5 TikToks that connected us when we needed it most

It’s no secret that 2020 was an unexpectedly horrific year. But if there is one thing that has helped us get through, it’s TikTok. As the world went on lockdown this spring, more people than ever turned to the app, uploading content that helped us to both escape and connect when we needed it most.

Over the course of the year TikTok creators have taught us how to dance, dress, and vote in under one minute. They’ve taken us into their homes and onto the frontlines of the fight against coronavirus. They hosted a virtual prom and even spawned an entire Ratatouille musical. The best and worst things to happen in this tumultuous year were shared on the app.

It’s hard to imagine just how many of those bite-size videos we’ve consumed over the past 12 months. But there have certainly been some standouts. Here are our favorites:

"Shrimp day for Dumpling"

Although I enjoy watching dance challenges and skincare tutorials, it’s the wholesome, mindless content on TikTok that gets me. This adorable video of a fish named Dumpling eating a piece of shrimp is exactly what I am talking about. It’s a lowkey viral video that I’ve watched probably one thousand times. It was also my introduction to the underrated realm of marine biology TikTok, which I highly recommend. But the best part about this video might just be the comments. “I’m so high I thought you started cutting the pufferfish up instead of the shrimp and had a heart attack,” writes one concerned viewer. It’s a mixup that makes the innocent video take a dark, but hilarious turn. —Erica Euse, Culture Writer

Roller skating TikToks

Gosh, I can’t wait until spring. I’m counting down the days until warm weather returns, dreaming of lacing up a pair of roller skates and zooming around my local park like a disco goddess. Do I already own the aforementioned skates? No. Have I been on skates in the last five years? Negative. Is my fantasy 100-percent fueled by the sundrenched TikTok videos of talented women on roller skates that I’ve watched on repeat this year, mesmerized by their grace and skill? Roller skating TikTok is great both because it’s captivating (each clip of fluid movement is a mini-meditation) and because skating that well is pretty hard! Anyhow, I’m putting in an order for skates A.S.A.P. TikTok has made the pastime so popular, many retailers have been backordered for months. If I’m lucky, my skates might show up by mid-March… —Kara Weisenstein, Culture Writer

“Mi pan su su sum”

I don’t really watch TikToks, so much as absorb the stray crashes and shrieks from the other side of the couch. Most of the time, when my girlfriend is on a nightly marathon, I can let the mix of familiar songs and warbly voices wash over me, but sometimes a true earworm can squeeze its way in. Of the many sounds to take the leap from annoyance to sincere, unabated enjoyment, “mi pan su su sum” has taken up the most replay value in our life. I still don’t know what the llama’s doing, or understand if it’s really about bread, or who came across the Russian cereal commercial it’s based on, and that’s all the better. — Shawn Cooke, Culture Writer

Tabitha Brown's cooking TikToks

There's a reason Tabitha Brown was named the "internet's favorite mom." Listening to her repeat, "That's my business," as she whipped up delicious-looking vegan meals was one of the few things that I looked forward to in quarantine. I definitely wasn't alone, as millions flocked to her TikTok to be comforted by her soothing voice and encouraging words during a dark time. Watching her rise to internet fame was definitely one of the best things to happen in 2020. — E.E.

"I feel good today"

I have not been able to get Grandma Droniak's voice out of my head for weeks now. The 90-year-old's "I feel good today" ditty instantly puts me in a good mood every time I hear it. Not to mention, it's a much-needed reminder to take a moment to hype yourself up. I'm trying to channel this positive energy in 2021. — E.E.