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'3rd World' Is Popping Up All Over TikTok, but What Does the Term Mean?

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Sep. 23 2021, Published 10:37 a.m. ET

The language of TikTok can be highly alienating, in part because new slang pops up on the social platform at an incessant pace. "3rd World" is just the latest piece of slang that has appeared on the platform, and it's accompanied by a strange hand gesture that involves putting three fingers up. Now, TikTok users want to know what it means.

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What does '3rd World' mean on TikTok?

In most contexts, the idea of the third world is one that arose during the Cold War, and is used to describe the nations that were not aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union. It is still used in some contexts to describe those countries, which typically include many countries in places like Africa and South America. It can also be used derisively to refer to countries that are less developed or advanced technologically.

rd world meaning tiktok
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On TikTok, though, the term's meaning is slightly different. Instead of describing a part of the world, "3rd World" has no concrete meaning at all on TikTok. Instead, the term is just used to refer to the song "3rd World Free Boski Turnt Up" by Lil Blood Feat. Lil Goofy. In the song, Lil Blood repeats "3rd World" over and over again, and now users on TikTok are doing the same thing.

The phrase is part of the 3rd World Challenge.

As it turns out, 3rd World isn't just a phrase on TikTok, it's also a challenge. The challenge involves recording a video set to the song, and passing the phone between people as you record it. Each time Lil Blood says "3rd World," you're supposed to pass the phone. The challenge is designed to be silly and fun, and has little to do with what the term usually means.

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It's possible, and perhaps even likely, though, that Lil Blood was using the term in the way it's often used. Many of the people on TikTok who are taking part in the challenge may not be aware of why he's using the term. For most of them, it seems that the song is really just an excuse to goof off and film a pretty frivolous video with their friends.

Source: TikTok
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TikTok is the engine behind many popular songs.

Lil Blood's track is just the latest to get a boost thanks to its use on TikTok. In the past, artists like Olivia Rodrigo have launched into the mainstream after their music was first discovered by the young people who dominate the social media platform. TikTok's ability to make a musician's career speaks to the way that the music business has changed since the beginning of the 21st century.

"3rd World" may not catch on in quite the same way that "Driver's License" did, but TikTok is undoubtedly driving the conversation around what music winds up being popular. Being part of a harmless challenge that is taking over the platform may seem unimportant, but it could be a major boost for any artist who isn't already a superstar. TikTok has transformed music, and that's not the only space where it's been hugely influential.

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