If you use the internet (which you do if you’re reading this article) you have likely heard of Tik Tok. Formerly known as Musically, the popular social media started off as a platform that highlighted fun dances and wacky lip-syncs.

Eventually, the app evolved and started to feature a wide range of content from baking tutorials to politics. The short video format allows people to get their point across in a matter of seconds. Now the app is a hub for all those looking to follow fashion, music, and meme trends.

I downloaded the app in late 2019 as a joke. I was always under the impression that it was filled with cringey content but after a constant stream of texts and links to Tik Toks from friends, I caved and opened the app. Honestly, it was one of the best and worst decisions I have ever made.

The Algorithm

Anyone who has spent more than 30 minutes on the app will tell you that something about Tik Tok is addicting. The answer? The algorithm.

Tik Tok has cracked the code and created a foolproof method to keep you coming back for more. I don’t know how many times I have opened the app before going to bed thinking I’d watch a few videos but five hours later I’m shown a Tik Tok from the app’s official account saying “Wow, you’ve been here long. Why don’t you get some sleep?”

As soon as you open the application it tracks your every move. How many times have you watched a video? Did you like what you saw? Was it worth sharing? These are all things that are being monitored. While this level of observation sounds a little alarming, when you’re actually using the app the content you’re seeing is catered to prevent you from caring.

 It will find your people for you.

The most interesting and unique aspect of Tik Tok is its ability to sort you into communities based on your interests. Who would have known that something called lesbian frog tik tok could take up 20% of my For You Page (FYP)? Art, witchtok, french toast, anime, sports, twitch, there is a never-ending list of topics and groupings that you can belong to. The platform is a place where people with particular niches can find like-minded people.

Not only will the app be able to identify the specific things you enjoy, but it will also note the moment you lose interest in it. Seen too many ASMR videos? No problem. What do you think about cats dressed up as flowers?

Echo chambers

While being able to connect with others that share your particular interests is great, there is a dangerous side to the communities Tik Tok hosts. While many things on the site are harmless, when it comes to politics things can be tricky. 

The app can be a great place to learn how to get involved, but similar to Facebook it can keep you in toxic groups that provide only misinformation.

While I love receiving videos from friends about upcoming protests and important current events that should be on my radar, there are groups of people on the platform that aim only to spread hate. 

The app’s ability to sort people into communities means that any given person will only be exposed to content that aligns with their views. People aren’t often shown things that will challenge their beliefs. I am more than happy to avoid homophobic, xenophobic, and racist content but I worry for younger users of the app that can be exposed to hateful videos and get sucked into intolerant communities.

Pros and cons

Con: There is a lot of misinformation on the app whether it’s about real news or celebrity gossip. Almost every time I hear something that sounds too crazy to be true, a quick google search will prove my assumption correct.

Pro: Tik Tok is a great place for creative people to take the spotlight. Other platforms like Youtube or Snapchat don’t allow artists, musicians, and more to show off their creations to the same effect as Tik Tok. I love finding videos where people share hobbies I have never heard of. Seeing people show off all the things they have made inspires me to be more innovative.

Con: As stated before, the communities the app sorts you into can sometimes keep you trapped in spaces that thrive on negativity. It’s important to remember that whenever you are seeing political content it likely only represents a certain way of thinking. Be careful not to get trapped in groups that spread a message of exclusivity instead of inclusion.

Pro: It can be a great place for small businesses. Because of the way the algorithm works it is likely that your product will get to your intended target market. 

Whether you have a store or make things from your bedroom, you can share your products with people who will appreciate your hard work. I love seeing people sell pottery, crochet sweaters, and jewelry. On Tik Tok, I get exposed to artists and creators that I would never have noticed otherwise.

Your kid and Tik Tok

If your kid is obsessed with Tik Tok you shouldn’t be too worried. Most of the app is just a fun place where people can tell jokes, share music, and still debate whether Bella from Twilight should have ended up with Edward or Jacob. 

The only thing parents can really do is remind their children that not everything they see on this app (or any other social media platform for that matter) is true and that they should stay away from content that prompts intolerance. It will be interesting to see how long Tik Tok lasts in comparison to its predecessors Vine and Musically.  

Don't miss out!
Invalid email address
Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.

About Grace O’Mara

Grace O’Mara is an English major currently attending university in Boston, MA. As well as studying literature, she is working towards earning a minor in writing and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She grew up in Shanghai, China and Prague, Czech Republic and loves to travel. When she isn’t doing school work she spends all of her time reading, watching movies, buying vinyl, and thrifting.

View all posts by Grace O’Mara