It’s finally Spooky Lake Month

It is Oct. 1 which means it is the best time of the year: Spooky Lake Month.

Screenshot of a TikTok video of Geo talking about the Lake Baikal ecosystem, displaying an image of three species of fish.

This will be the fourth year that Geo Rutherford has put together a series of stories about unusual water features of all kinds for the month of October. She shares biologically unique sites like Lake Baikal, geologically interesting lakes like the Dallol hydrothermal system, manmade environmental catastrophes like the Techa River, a lot of facts about Great Lakes shipwrecks, and Lake Superior’s loneliest lighthouse.

I started using TikTok in 2020, originally consuming Vine-like content — short, silly videos for a quick laugh. That quickly turned into watching short-form essays as TikTok loosened the time restriction on its posts and more creators showed up on the platform sharing their obsessions for all manner of topics.

TikTok gets a lot of unwarranted flak for being home to frivolous content — the similarities to the defunct Vine are superficially obvious. Folks will always be dismissive of people younger than themselves expressing themselves online in ways they find foreign or incompatible with their sensibilities. And there are a lot of harmless TikTok dances and sketches and pranks from that cohort. The kids are alright.

Besides that “old man yells at cloud” attitude, there are legitimate criticisms and nuanced discussions to be had about issues with user data and algorithm-based discovery, the economics of how creators are able to monetize their content, questionable citizen journalism practices, and the often bizarre trends on livestreams that bubble up to manipulate some money from the viewers and the platform.

But beyond (or perhaps underneath) all of that, the parameters of TikTok as a platform have allowed creators with passions of all kinds a venue that they likely would not have had elsewhere. Creators simply weren’t making this type of content in this sort of format on a platform that had this vector of discovery for users. It’s hard to imagine Hank Green riffing on random science questions as effectively on Tumblr, or Spooky Lake Month’s short-form content finding success on YouTube.

That means I gets to enjoy a month’s worth of videos on a topic of one artist’s personal obsession, which I definitely can’t imagine having happened elsewhere. And that means I now know just how bizarre Lake Baikal really is.