If you’re like me, you may have downloaded the TikTok social media app at the beginning of lockdown in 2020 “to see what all the fuss was about”.
Like me, you also might have become hooked, once you figured it all out. Unlike Instagram, TikTok is entirely made up of short videos. It enables users to make their own videos using sound-clips for background music or lip syncing.
For many, the social media stream is a consistent source of entertainment.
Funny cat videos? They’ve got ‘em. Cute babies? Yes, those too. You can watch people cook (and eat!) their dinner, rate takeaways, try new dance challenges or prank their siblings.
But there is another more educational side to TikTok. Farmers – and this includes many Irish farmers – have taken to the platform to show users their farms and way of life. To other farm folk, this might seem mundane.
To someone who has never seen a working farm in real life – or who has, perhaps, watched too many Netflix documentaries about the dairy industry, it provides a real-time opportunity to learn about agriculture in a positive and entertaining way.
Talking to calves
This is what Fiona Bergin discovered, anyway. The 23-year-old actor grew up on her family’s beef farm in the southeast of the country and, after finishing secondary school, attended the Gaiety School of Acting’s two year, full-time programme.
When lockdown began, she created a TikTok account out of boredom, but soon garnered a huge following for the hilarious videos of her daily experiences with farm jobs and animals.
Now, Fiona has a TikTok following of over 250,000 and has amassed over six million likes on her content. Irish Country Living caught up with the budding comedian to get her take on being “TikTok famous”.
“My first video was at the start of all the lockdowns, I was looking for some way to entertain myself,” she says. “It was a video of myself giving out to the calves for not social distancing! My aim has always been to make someone laugh and make their day brighter. If I educate people about farming along the way, that’s fantastic.”
Making farming funny
Calves are the starring animal in most of Fiona’s videos, though she also features other animals around the farmyard. Much of her content centres around her self-deprecating sense of humour; often making fun of the fact that she has full-blown conversations with the livestock.
Other times, she might make joking references to her father or brother, who also work on the farm. She says when it comes to agri-TikTok, a bit of banter, comedy and most importantly entertainment is the key to success.
“I live by the fact that happiness and having a laugh are key components to life,” she explains.
“What’s life without a good, hearty laugh? I’ve always been quite the character – I love to mimic and do silly accents to give myself and others a giggle. My phone was always full of videos of my antics. I randomly began to upload them all and – hey – people seemed to enjoy them!”
When it comes to more politicised topics (like amplifying the voices of female farmers and talking about farm succession) she also feels social media can play a strong role in creating societal understanding and change. In her view, the more women farmers out there sharing their stories, the better.
“I live by, ‘don’t keep talking about it; do it,’” she says. “Women, as we do, just go out and do the work; we prove every day we are just as capable in agriculture. I think Katie Shanahan, Louise Crowley and Sophie Bell do an excellent job of representing female farmers on social media.
“You can never have too many farmers educating people,” she continues. “However, privacy is a huge thing and I completely understand when farmers want to keep their work lives private – social media isn’t for everyone.”
With her ever-growing TikTok audience, Fiona often sees her social media and acting careers collide. She just finished a short film dedicated to a survivor of the mother and baby homes called Shamed, and says updates for the film will be posted on her social media streams. On a lighter note, she says her social media streams have gained her a bit of notoriety in the wider acting world.
“It can be funny arriving on set for an acting job and the director might recognise me from making videos, talking to animals,” she laughs.
“I guess they can make me memorable, in a sense.
“I’m fully trained in all aspects of acting, but I love the buzz of live theatre and I love camera acting.”
Find Fiona on Instagram @fionaberginnn or TikTok @fionabergin
While Fiona says she has received some negative comments and reactions to her TikTok videos, she chooses instead to focus and respond to the overwhelming amount of positive reactions from her followers.
“I get negativity from people who misunderstand the farming industry, in particular,” she says.
“I would describe myself as a fiery character; however, I also say, ‘Why would I reply and give attention to those who took time to be negative?’
Instead I put my energy into responding to those who are so positive and lovely.
“The most memorable interactions are always in real life, when someone says, “Your videos make my day.” That honestly warms my heart,” she adds.