristmasHacks hashtag, for those looking for gift-wrapping techniques or decoration ideas.
And the fast-growing hashtag #StudyWithMe — with almost two million views and counting in Singapore — holds helpful tips on studying, self-care reminders, and words of motivation to cheer the student community on.
And more hashtags are sure to follow in future. Because TikTok has only just begun to scratch the surface of the potential of one billion users. One billion minds, creating, sharing, and learning in unison, with the TikTok community only growing by the day.
So what are you going to learn on TikTok today?