What Happens in the TikTok Comments
Seen a funny video on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter recently? Chances are it's from TikTok. You're consuming TikTok content, but out of its natural habitat.
No matter whether people are talking about Pool Cleaning TikTok, Sea Shanty TikTok, or Musical Theatre TikTok the focus is usually on the video content, and rightly so. The creators. The memes. The sounds that are remixed and reimagined.
Missed in the discussion: what happens in the TikTok comments.
The social aspect of any platform is what makes it feel distinct. Instagram's Reels rip-off aims to clone TikTok in nearly every way. But the same video cross-posted from TikTok to Reels doesn't bring the same community with it, nor the duets, the video-replies, or the comments. It feels hollow.
Here's a rundown of the 'emoji comment memes' (for want of a better phrase) that you'll find on TikTok today, and likely on a social media platform of your choice tomorrow.
This might also serve as a guide, preventing you using emojis 'like a boomer' when joining TikTok.
Writing the lesson of the video, using ✍️ Writing Hand in place of spaces. If a skin-tone is chosen, it's for self-representation. ✍️Lesson✍️Pen✍️ is only writen in the first person.
Watched a video about how to get people to talk to you on your first day?
Lesson from a flight attendant on how passengers can help their job?
Male dolphins and their troubling behavior?
Introducing mysterious grades for your boyfriend?
✍️Lesson✍️Pen✍️ can be summarized as:
“I watched this video, and here is my amusing and/or serious take on what I learned”
It's a simple format, and works in many scenarios.
✍️🔄 Sub-type: Wrong Lesson Pen
As with all memes, these mutate into variations over time.
Wrong Lesson Pen is the same as the ✍️Lesson✍️Pen✍️ but requires identifying the point of the TikTok, and using the same facts to come to a different conclusion.
Learned some facts in a video about how you can't have herd immunity from the common cold because of all the variants? Bring on the Wrong Lesson Pen:
✍️❄️🔄✍️🌴 Sub-sub-type: Right Lesson, Wrong Location Pen
The TikTok For You Page specializes in delivering content that you'll like. A key factor in this is showing videos to people in your geographical area. This often means it will be relevant.
As a video or creator grows in popularity, videos are shown globally. Sometimes this results in niche TikToks that are only useful in their original location but now being shown to millions in a very wide audience.
✍️Wrong✍️Location✍️Pen✍️ would like to point out that we're finding this content very interesting, even if it couldn't be less useful or relevant where we are.
Detailed instructions about checking the depth of ice:
A video about outback living:
It's relatable, because niche TikToks can be interesting as a glimpse into a different world. Content we wouldn't have chosen to watch, but have decided to because it was served by the almighty algorithm.
✍️Wrong✍️Location✍️Pen✍️ lets the creator know you liked it, despite it being absolutely useless to you.
This is related to the Lesson Pen, but uses a different emoji to convey the point. Many will be aware of (and possibly annoyed by) the 👏clapping👏hands👏to👏make👏a👏statement👏 format on Twitter.
I regretfully report that this format is alive and well on TikTok.
Rarely used sincerely on TikTok, the clapping hands is usually found written comedically, more than for activism like its origins.
On TikTok it's basically a ✍️Lesson✍️Pen✍️ but converted into 👏Clapping👏Hands👏Pen👏 to convey the lesson, in a more active format.
We also have 🔈Speaker🔉Voice🔉 to get your message across to the creator of the video. Again, sincerity is the enemy here. These are meant to be funny, and even by me explaining them here, I'm being too literal and ruining the fun.
🐶💬 Author Voice Pen
Do you know Bunny? The sheepadoodle that presses buttons to communicate in a human-like manner. She's adorable, and the buttons themselves are a meme that spreads beyond the TikTok account for her progress.
Fairly consistently receiving time responses to “when” questions. #doggyanthem #dogsoftiktok #bunnythedog #fypシ #talkingdog♬ original sound - I am Bunny
Of note: for Bunny to ask a question, one button says hmm with a raised inflection reminiscent of the end of every Australian sentence. Bunny doesn't ask why, she simply ends her sentence with a press of the “hmm?” button.
All these use the dog face emoji to imitate the voice of Bunny. No it doesn't look like her, but it does the job.
