Most of us go to TikTok for amusement, entertainment, and comic relief.
But at the onset of the recent typhoons that hit the country—Quinta, and now Rolly—when the Philippines’ largest network is unable to deliver news to far-flung areas following the denial of its franchise, some netizens have taken it upon themselves to share typhoon updates via the short-form video sharing app, TikTok.
It’s citizen journalism in the era of emerging technologies, and it seems as far as some Gen Z (those born 1997 to 2012) kids are concerned, if it works for dance challenges, why can’t it work for actual life challenges? TikTok, after all, is the app of the moment.
A quick browse on TikTok this morning showed the gusty winds and intense rains hitting Camarines Sur, Quezon, Legaspi, and Naga. One video showed the raging current of a river that had overflown in Ilawod, Camalig, Albay. Another showed the strong waves in Batangas.
Typhoon Rolly is said to be by far the strongest typhoon in the world, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa). It continues to devastate many parts of the country as we speak.
It’s easy to see why some people have turned to TikTok to get a glimpse of what’s happening out there. It’s where they spend much of their time anyway. It’s also the easiest way for any video material to go viral. According to tech website Wallaroo, TikTok has about 850 million active users monthly. According to Sensor Tower, which describes itself as “the leading provider of market intelligence and insights for the global app economy,” TikTok has become the most downloaded and highest grossing app in the third quarter of 2020. The app is said to have over 23 million downloads on the play store in September alone.
The app is also an easy, effortless way to create content for aspiring video creators. All you need to do is record a scene with your phone, go to your TikTok app, tap + (plus) to add content, add a description, then post.
As far as digital news reports go, the 15-seconder moving images on TikTok is enough to capture the gist of what some people would essentially want to know and share—that includes the strength of a typhoon and the condition of the people experiencing it.
##goodmorningtiktokphilippines❤️nakakatakot ang bagyong Rolly 🙏♬ orihinal na tunog - Kimmy casajuras🇵🇭🇰🇷🇯🇵
But while TikTok videos provide a lead or a brief situationer, it still can’t replace the legit and verified reports provided by news agencies. And who’s to say if the videos posted are really of this ongoing storm and not from a different one in the past? In these times when we need to be able to assess the real situation so we can be better prepared, we need to distinguish where we get pertinent information that can save our lives and where we can dance along with Gardo Versoza in heels.