The global coronavirus lockdown has left young people stuck at home with time on their hands, fueling the rise of video-sharing social network TikTok. Before the pandemic, we conducted a study to further our understanding of TikTok. This research involved qualitative and quantitative methods, spanning people aged 9 to 30 in 5 countries (Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, UK, and US). We looked closely at the role TikTok plays in users’ social media portfolios, and how it compares to other platforms.

So, what did we learn?

TikTok stands out from other social media platforms as the most goofy, quirky app that doesn’t take itself too seriously. These descriptions are unique to TikTok. In contrast, Snapchat and YouTube are considered “fun,” “entertaining,” and “witty”; Twitter is deemed “boring” and “informational”; and Facebook is thought of as “full of drama” and “dated.”

Interestingly, TikTok has replaced Snapchat as the most goofy, quirky, not-too-serious platform. In 2017, we conducted a similar study to find out how users perceived Snapchat – and at the time, it was thought of goofy, quirky, and not taking itself too seriously. (Sound familiar?) When we compare how Snapchat is perceived today, the percentage who describe Snapchat as “doesn’t take itself too seriously” has declined by 66%, “goofy/quirky” is down 62%, and “everyone uses it” has fallen 40%. Clearly, TikTok is taking over some of the space that Snapchat occupied just three short years ago.

That being said, TikTok does share some similarities with other social platforms like YouTube and Instagram in that all three are seen as great places to discover new music, videos, and creators. TikTok is actually most similar to YouTube in its ability to amuse, pass time, and de-stress – but TikTok sets itself apart from YouTube when it comes to staying on top of trends and offering a place for self-expression and creativity.

In summary, TikTok is where users turn for silly fun when they have free time and want to relax. It’s eclipsing Snapchat as the most quirky, un-serious platform, as well as a place to stay on top of whatever is trending. In many ways, it’s no surprise that it’s become such a talked-about platform during the Covid-19 lockdown, offering much-needed laughter and escapism.