The YouTube versus Tiktok controversy has rocked Indian netizens out of their lockdown blues over the past week. Roast videos, Twitter analyses, and cringe memes have flooded the Internet, begging all onlookers to take sides and join the fray. Depending on who you are, the YouTube versus Tiktok controversy might be entertaining, scary, or profitable. But in essence, it all began with a good old-fashioned cultural clash.
A Culture War
To understand the basis of this upheaval, you must first understand the difference between the cultures of the two platforms. Because in the age of the Internet, it is not just countries and states that have differing cultures; online platforms do too. For instance, the aesthetic pictures you post on Instagram may well be ignored on Twitter, while the witty one-liners that made you popular among the Twitterati wouldn’t fly on Insta, unless accompanied by the aforementioned aesthetic photos.
This is just an example, but cultures can vary widely between forums and social media sites in the online world. There are right wing forums and left wing platforms, gaming forums and academic chatrooms. You might experience as much of a culture shock when switching from one website to another, as you would have when traveling from one country to the next a century ago. And in this maelstrom of conflicting ideas and ideologies, it might be hard to find two popular platforms as similar and yet as distinct as YouTube and TikTok.
Both of these are video platforms, but the similarities between them end there. While YouTube prefers and promotes content creators who upload original, long-form videos about a variety of topics, Tiktok is largely populated by creators who use pre-set filters, audio, and movie-clips to create short lip-syncing music videos and skits that are usually less than a minute long.
The Class Divide
Few want to talk about the class barrier between the people who make videos on YouTube and Tiktok. Nonetheless, it is no secret that Tiktok content in India is usually created and consumed by the rural poor.
Tiktok makes the process of video-creation simple and intuitive. No external editing software is needed, nor do Tiktok creators need expensive lighting equipment, cameras, tripods, etc. A cheap smartphone and the willingness to put oneself in front of the camera are pretty much the only requirements.
This has destroyed many of the traditional barriers to entry that are inherent on a platform like YouTube. Tiktok has leveled the playing field in the world of content-creation, but in doing so has also opened the floodgates that so far held back a plethora of content that netizens have designated ‘cringe’.
Tiktok has brought many people in front of the public eye who, a few years earlier, would have been considered ordinary, poor, unpolished, and ‘untalented’ in the traditional sense of the word. These people have no formal training or experience in the domain of public performance. They’re amateurs, usually with limited funds to spend on honing any latent talents they might have had.
A combination of these factors leads to the creation of what the Internet has termed ‘cringe’ content. Cringe, in the context of the Internet, occurs when someone makes a fool of themselves – usually on camera – without even realizing it. And there’s no better or more prolific source of ‘cringe’ than the Indian corner of Tiktok.
And guess who realized that this so-called cringe content – freely available on Tiktok – could be milked for views and money? That’s right, the makers of roast videos on YouTube!
Roast culture in India perhaps started with AIB’s infamous roast of Karan Johar and many other celebrities in the early 2010s. In essence, roasting is a type of insult humor which involves making fun of the flaws and foibles of a given subject. Traditionally, the subject of a ‘roast’ would have agreed to being ‘roasted’ for some lighthearted entertainment.
Today, there are many channels on YouTube almost exclusively dedicated to roasting content and creators considered to be ‘cringe’, for one reason or another. The people being roasted on these YouTube videos rarely agree to being the subject of a public roast, with the roasting coming as a surprise to them more often than not.
One of the most popular YouTube roasters who decided to post such a video on his channel is known by the pseudonym CarryMinati. This roast video targeting Tiktokers soon became one of the most widely viewed videos on Indian YouTube. A Tiktoker named Amir Siddiqui took issue with CarryMinati’s roast of his platform and decided to post a (rather crude) rebuttal on his own Tiktok channel. And thus, the war had begun!
What started as a creative disagreement between different types of content creators had soon devolved into a virtual fistfight with profuse name-calling and allegations. Both sides were accused of sexism, homophobia, and a plethora of other wrongs both real and imaginary. ‘Fans’ of both YouTube and Tiktok creators took to social media – sometimes to air their opinions and sometimes to threaten and abuse those on the other side.
Nobody knows what the real intention was of those who lit the first sparks of this ‘war’, but the end result cannot be disputed – hatred, contempt, and online bullying. Both sides have cast stones, and both have sustained injuries. CarryMinati’s roast video was deleted by YouTube and Tiktokers are being inundated with accusations of shallowness, superficiality, and a general lack of skill.
An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Unless, of course, collecting eyeballs for advertisements is your entire business model. After all, negative publicity is still publicity; and no wannabe celebrity can ever have too much of that, regardless of their platform.