TikTok exploded worldwide during the pandemic as millions under quarantine turned to the Chinese-founded app for dance tutorials and dubs of pop hits. It didn't take too long for politics to bleed into the platform, having saturated rivals Facebook and Twitter.
Vloggers and influencers use TikTok to raise awareness on the country's ills, peppered with silly filters and effects. Proof of app's political clout: U.S. President Donald Trump wants it banned. In the Philippines, acknowledged as Facebook country, why are creators bringing politics to TikTok?
Dora Dorado, known as Doracrybaby, was among Filipino content creators who stepped into the TikTok spotlight this pandemic, raising awareness on social issues while dancing. With over 86,000 followers on TikTok, and 76,000 Twitter followers, Dora’s videos have been the go to for Filipinos who want to be informed and entertained at the same time.
“Actually, for fun lang siya at first and then parang for me naman, content creation—you just get fed with what’s around you. Right now, yung fine-feed sa atin ng environment are socio-political issues and it just seems right to create content about that,” Dora told reportr.
Why not on TikTok?
Social and political commentaries were not on Dora's plan. But developments in the country—or the lack thereof, pushed him to do so.
“Before talaga I just used TikTok for fun—mga dance challenges and wala eh, you just get fed up and doon (commentary) siya napunta. And eventually, nagtuloy-tuloy siya into like a social commentary na,” Dora told reportr.
For the social media personality, the shift from plain comedy to politics can be attributed to a donor’s fatigue he experienced after seeing that not much has improved in the country’s COVID-19 situation despite efforts from the private sector to help the government.
“Every platform becomes political. We only get fed with what’s around us so yeah, before fun-fun lang siya kasi nga fun-fun lang din yung world nun,” Dora said. “When we entered a global crisis, hindi mo na maiwasan that every social media platform will become a political platform one way or another.”
While Facebook and Twitter are no longer new to political content and social commentary, it’s only during the pandemic that more netizens shifted to social issues and politics on TikTok.
In the Philippines, even government officials are using it. President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles often dance to hit songs on TikTok. The country’s Department of Health also has a TikTok account for its information campaigns.
Even the World Health Organization has capitalized on the TikTok craze with videos on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and proper wearing of face masks.
TikTok can inform and educate
For Dora, his social commentaries are meant to “inform and educate.” It's shows the audience what's happening around them. "Not everyone has the time to dive into news,” he said.
When to inject humor? Dora said: “I can discern which kind of content I can make fun of, which one ang hindi pwede…I think it’s just picking which types of content yung parang you can turn into comedy, irony, mga ganun,” he said.
More social media personalities have also included social issues in their content—all while keeping the public entertained.
Macoy Dubs, who introduced the internet to everyone’s favorite tita, Auntie Julie, is also not shy to share his views on social issues with videos and tweets.
The same goes for content creator Philip Hernandez, popularly known as Davao Conyo. Medical frontliner Jai Cabajar meanwhile uses his Twitter to call out injustices and put the spotlight on social problems.
Touching on politics and social issues or the refusal to do so is a personal choice, according to Dora.
“I guess it’s a personal choice to stay apatethic and neutral pero it’s always a privilege to be neutral. I guess I just applaud content creators na kahit hindi nila niche yung politics and social issues, nagbibigay pa rin sila ng opinion about it and they are willing to be educated,” he said.
“To each his own, it’s always up to them. Some kasi they are not proficient with political ideologies, standpoints kaya I understand if uncomfortable sila to use their channel for that.”
Vloggers and social media stars have also shown that they are not just keyboard warriors.
In July, several social media personalities, including Macoy Dubs, joined calls to junk the Anti-Terror Law. They were among “concerned netizens” who signed a petition asking the Supreme Court to declare as illegal the law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in the middle of the pandemic.
How to handle hate on TikTok?
Being outspoken on social issues makes one more vulnerable to online hate, criticism, and trolling. Like other social media stars that have been bashed, “cancelled,” and criticized, Dora also got his share of online hate.
During his “Sunday Palengke” series, where he does a weekly roundup of the latest issues in the country, Dora made a comment about the dumping of artificial white sand on the Manila Bay that did not sit well with some people.
“If you think Manila bay looks like Boracay, well, clearly you haven’t been to Boracay,” he said of a netizen’s comment that the artificial sand can be likened to Boracay’s powdery white sand beach.
The statement drew him flak with some people branding it as classist and elitist.
“I didn’t take any offense to it. Hindi naman ako na-sad. You take it as you go,” Dora said of the incident. “I’m one to always make opinions and comments on everything and then it’s gonna look very hypocritical if I can’t take the same thing.”
Dora has stopped reading hate comments and even went as far as blocking some people.
“I know naman it (criticism) was going to happen one way or another pero ngayon I don’t just read,” he said. “Walang papatunguhan din naman if I read.”