Building on Author Voice is what I like to call the 🤪Emoji🎢Rollercoaster☄️. It's telling a story, but with so many emojis interspersed, we experience a sense of emotional overload.
🤪Emoji🎢Rollercoaster☄️ has origins in explicit texts and tweets that use an emoji every 2-3 words, often with a request to share the message. Eve Peyser calls them Dirty Chain Texts, and they're not new. Here's an example from 2015:
The concept of conveying mood using emojis in an exaggerated fashion works well in TikTok comments or anywhere that it's assumed the audience is in on the joke. You're not sending these to your boss.
In the instance of a TikTok comments, the shared audience is everyone that just watched the same video. 🤪Emoji🎢Rollercoaster☄️ uses an emoji at every opportunity; tracking and conveying every shift in vocal range or facial expression and choosing the emoji which mostly closely matches its vibe.
Every sentence is a ride, only relenting when it's over.
Being familiar with Dirty Chain Texts should mean 🤪Emoji🎢Rollercoaster☄️ feels natural. Random emojis like the 🧱 Brick or 🤖 Robot feel like they belong, even when they don't. Choosing the exact emojis to convey that tone is an art.
As opposed to emoji beat gestures, this style of comment tends to use at least one word for every emoji, instead of sending a string of emojis to convey a mood. Instead of sending 🥰😘 (your thoughts on the video), you're sending your take on what the palm tree protaganist feels:
🤪Emoji🎢Rollercoaster☄️ is often used for mocking. It takes the point being made, but makes it sound absurd.
It's digitally putting on a silly voice to quote your sibling in a story retelling that gets a laugh every time, usually to their detriment.
It doesn't always have to be absurd. Some Emoji Rollercoaster Comments really seem to tap into the exact intonation of the video. It's got me wondering if transcripts could use emojis to convey tone with the message.
It looks juvenile, but try telling me you're not getting more from this comment than the plain text.
Once you see this type of visual voice inflection, it's hard to not imagine the emojis are genuinely conveying the voice you just heard.
If you recall this clip of Australian politician Bob Katter:
The comments on TikTok reposts of this bring every word to life:
The beauty of the Emoji Rollercoaster is the shared experience. The friends leaving the cinema to quote their favorite lines ad-nauseam. Except instead of the cinema foyer, we rush to the comments of a viral TikTok to be like the best comment which summarizes what we heard.
Whether you call this voice inflection, mood conveyance, beat gestures, or simply emoji tone, this rollercoaster of colorful glyphs is a common and popular storytelling device in the TikTok comments.
Related: Emoji Expression String 🥸🤪😇😍😫😡🤩
Like the 🤪Emoji🎢Rollercoaster☄️, but conveying all the unspoken parts of the video. The action. The facial expressions. The plot.
Emoji Expression Strings are more likely to be a series of emojis, without words in between. Like 🥸🤪😇😍😫😡🤩.
Billy Eichner roaming the streets interrogating people to gift them $1 has been on my For You Page (FYP) a lot recently. These are mostly repurposed clips others have uploaded. The story told here is clear.
Describing how you can't judge a book by its cover, in emoji narrative form:
This method of expression works for audio, too. Various screaming and yelling? You got it.
The sequence of emojis conveys more than words could.
A whole story in eight pictures. Don't make me say how many words a picture tells. I won't do it, but you get it.
An Emoji Expression String is just as likely to be found accompanying world events as a quirky lipsync.
How might the scene of an Aerobics teacher unintentionally filming her class in front of a coup in Myanmar be described? Like this of course.
This could be its own entire article, but a few select emojis have taken up the mantle left by the lack of bold or italics formatting.
Much of this has been seen on Twitter in recent years, too.
A leading contender: ✨ Sparkles as emphasis. Got something to say, but need it to have that extra emphasis? Sparkle it.
Sparkles can be combined with SpOnGEbOb teXt for even more emphasis:
Or use both ✍️Lesson✍️Pen✍️ and ✨Emoji ✨Emphasis✨ for the ultimate way to convey your thoughts:
Rise Up Games 🐕🌊
Like most platforms these days, TikTok comments will rise up higher if they have more likes. This is generally a decent way to filter out low value comments, but it can also create a perverse incentive to game the comment section for unrelated purposes.
