TikTok, known for its memes and trends, is believed to have one billion users worldwide. Following news of a potential ban in the US, Linda Stewart talks to local users who prove the hugely popular app isn't just for teenagers.
Software company chief operations officer Serena Terry (34), from Londonderry, is a mum-of-two who is married to refuge worker Mark (35) and has amassed nearly 80,000 followers after posting short comedy videos as Mammy Banter after the start of lockdown.
"Like everybody else, it was lockdown, my daughter was using it and I kept seeing funny videos on Facebook and people sharing them. I opened up a bottle of wine one night and that was it," she says.
"The first thing I did was a voiceover of the Derry Girls soundtrack and then I put it on Facebook and people were roaring with laughter. My daughter was so embarrassed, she said 'I can't believe you're doing this to me, why are you doing this to me?'
"Two weeks later I had 5,000 followers, and then it was 10,000 and then 50,000. And now it's nearly 80,000. I've had 1.8 million likes and 5.5 million views in the last 28 days."
After a few weeks, Serena stopped doing voiceovers and started performing her own material.
"I started seeing people doing original stuff and I thought I could do that - it was just a bit of a laugh," she says.
"I did one about throwing Kinder at my kid when I was on a conference call.
"Really, 95% of my posts are comedy but I've done a couple about mental health - it's okay not to be okay, and raising mental health awareness, being happier in your own skin and having a laugh and making the best of it.
"Covid has been such a hard time and I've been lucky enough to keep my job, but it had its own challenges. I found a lot of mums related to what I was doing and what I was saying.
"I would try to do my own spin on things, like a localised variation of something on TikTok but based in Derry or Northern Ireland, or I'd do a parody on influencers. For example, if you're an ordinary mum you don't feed your children flax seeds and you don't do yoga in the morning ... you do what you can to get them through the day."
After discovering TikTok at the start of lockdown, Serena found she was much happier on it than on most other social media, getting away from the 'life is perfect' approach of Instagram and finding a social media platform that was more relatable.
"It was real people talking about real life situations and scenarios, warts and all," she says.
"It was refreshing to be on a social media platform where you connect with people, not because of the likes of houses and objects - it's more about personality.
"It's so enjoyable for me - I'd recommend it to anybody that is sick of what social media is telling them they should be.
"I've made so many friends on it too."
Serena says the mooted ban by the US government of the Chinese-owned app isn't justified at all. President Donald Trump's executive order prohibits transactions with TikTok's owner ByteDance from mid-September, following concerns that the firm could pass US users' data to the Chinese government - ByteDance has denied doing this. TikTok, meanwhile, has gone to court to challenge the ban, stating that move was motivated by politics and not national security.
Serena believes that there is so much enjoyment and fulfilment to be found on the app, however, and she has been pleasantly surprised by its popularity in recent months.
"The company I work for is a digital health company and a lot of what we do is about improving lives and social prescribing and creating connections," she says.
"It was interesting to see the demographic that joined TikTok during lockdown.
"I see over-60s on there having the time of their life. I do think TikTok was a bit of a lifeline for people and a way for people who were self isolating to be able to have this new community of comedy in real life.
"If anybody has never tried it but has found themselves moving away from mainstream social media like Facebook or Instagram and feel TikTok is just for kids, it really isn't.
"You're only presented with content that you approve.
"You're never hit with images of stunning size zero women, unless you ask for it."
Slawek Kalkraut (34) and Krzysztof Szymanski (35), aka Men With The Pot, have been named among the first recipients of a new £54 million TikTok Creator Fund aimed at helping them to turn their creativity into a career. The two bartenders cook delicious meals over a fire in the forests around Fermanagh where they live and work.
Slawek is originally from Rybnik in Poland, is married to Zaneta and has two children, Thiago (2) and Pascal (7). Krzysztof is from Dabrowa Gornicza in Poland, is married to Dagmara and has two children, Ksawier (7) and baby Oscar.
The pair have been living in Fermanagh for 13 or so years and met each other through a mutual friend about 10 years ago.
"We always had a passion for cooking - we barbecued quite often and had campfires, things like that," Slawek says. "A year ago we decided to take it further."
Krzysztof says the first time they videoed their cooking process, they were cooking Jack Daniels-glazed pork ribs over a fire, and he admits the first video was very amateurish.
"But we quickly realised it was something we wanted to do and we had a brilliant response from our friends on social media," he says. They first posted their videos on Facebook and Instagram, but launched their TikTok account in April and have even started posting on YouTube this summer.
