TikTok's 'virtual grandad' Brian Smith explains why he has 1.7m followers

Brian Smith has become an expected star of TikTok with 1.7m followers and 22m likes on his videos.
Credit: ITV News Anglia
Brian Smith has become an unexpected TikTok star Credit: ITV News Anglia

A Tiktoking pensioner who has racked up 1.7m followers says he is a "virtual grandad to hundreds of people".

Brian Smith has plenty of regular hobbies - including gardening, puzzles and reading a good book - but his love of technology led him to download the social media app "to see what it is".

At first, he dismissed it as simply "young people dancing" but soon found himself flicking through the videos each day - and clicking on the upload button.

"There I was looking at my face," he said. "And I said 'I'm about 100 years older than everybody else here but it means I know quite a lot - what do you want to know?'

"I thought no one will ever want to see it - why would anyone want to see an old British bloke? But to my amazement it got thousands and thousands of views."

Since then it has "spiralled in the most amazing way", according to retired teacher Mr Smith, with each video getting thousands, or even tens of thousands, of views.

He has 1.7m followers and 22m likes across his hundreds of videos.

"No one is more surprised than me," he insists.

The grandfather-of-four, from Peterborough, said his TikTok fame had given him a much greater appreciation for young people - who he said were often misunderstood.

"This generation, the current teenagers and young people, they get more criticism than most and I was thinking [they have] short attention spans and this, that and the other," he said.

"It's the opposite. They are as good a generation as any that's been before. They are interested, they are caring, they are concerned. They ask sensible questions.

"I really have been amazed at Generation Z. They are brilliant."

Mr Smith's TikToks cover a wide range of subject - often in response to a question from one of his younger followers.

Topics range from explanations about pre-decimal money to artificial intelligence "chatbot" ChatGPT.

He introduces someone called Ethan whom he meets for a chat on the train back from London and shares his musings on climate change.

And his followers lap it up.

"I really like your glasses also u have a really soothing voice," said one fan in response to his very first video in March 2021.

Another asks: "Whose grandad is this and please can I borrow him?"

They ask for career advice, reassurance about the future, and Mr Smith has even turned grief counsellor to a follower whose mum had recently died.

"The younger generation like talking to the older generation," said the former primary school teacher.

"I suppose their family are too close and possibly too critical whereas I'm a benign chap who talks about this and that and I tell them about things I'm interested in and what it was like when I was young. "I'm a virtual grandfather to hundreds of people."

And he clearly appreciates them as much as they appreciate him.

Despite a busy social life and close family, the 77-year-old uploads a new video every couple of days.

He said he found the comments and engagement rewarding.

"They keep me going," he said. "I have a normal real-life social life. But there's also this amazing online social life that the majority of my generation, they are not aware it's going on.

"Although it's virtual, it's no less real. It's very much the world that young people are living in."

Mr Smith's TikTok handle is @Brian..Smith.

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