As a writer I am very familiar with the sounds of typing. I mean most of us are in modern work right? We send emails, messages, tweets, more emails, documents, to each other constantly and the tool we use to do that is the humble keyboard. Though I've spent a pretty penny buying a nice keyboard, the Logitech G815 if you must know, it's nothing on the amount people are spending on high quality, luxury keyboards these days. And TikTok won't let me forget it.
The For You Page or FYP on TikTok is, as the name suggests, catered to the tastes of the viewer. TikTok's algorithm decides what I do and don't like and 99.9% of the time it's scarily accurate. One topic it sensed I had an interest in is PC gaming (who would have guessed it), and by extension keyboards. Delicious, tactile, softly clicking, keyboards. I love them.
Hearing the soft tip-tip tapping of the keyboards makes my mouth water. It fires off some of the most satisfying endorphins and I've not quite worked out why. I'm not someone who enjoys ASMR creators often but there is something so functionally beautiful and deliriously soothing about hearing keyboards that don't rattle, don't clatter, but pitter patter like the tech equivalent of rainfall. I've fallen deep into loving these keyboards, their switches, and the creators making them without even owning one myself. I'll get round to building my own mechanical keyboard when I have the right amount of money put aside to be a little silly with but for now I just like seeing the enjoyment others get from the product.
I got in touch with one of TikTok's keyboard creators xinxinwong, also known as Patricia, to talk about the hobby and what the platform has done for keyboards. Patricia got into the keyboarding hobby back in 2020 and it quickly became a passion. Her journey is far from ordinary and quite amusing in itself:
"Funny story, but I got an ad on Instagram for this company called Drop," writes Patricia. "I ended up browsing it and realised that custom keyboards were a thing. I wanted a very specific one, white with RGB so I ended up with a Womier. I bought keycaps on Drop, swapped it out, and was in love.
"One day, one of my cats had puked on my board. I was absolutely devastated. Crying, I called a friend who I knew was into keyboards and he walked me through the process of salvaging it. While I was grossed out, it was actually really enjoyable taking the keyboard apart, lubing new switches, and learning how to mod the stabilisers. From there, I knew I wanted to mod and build more boards."
Cat vomit maybe isn't the most ideal way to discover how keyboards work but it quickly became a passion for Patricia. She already worked in web development so was firmly on the tech side of things before finding her love of keyboards. She's now a Twitch partner, streaming both games and keyboard builds. When she has the time and the inspiration she'll also make TikTok content.
"I know a lot of fellow keebtokers due to the nature of working in a niche space but I don't feel like TikTok is my main community. If I have time, I'll make a TikTok featuring a board and I usually try to make TikToks featuring upcoming group buys or in-stock products. In my opinion, it's almost a form of teasing when you showcase a board that you can no longer easily buy."
But TikTok, though it might not be the home to all keyboard enthusiasts, has encouraged many new faces to enjoy the hobby. It's not a cheap hobby, I admit I've not yet invested in building my own board because of that factor, but lots of people have admired it from afar and TikTok is adapting. Patricia says the: "majority of the keyboard community on TikTok has a bigger focus on keyboards that are more affordable and accessible in terms of buying.
"I'd say TikTok has been somewhat positive. To give you some perspective, there are multiple sectors within the keyboard community. There are those that focus on prebuilts/modding them, those who are into mid tier/higher end keyboards, and those who focus on other things related to keyboards like switches/artisans/keycaps.
Switching it up
"TikTok tends to gravitate towards the younger crowd who might not have disposable income, so boards that are more affordable tend to be more popular. I will say that my content focuses more on high end boards, but I have a lot of respect for people that can take prebuilts and spruce them up. TikTok has given a lot of exposure to the world of custom keyboards, drawing more people into the hobby which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it."
And although TikTok is probably a positive force for showing many many people the hobby, it's got its own popularity contest in place. Unless a keyboard is considered a spectacle, or has a deeply satisfying aesthetic or sound, it can be pretty hard for it to find its place on the app.
"TikTok creates trends that people will hyperfocus on so, in a way, it becomes stagnant. Boards that are unique and different in their own way could be rejected on TikTok if it doesn't follow what's popular. Innovation might not always be accepted on TikTok, especially if it's not affordable. That's why you don't normally see designers trying to promote their products on TikTok, it's usually big companies or keyboard vendors.
"Another downside is your content might end up on the wrong side of TikTok. For many people, there's no justifying a $300 keyboard when a $20 [one] does the same thing. You could apply this concept to so many other hobbies but explaining your purchases and hobbies just isn't worth the comment battle sometimes. High end customs are definitely expensive and TikTok can be quick to judge, especially if they don't agree with the price tag. It's one of those things though, you won't know the difference until you've typed on one yourself."
"It's definitely a hobby that I feel like has a higher barrier of entry from a financial standpoint. When starting out, you're usually funding your own content and keyboards can get really expensive. Sometimes it's rough because TikTok seems to have heavy preferences for certain things like sound, so what I end up building might not appeal to the community. I tend to focus on other details of the board (looks, mounting style, internals, group buy details, etc), rather than what the board sounds or feels like since it varies based on the configuration you choose."
Keyboards are expensive and time-consuming. And no doubt the high barrier for entry only encourages people to watch nice keyboard videos more, dreaming of the day that they might be able to own one. Patricia's current favourite keyboard has it all. It's unusual with an alice style layout, it's aesthetically pleasing and it sounds delightful. Alice style keyboards are split down the middle of the keys making typing that little more ergonomic on your wrists as they turn outwards to your hands. You can see and listen to the keyboard on her YouTube and if you're interested in the details of the board, you can check out Patricia's website.
I can't help but want to invest in an expensive keyboard. As one of the most customisable parts of a PC gaming setup, custom keyboards ooze so much personality. And while I can't justify another PC build any time soon, maybe a keyboard build is the sensible second option right? That's what I'm telling myself at least. Till then you'll find me sitting in bed at 2am, listening to the tip-tip-tapping, click-click-clacking of keyboard TikTok.