What I’ve Learned – #TikTokGrandma

Someone of a VERY different political bent than myself recently said to me – after finding out that I had dealt with death threats over the summer – “Well I hope you learned a thing or two.”

I did. But I’m almost positive that the things I learned were NOT the things she was thinking of.

I learned that there is no way to predict what piece of your social media life will go viral.

I learned that shining a light on injustice will always anger those benefitting from that injustice.

I learned that speaking up for the oppressed will always infuriate the oppressors – and sometimes the person who is angriest doesn’t even realize that they ARE one of the oppressors!

I learned that one political party is VERY diverse, full of people with ideologies that do not perfectly line up all the time. But they are always down for a good conversation and will ask really fantastic questions.

I learned, sadly, that many Christians will justify all sorts of immoral behavior over one political issue that they just can’t get past.

I learned that there are SOOOOOO many people who have been badly hurt by religious folk masquerading as Christians.

I learned that “white privilege” has nothing to do with money or social status, marginalized groups need allies who will educate THEMSELVES and then speak up, and I learned that there are a HUGE number of people who just want to know that they are loved without condition.

Most importantly, I learned loads about myself and how to put the faith I claim into practice in a hurting world. I know what real contentment and inner peace feels like and my faith walk has NEVER been stronger.

So yeah. I learned a thing or two.

Unexpected Adventures

Like so many people, I found myself needing a creative outlet or two when Covid-19 moved all schools to virtual learning in March. So on May 1st I made my first TikTok video ever. The app was entertaining and even sometimes educational. In the middle of May I participated in something called a Blackout. The goal was to promote the content created by black individuals on the platform (TikTok would admit to one news agency that the algorithim tended to “shadowban” content by black creators.) As a result of that particular event, I ended up following several black individuals on TikTok.

When those same content creators began expressing their frustration about a campaign rally scheduled in Tulsa – once the home of Black Wall Street – on Juneteenth, I did some research. I knew about Juneteenth; I had NO CLUE about Black Wall Street. It didn’t take long before I understood why they were frustrated. So late on the night of June 11, I posted a video rant of my own. Keep in mind, TikTok videos are no longer than 60 seconds which isn’t much time! I had 1,002 followers at that time which is not a very large platform on that particular app. In the video I suggested a strategy that several friends of mine have used for years – reserve tickets for the rally and don’t go. I know how rallies work. I know that they will keep seating people as long as there are seats and I know that, for a presidential campaign rally, there is usually overflow. And after all, I only had 1,002 followers and my “biggest” video had been seen almost 200 times. How much impact could this Midwest Gen X grandma have with so few people seeing her videos?

The next morning I woke up to HUNDREDS of notifications on TikTok. My video rant from the previous night had been seen and shared a few thousand times. The number of people following me had tripled and the craziness was just getting started. 24 hours after I posted my video, there were 300,000 tickets reserved. At the end of that weekend, there would be over a million ticket requests.

A contributor from the website Dailydot.com reached out to me, interested in doing a story for their website after seeing the TikTok video. The thing that amused her the most? The fact that a GenX Grandmother was going viral on an app aimed at GenZ and Millenials. Donnie O’Sullivan, a reporter with CNN.com, saw THAT article and reached out to do an interview as well. He went so far as to reach out to Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, and discuss the TikTok video challenge with him. Understandably, Parscale blew it off. And then the rally happened and the stadium was about 2/3 empty.

The rest, as they say, is history. More interviews than I count with news agencies all over the world, a social media platform that has continued to grow (and has me feeling a rather serious sense of responsibility!), death threats, people sending me encouraging messages, people sending me messages in which they wish me severe bodily harm . . . it’s been one wild ride. Then again, this is 2020 so . . . anything could happen!

Let this be a lesson to everyone about social media – you have NO WAY of knowing what might go viral at any given time. Be prepared to back up what you put out there or don’t post it!

#TikTokGrandma Works the Election

If you are reading this on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, then I am working the polls as you read! I’ve always believed in the importance of voting (even local elections – already voted in a school board election earlier this year!) but this is the first I’ve decided to work the polls!

I’m excited. And nervous. And not thrilled about how early I have to get up on Tuesday – I have to be there at 6 a.m. and I am NOT a morning person! It’s gonna be long day – we were told to plan on working till an hour AFTER the polls close – but as far as picking an exciting election to work for my first ever experience . . . wow!

It’s Sunday evening as I’m typing this and, like most of the nation, I have hopes about the outcome of Tuesday. I’m very aware that we may not have a final answer for a couple of weeks depending on how close the race is and taking into account states with regulations that allow for absentee ballots that are postmarked by election day. It’s obvious to anyone watching that emotions are running very, VERY high for many people.

But I’m going to choose to see the positives and they are there believe me.

Nearly every state in the nation is setting records for early in-person voting numbers. Voters between the ages of 18 – 29 are showing up in large numbers to make their voices heard. People often bemoan the fact that just over half of those eligible to vote choose to do so even in a presidential election year. That’s not going to be the case this year.

There are significant number of people who have told me that they have never voted before but they have already voted early this year. Some are still in their 30’s but one woman was in her early 60’s and is casting her first vote ever in a presidential election. That’s huge!

I encourage everyone to simply breathe. If you are a person of faith your job is simple – love EVERYONE. Yes, everyone. There is no escape clause in that commandment. You are to love your neighbor and everyone is your neighbor.