Young Nepalis, looking for instant fame, flock to TikTokThe app that has captivated over a billion people across the world is now on the phones of millions of Nepalis.
Most Nepalis who are online have come across Tirsana Budhathoki’s videos in one form or the other. She has danced and sung in item songs, done interviews that have drawn controversy on YouTube, and livestreamed her daily routines on Facebook.
These days, Budhathoki can be found on TikTok, the Chinese-made app that allows you to share short video clips. After failing to make it to the top in Nepali entertainment industry, she emigrated to New York, where she now owns a shop. But that hasn’t deterred her from maintaining an online presence.
“TikTok allows me to show my dancing and acting talents. I can put more smiles on people’s faces through my videos, which makes the whole experience meaningful for me,” says Budhathoki, whose TikTok videos do not only go viral, but are mimicked on the platform.
TikTok, like for millions around the world, has become a go-to place for Nepalis who want to express themselves without requiring a formal training or a platform. With more Nepalis having access to phones in recent years, and as the media landscape gradually evolves, many urban Nepalis are taking their lives public on TikTok in hopes of finding attention and stardom.
Since being launched in 2017, TikTok has become one of the most popular video-sharing applications, downloaded by over a billion people. In neighbouring India and China, the app is so popular that the two countries account for 31 percent and 11.5 percent for this year’s downloads.
Reshma Ghimire, who was the first Nepali to be ‘verified’ on the platform, is one example of how TikTokers are influencing the Nepali entertainment industry. With 941.3k followers and 15.6m likes on her TikTok videos, Ghimire has set a benchmark for other TikTok users who are looking to become the next celebrity.
But it’s not only aspiring artists who are using TikTok. From average mobile users to celebrities, everyone seems to be on TikTok these days. But what is so appealing about this Chinese-owned app that has urban Nepalis hooked?
Many Nepalis, like 29-year-old Binod Shrestha, use the platform to create content and share it with their followers.
“I’ve had an interest in acting for a long time and my dancing skills are pretty good. You can combine both these skills on TikTok, so it was a no brainer for me,” says Shrestha.
Because of the instant fame (or notoriety) TikTok brings, aspiring artists are also experimenting with the social media app. In addition to Ghimire, Amita Gurung, Princy Khatiwada, Prisma Khatiwada, Amrit Dahal and Amar Dahal are among those who have become household names on TikTok because of their videos.
Amrit Dahal, a theatre actor, says the fame provided by TikTok has brought him more opportunities. “I was a theatre actor for four years, but it was TikTok that brought me thousands of fans who now know my work,” the 22-year old artist says.
That instant recognition is what has drawn the masses, not just in Nepal, but around the world. Psychologists say such fame, where a growing global audience you never interacted with before are suddenly engaging in your work, is one of the reasons Nepalis are obsessed with it.
“For people who want immediate attention, this platform can be a boon,” says Kripa Sigdel, executive director of Psychibigyan Network Nepal, an organisation that promotes mental health awareness, and a faculty member at the Department of Psychology in Padmakanya Multiple Campus. “Because as human beings, we love getting attention and reward.”
TikTok allows to get instant feedback and reward in the form of likes, shares and comments, which Sigdel says triggers a feeling leading people to engage on such digital platforms for an extended period of time.
The way TikTok’s algorithm works is a contributing factor for its virality. Unlike other applications, on TikTok, you don’t need followers to make sure that your videos are being watched. The algorithm works in a way that shows you a variety of videos from most popular to least-watched videos. It also recommends the videos you may like based on your likes on previous videos.
For Amrit, TikTok is one medium to seek validation for his work—less to feel good about himself and more to find out what people think about his skills. “As an actor, I should know what people think about my craft,” he says. “The comments I receive can teach me things that I need to work on.”
But something else motivates Ghimire, Nepal’s most prolific TikTok artist, who says she immediately hears from her fans if she doesn’t upload videos regularly.
“If I don’t post videos for 2 or 3 days, I receive messages from people asking what’s up,” she says. “This pushes me to constantly create new videos.”