The teens will save us all. Well, most of them will. Some are participating in the disgusting “Coronavirus Challenge,” which involves licking airplane toilet seats. I’m not talking about those teens.
The teens who will save us are the ones who are using TikTok for good. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. But it’s true. There is a movement of TikTokers (is that what they’re called? I’m old) who are posting videos of fake phone messages and conversations to play and interact with if you are in an Uber or a Lyft and feeling unsafe.
Some of them, like the one above, you can play to simulate a voicemail message from someone you love. Others are one-sided conversations that leave room for you to respond in real time to make it seem like you're talking to a real person. Those often include text that pops up with suggestions for how to respond to each line.
It's pretty brilliant. Most if not all of these fake conversations and messages include lines about how the person is tracking their location or how there's a boyfriend or family member waiting for them to get home.
"I have your location on and I can see you just got into the car," the girl in the above video says. "We were supposed to leave like 15 minutes ago. I'm going to send Stephen outside. He's going to be waiting for you, all right? Call me back. Answer your phone for once. Bye."
It's genius, and I bet it's effective too. There have been way too many news stories of creepy ride share drivers who come on to their passengers, drive them off the route in the opposite direction of their destination, and even kidnap and assault them.
Having a TikTok video in your pocket that you can play out loud for a driver to let them know that someone is waiting for you and tracking your location — even if it's not true — could save lives.
There are all sorts of videos to choose from. Some pretend to be a relative or a boyfriend. There are videos in Irish, English, and Australian accents for those who need. Some even include the FaceTime or phone ringing sound in the beginning to make it seem like you've picked up a call.
It's these tiny details that a driver will hear and register. It might be enough to convince them that what they planned to do is not such a good idea after all.
As I said before, the teens are all right. They know what they're doing. Of course, it's horrible that this is a problem at all, and this clever response is no replacement for the deep cultural changes that must take place to stop things like this from happening.
But it's still encouraging that while some people are using TikTok to perform ill-advised and straight-up dangerous challenges, others are using it to help others, people they don't even know. And while we're in the midst of a pandemic, that's a pretty heartening thing to see.
So, if you are in an Uber or a Lyft, you're feeling unsafe, and you can't get in touch with someone on the phone, know that these TikTok videos are an option. It's a good idea to pick one or two to have in your back pocket and practice using them, especially if it's one that's structured like a two-way conversation.
You want to make it sound and feel as real as possible. As one Twitter user wrote in response to these videos, "The teens are extremely cool and good." Yes, I think they really are.