"We started our TikTok account in mid-April and ever since our numbers have been growing by thousands in a single day. We had a really positive response every single day," Slawek says. "We have around 45 videos on TikTok and we already have 1.4 million followers. We were quite amazed. Our most popular dish, with 50 million views, was primavera chicken, where you make small cuts into the chicken, stuff them with cheese and onion and bake with cheese."
The pair admit they often find the dishes aren't as simple as they'd expected and the weather isn't always ideal for an outdoor cooking session.
And they've even had an encounter with the long arm of the law, although it was quickly resolved when they explained what they were doing. "One day we were visited by the police because someone thought we were burning rubbish in the forest and they called the police," Slawek says. "But when we go through the forest we have a firepit with us and we don't burn a fire directly on the ground. We don't leave any trace behind us - we want to leave everything as we found it.
"But the police over here are grand and we explained everything and invited them to eat with us. There were no issues or penalties."
On another occasion, they were visited by an inquisitive deer. "It didn't come that close but it was wondering what are those two lads doing in the forest," Slawek laughs.
They usually cook well away from car parks and roads, often in the woods around the border, such as the forest area near the village of Pettigo. The pair usually bring all their ingredients with them, although they have used foraged mushrooms in their scrambled eggs and wild berries for sauces. They say they are absolutely blown away by having been chosen for the TikTok fund.
"It's incredible, really mind blowing. We never expected that we were going to be in this position where Tik Tok announced us as an ambassador for the fund," Slawek says.
He says they were talking about applying to the fund when they heard about it and the next day they received an email from TikTok to say they had been chosen as ambassadors.
"They only chose nine people and it was a huge honour. We hope it's going to be career changing for us," he says.
Krzysztof says they used their time during lockdown to plan what they were doing and put together lots of content for TikTok while complying with the lockdown requirements.
"We had a lot of time to think about it and we tried to use that time wisely, follow the rules and do what we do best," he says.
"It's the most growing platform in the world right now."
Slawek adds: "It's going to be huge."
Krzysztof says people are so busy these days and don't have the time to enjoy the simple things in life. "Thanks to TikTok we can show them that simplicity matters. The TikTok fund will allow us to chase our dreams, focus on what matters to us and I can guarantee that you will hear about Men With The Pot much more often. We have plenty planned for the future, so stay tuned," he says.
Social media consultant Ruth Young (37), from Ballinderry, is a mum-of-one, married to service engineer Kai (37), and runs Ruthless Media.
She began exploring TikTok around December and January with her Ruthless Media account as a potential business application for client companies and began making videos to discover the potential of the app. "I thought this TikTok thing isn't going away and it's not just for young people," she says. "Because I work with businesses to support them in their social media, what I wanted was to be clued in to help with potential Tik Tok applications. So I began having a wee bit of fun with it."
Her videos are a mix of TikTok trends - lip synching, dances and also using the platform to illustrate some of her PR tips.
"Some of the videos have been mostly lip synching, using sound bites from TV shows or other TikTok users and adding my own twist to it," she says.
"Or I duetted myself doing a popular TikTok dance, but I did it in a really dull and boring way and then in duet it was much more vibrant and exciting - it was a demonstration of how you can add personality to your content to create engaging content.
"Next week we've got a programme for young people based around mental health and resilience but using TikTok as a tool to build creativity, confidence, communication and also thinking about job skills.
"One of the activities will be creating a digital CV with TikTok - it's more to give young people that sense of understanding of how to express themselves and being confident in the knowledge, skills and experience that they have as well."
Before setting up her social media consultancy, Ruth had worked in the community not-for-profit sector and had used social media to build networks and communities. She found what she really loved doing was social media and training and she combined the two to help businesses that were designing their social media operation.
She has now amassed more than 500 followers on TikTok and her most popular video was one lip synching Donald Trump as he starts to make a speech and descends into speeded-up gibberish - it earned almost 40,000 views.
"Humour seems to resonate with a lot more people - it's much more creative and expressive," Ruth says. "My followers have grown quite quickly over the last few weeks. I was just dabbling with it to get familiar with the social technology and software but, at the same time, it's not for the followers - it's more for a bit of craic and a bit of learning for my own following."
Ruth believes TikTok is more than just dancing and lip synching.
"It provides a lot of support for a lot of people," she says. "I see people on there talking about mental health, I see psychologists there who are a great support for people who are going through certain situations.
"It would be a great shame to ban it, because generally speaking it's a positive place. I reckon if you were to ban it, you would have to ban every platform.
"It's a really good place to be creative and create positive messages - it generally is a positive place to be."