Sonam Deki  and  Pema Choden | Interns

It’s a hive of activity. Dressed aptly for the occasion, a group of young “influencers” are preparing to shoot a dance video. The music starts and they begin to lip sync and move around with fluidity practiced and perfected. The mood is ecstatic.

TikTok is the latest social media craze to hit the world. In the pandemic days, it has grown to be an entertainment platform of choice, especially among the young. One can create interesting and eye-catching videos easily on the app. With TikTok, one doesn’t have to be a pro. The app does it all.

The number of social media users in Bhutan is huge and is growing.  According to the Social Media Landscape in Bhutan (2021), a study carried out by the Bhutan Media Foundation, around 90 percent of the people are active on at least one social media platform.

TikTok has become a hotspot for creativity and is being utilised by educators and influencers to reach out to a younger audience; yet, the platform has been criticised and is being closely scrutinised.

The app is popular for allowing users to demonstrate their acting skills and other talents, which leads to opportunities for them in the film industry, advertising, and modelling.

Sonam Giri, 23, a counsellor at Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School, is a popular TikToker with over 80,000 followers. She said, “I began TikToking for fun and continue to do so. As I upload more videos, I get more followers and have become popular. As a result, I receive numerous offers for paid promotions and photoshoots. It is like getting paid for doing something I enjoy.”

And she added: “Most people believe that all TikTokers do is dance and sing, while we can learn a variety of principles. Many content creators educate, share facts, and provide life lessons.”

TikTok has grown far beyond its early days of just dance challenges and funny videos. It has now evolved into a learning platform for a variety of topics, including healthcare, beauty, fitness, wellness, DIY hacks, food, and more.

Kaka Tshering, a former member of parliament, said, “As an elderly person, we are not very interested in TikTok, but for younger generations, it is a platform through which youths can showcase their talents and expand their social networks.”

The “For You” page on the app, which caters to each individual’s interests, desires, and lifestyles based on data collected about them, generates a complete profile for each user and then collects videos that appeal to their interests.

Sangay Chophel, a hotel employee who has more than 55,000 followers, said, “The amount of time users spend on TikTok is one of the negative aspects. Once you are on TikTok, you will become addicted to it and find yourself scrolling endlessly, unaware of the passage of time.”

Similarly, Nima Wangchuk, a de-suup, said that many youth are engrossed in browsing videos rather than doing their homework or engaging themselves productively.

People make money through the TikTok Creator Fund by live streaming in western countries.  The fund is for creators with at least 10,000 followers who meet requirements such as being 18 years or older with 100,000 authentic video views in the last 30 days. It pays you based on the views of your videos.

Accounts with over 1,000 TikTok followers can make live videos and receive donations or coins from other TikTok users, which they can later exchange for real money. However, it is currently available to creators only in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain.

Some popular TikTokers in Bhutan, such as Sonam Jili and S_Choephel, say that they do not consider TikToking as their full-time job, and that youth should not spend too much time on it.

According to TikTok Users Statistics (2021), the app was the most downloaded non-game app in the first months of 2021, hitting 383 million installs with one billion monthly active users.

In Southeast Asia alone, there are more than 198 million users.