by Greg Schwem

OK, China, you win. You’ve successfully infiltrated my TikTok and, in turn, my movements and my dreams. Happy?
I didn’t want to believe it. In fact, I laughed when Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation banning TikTok from mobile devices in that state, a move that will take effect Jan. 1 but is expected to be challenged in court. I laughed because I’ve been to parts of Montana where there is literally nothing to do except watch videos of wedding pranks gone awry and 30-minute Instant Pot recipes. Ban TikTok in San Diego. It’s 75 and sunny there every day. Residents should be able to find something else to do.
The first inkling I had that TikTok was watching me occurred this summer in Alaska. I’d been planning a day hike in Skagway, a panhandle town popular with cruise ship passengers. Nothing too strenuous, I texted Mike, a friend who had visited Skagway multiple times and knew the trails. Just a path I could traverse solo without getting lost. That happened once, doubling my 5-mile hike in the process.
He offered suggestions and, that morning, I prepared to tackle Lower Dewey Lake, although “tackle” may be overstating things.
“That’s the easy hike,” Mike said.
While eating breakfast I was casually scrolling TikTok, where, for the first time since I joined the platform, I was greeted by video after video of hikers.
Being chased by bears.
I have to hand it to TikTok; at least the videos offered some variety. I saw black bears, brown bears, grizzly bears, momma bears protecting cubs and daddy bears that just looked ravenous. The only thing they had in common is that all were staring at, and advancing on, hikers too stupid to do anything other than record the encounters with their iPhones.
“Don’t move, kids. Honey, don’t make a sound,” I heard one assumed husband and father say as he zoomed in on a furry beast.
“Don’t move, kids?” What kind of a vacation comes with that command? And what would happen if the wife did make a sound, like saying, “I knew marrying this idiot was a bad idea,” under her breath?
I elected to hike the trial anyway, but happily followed any sign that said “shortcut” or a synonym thereof. I completed the hike in about 30 minutes, but it was not without pain. My neck was very sore from constantly turning around to see what species of bear was following me.
A month later I dreamed I was eating dinner with Taylor Swift.
It was a quick dream; I remember we were dining al fresco and sushi was the main course. The dream also included me recounting the dinner to a friend, who demanded proof. Sadly, all of the videos I shot during our meal were of sushi. But I could hear Taylor’s voice in the background.
“That enough proof?” I asked my skeptical friend.
The dream went poof instantly, as dreams often do. I don’t even know if Taylor ordered extra wasabi, offered to pay the check, or had me beaten up by the football dude she is currently dating. What I do know is that, the following morning, my TikTok feed was full of everything Taylor Swift.
There was live concert footage from her Eras tour, Taylor singing at 11 years old, Taylor watching the boyfriend catch passes while wearing his jersey. Until now not a single Taylor Swift video had permeated my feed. Suddenly, I couldn’t get rid of her.
I am beginning to think TikTok doubles as my crystal ball or Ouija board. Perhaps I should consult it before venturing out, for it seems to know what potentially awaits me.
Which is why, as I write this column in a Los Angeles hotel room, I am afraid to leave the premises.
For, according to TikTok, I will either find myself at a gender reveal, or encounter an abandoned dog and her puppies.
Neither sounds particularly appealing. I may just have an Uber driver take me to San Diego.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: “Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad” and the recently released “The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian,” available at Visit Greg on the web at
You’ve enjoyed reading, and laughing at, Greg Schwem’s monthly humor columns in Senior Living News. But did you know Greg is also a nationally touring stand-up comedian? And he loves to make audiences laugh about the joys, and frustrations, of growing older. Watch the clip and, if you’d like Greg to perform at your senior center or senior event, contact him through his website at

mailto:[email protected]