Crying on TikTok: Meet Ollie Tyler, the designer of the viral social media filter

Ollie Tyler's many TikTok filters
Ollie Tyler's many TikTok filters   -   Copyright  Ollie Tyler
By Jonny Walfisz

At some point around May this year, everyone seemed to get quite a lot sadder. Across social media, suddenly everyone seemed to be beyond the point of tears. Hideous weeping faces populated every platform.

Yes, the world is in a dire state these days, but the real reason everyone looked 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, Scumbag Dad and PewDiePie may come to mind. Behind those influencers though is the massive influence of the technological trends giving creators a new tool.

The unseen influencer

Tyler may not be a famous face, although he does have a not unimpressive 100,000 followers on TikTok. However, the filters he has created certainly have made themselves known.

The origin of the sad eyes filter is actually a sound clip from an episode of the UK children’s TV show ‘The Story of Tracy Beaker’.

In the clip, Tracy claims she’s not crying and is just suffering hay fever.

“This is the perfect time for augmented reality,” Tyler thought, watching the clip. “I already had the sound sorted and then I sourced the visual from Brendan Fraser crying.”

“Once I posted it on TikTok, it sort of flew with the algorithm,” Tyler recalls.

Getting a hit filter is both an art and a science, Tyler explains. He started out managing brand campaigns for major clients before branching out into working on his own augmented reality filters. The first few filters he designed were “yes or no” filters, where each side of the screen is colour tinted and you can answer prompts asking if you recognise a song.

“That was my real first experiment into hooking onto a trend or something I’ve seen in the TikTok algorithm and trying to tie that into an AR filter,” Tyler says.

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 tie your filters into trends and sounds, because it really is 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 has meant Tyler has been able to focus on creating AR filters and creative technologies full-time. Splitting his time between the UK and the US, Tyler has worked on a doubloons filter, a red flag filter and other trends.

He’s also created tnySocial, a platform for brands to build their own randomiser filters without having to get a dedicated developer.

Filters for fun

Creating filters is a fun hobby that Tyler has managed to turn into an entire career. But is there anything off limits for what he’d turn into a filter?

“I try to avoid doing anything on the beauty side and the body dysmorphia side of filters,” he says.

“I feel like with Gen Z and social media, we're constantly consuming FaceApps and face tuned representations of people that aren't actually accurate. I feel like that really plays on people's mental health."

“It's not a great thing for people to be constantly seeing things that give them plastic surgery, and look super unrealistic. So I completely steer clear of that.I don't want to associate with that side of AR, which is deteriorating the mental health of the next generation.”

Tyler’s latest project is called Tapaday. It’s an app that takes cues from BeReal, 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. This is a tiny 60 second mini game every single day,” Tyler explains.

"It’s another fun way to stay connected with friends."