Crying on TikTok: Meet Ollie Tyler, the designer of the viral social media filter
At some point around May of this year, everyone seemed to get a lot sadder. Across social media, everyone suddenly seemed to be beyond the point of tears. Horrific crying faces populated every platform.
Yes, the world is in dire shape these days, but the real reason everyone seemed so upset was a brand new filter making waves. The sad eyes filter was just the latest hit from creative technologist Ollie Tyler.
When you think of the biggest social media influencers, the names Salt Bae, Candy daddy and PewDiePie might come to mind. However, behind those influencers is the massive influence of the technological trends that give creators a new tool.
The invisible influencer
Tyler may not be a familiar face, although he has a not-impressive 100,000 followers on TikTok. However, the filters he created certainly made them famous.
The origin of the sad eyes filter is actually an audio clip from an episode of the British children’s television show ‘The Story of Tracy Beaker’.
In the clip, Tracy claims she’s not crying and just suffering from hay fever.
“This is the perfect time for augmented reality,” Tyler thought as he watched the clip. “I had already sorted the audio and then I got the visual of Brendan Fraser crying.”
“As soon as I put it on TikTok, it kind of flew the algorithm,” Tyler recalls.
Getting a hit filter is both an art and a science, Tyler explains. He began managing brand campaigns for major clients before moving on to work on his own augmented reality filters. The first few filters he designed were “yes or no” filters, where each side of the screen is colored and you can ask if you recognize a song.
“It was my first real experiment to latch onto a trend or something I saw in the TikTok algorithm and try to plug it into an AR filter,” says Tyler.
Other tricks include making sure the filter reaches the seven second mark, which supposedly increases your chances of a viral hit.
“With TikTok, it’s so important to link your filters to trends and sounds because it’s really a platform of trends. It’s not about individual people, or who you follow. It’s more about following these waves and cycles of the trends that appear,” he says.
The success of the filters meant that Tyler could focus on creating AR filters and creative technologies full time. Splitting his time between the UK and the US, Tyler worked on a double filter, a red flag filter and other trends.
He was also created tnySociala platform for brands to build their own random filters without getting a dedicated developer.
Filters for fun
Creating filters is a fun hobby that Tyler managed to turn into a whole career. But is anything off limits to what he will turn into a filter?
“I try to avoid anything on the beauty side and the body dysmorphia side of filters,” he says.
“I feel that with Gen Z and social media, we’re constantly consuming FaceApps and face-voiced representations of people that aren’t actually accurate. I feel it really affects people’s mental health.”
“It’s not a great thing for people to constantly see things that give them plastic surgery, and look super unrealistic. So I stay away from that completely. I don’t want to associate with that side of AR, which is the mental health of the next generation weakened.”
Tyler’s latest project is called Tapaday. This is an application that leads from be real but instead of giving users a shared moment to take a snapshot of their day, it gives its users a random video game every day to try and compete with their friends.
“You see a lot of people complaining online about how they want to play this game but don’t have 10 hours to get into it. It’s a little 60 second mini-game every day,” Tyler explains.
“It’s another fun way to stay connected with friends.”