Rise Up games create a story and ask that you like the comment to assist.
These don't add much value to the platform, but do go indicate where an emoji such as 🐕 Dog stands out more than a text-only comment might.
Emoji Characters 💬
TikTok recently added a text-to-voice feature. You type the text, and TikTok reads it out. For retelling a story this is often used with each emoji providing a quick way to identify the people in the story, like a script where each character reads its lines.
Given emojis aren't infinitely customizable like Bitmoji, Memoji or other emoji avatars, people have to get creative.
In this example, a friend with a receding hairline has been recreated by putting a bald man on top of another man.
Emoji Glitch 🥸
Getting attention for being interesting is hard. What's easier? Copying and pasting some Unicode characters which combine on top of each other to look like a glitch of sorts.
It won't win you friends, but someone might like your comment.
Other Unicode emoji 'hacks' can be popular on any text-only platform, as they can stand out more than your run of the mill text and emojis.
New Year, New Meanings
Like words, emoji meanings can change over time, and in different communities. This applies online as much as it does IRL.
While not TikTok-exclusive, some emerging emoji meanings commonly found on TikTok include:
- 🤡 Clown Face: describing someone selfish or unintelligent (eg 'that's 🤡 sh*t' or simply the clown emoji '🤡' commented on a video someone behaving in an idiotic manner)
- 🎂 Birthday Cake: an alternative to 🍑 Peach when referring to buttocks (eg 'nice 🎂')
- 💀 Skull: figurative 'I'm dead' (I found this very funny, like 😂 but for a new generation)
- 😭 Loudly Crying Face: Despite origins meaning sadness, just as likely to be used for laughter or other extreme emotions.
- 👁👄👁: Are you all seeing this? I'm slightly stunned and/or enthralled by this content. Different mood to 👀 Eyes which can have a flirtatious intention.
TikTok emoji formats are summarized here.
Some other NSFW emoji meanings found both TikTok, Snapchat and more include:
- 🍒 Cherries: breasts
- 🍑 Peach: bottom / ass (analysis shows this is common elsewhere)
- 🥞 Pancakes: flat bottom / ass
- 🐱 Cat Face: 'pussy' (vagina)
- 🍆 Eggplant: penis
- 🥜 Peanuts:'to 'nut' (ejaculate)
- 🧠 Brain: to give 'head' (oral sex)
Of these, only cake = ass seems to originate on TikTok, and largely hasn't left the platform, at least in my observations. Others are more solidified on TikTok, but are equally likely to appear in group chats, or other platforms where there are sufficient folks born in the past few decades.
Don't Use This Boomer Emoji 😂😂😂
It's common wisdom on TikTok that the laughing crying emoji is for boomers. And by boomers I mean anyone over the age of 35.
For many commenters, 💀 has replaced 😂 as the acceptable way to laugh. 💀 Skull says this was so funny I have died from laughter, therefore 💀 = “I'm dead”.
This is an acceptable way to show you found something funny, compared to 😂 Face with Tears of Joy (an OG emoji that's been on the iPhone for over a decade) or its newer alternative 🤣 Rolling on the Floor Laughing (approved in 2016) which is often tarred with the some unfunny brush.
There are a whole series of custom emotes available on TikTok to expand your range. These are often seen as less cringey. Perhaps because they aren't seen as over-used due to their platform exclusivity.
TikTok emojis are inserted using shortcodes such as [complacent] or [cry], and only work on TikTok. These used to be selectable in the TikTok interface, but now they're almost hidden, like a secret set of emojis that only the regulars know.
Of these, a popular entry is [wronged] which takes on a similar meaning to the emoji sequence of 🥺👉👈. A shy, nervous combination desiring acceptance.
Not only has 🥺 Pleading Face shot up to become the third most popular emoji on Twitter, it's also very on trend on TikTok. At least it is for now, until it gets written about too much, like this very article.
For those wanting to laugh using 😂 Face with Tears of Joy but avoid being outed as too old for TikTok, try 😆 which is known as 😆 Grinning Squinting Face in Unicode parlance.
Or avoid the need to show laughter in the comments at all. Make a joke in return, or simply hit that like button. This is TikTok not Facebook, Grandpa.