When I began my project, I was intending to continue exploring the world of creepypasta and Reddit, much like other digital folklorists such as Trevor Blank have discussed in their work. However, spending a portion of my personal time during the pandemic on TikTok opened new options to me in terms of how digital folklore might manifest online. If Reddit could be a space to share folklore and legends, certainly TikTok could be too? From there, my project began to form: an exploration of what makes TikTok a unique social media platform, and how it offers users the opportunity to create and interact with folklore online, forming communities and common practices.
My project called on me to do as much theoretical framing as it did case study research, which for me was some of the most challenging writing I’ve done in a long time; while writing a normal history paper has come to be second nature, this type of project was an entirely new challenge for me.
In the future, I would like to further my research into TikTok (and folklore more broadly) by considering how TikTok has offered spiritual communities a space to express and spread their beliefs, particularly through #Witchtok, which I believe opened up opportunities within TikTok as a whole for viral legendry like Randonautica.
Broadly, this class opened me to the gravity of studying and understanding history online. So much of our day-to-day experiences now live in the digital world, and the way we communicate, exhibit, and archive on the Internet is as profound as the considerations of historians who first used the print press.
The opportunity I was given in this class to explore folklore, rather than a more traditional history topic, speaks to the way digital history opens up the field to an interdisciplinary study that requires a large range of academics. I am so excited to share this work with my peers, congratulations to all my fellow students for finishing this challenging first year online!