The dysfunctions of TikTok

I have had TikTok since 2019, which could be considered the start of its rise in current popular social media apps. When I first got it, it was something you would be embarrassed to tell people that you had. It was seen as an app for little kids who posted childish things. The humor on the app was a lot different and had a different approach than on other social media apps.

TikTok also used to be an app called Musical.ly, which consisted of fast motion, lip-syncing videos that people used to make fun of. So, at the beginning, everyone associated Musical.ly with TikTok. But now it has become something that almost everyone has, and that comes with a few of its downfalls.

Something that I have noticed a lot recently is people using trends on TikTok to make jokes about serious world issues. I remember scrolling a couple of months ago, and I saw a video about what someone would do to distract Vladimir Putin. This was a response to the events happening in Ukraine. Instead of being funny, it was just insensitive to those who are personally dealing with the impacts of what Putin is doing.

They use the excuse that they are using it to cope, but they are coping with issues that do not affect them. This can be extremely harmful to those who are actually affected because the issue is not taken as seriously as it should be. This can also lead to misinformation on what is going on.

Another issue that I have with this platform is “chronically online” users. This is not specifically a TikTok issue, but I see it all the time. People will comment on posts about how someone is being offensive based on what they heard “should” be offensive. Essentially, they use only the information that they have learned from TikTok to form opinions and make judgments on others’ actions. This becomes an issue because users will make dangerous assumptions that contribute to cancel culture. It also leads to people not being able to form opinions outside of TikTok.

Though trends can be fun, they can also lead to people doing dangerous and illegal things. A couple of months ago there was a huge trend on the app dedicated to stealing things from school. It was seen as a funny thing, but schools were having to pay to replace soap dispensers, mirrors, doors, and paper towel dispensers. This not only impacts schools having to replace things, but also students who are not participating losing privileges due to the extreme measures the schools had to take.

The app itself is designed to be addictive with its endless scrolling and algorithm. Every single video you watch (no matter how long you watch it for) and what you do with that video, like it, share it, comment on it, is put into the algorithm to decide what videos you want to see. This makes you want to stay on the app longer since you get to see videos you like that match your interests.

Along with their endless scrolling feature, you have an endless stream of videos that pique your interest and make you watch the videos for hours. I will be the first to admit that I am addicted to the app. I have tried to delete it multiple times so that it does not distract my schoolwork. But every time I do, I am always reaching for short videos to watch when I have a few minutes of free time.

TikTok has created a culture of “right now” content: content you can get immediately when you get on the app and that you do not need a long time to consume. Although other apps have done similar things to these short videos, like Vine, TikTok has done it in a way where the first thing you see when you open the app is a video that takes up the whole page and is content that you want to see. My attention span has become shorter due to using the app so much. Why watch a movie when you can decide if you like a TikTok in 10 seconds or less?

I still use TikTok despite its many faults, but it is important to recognize that it can have negative impacts on its users and others. The app can be entertaining and a fun way to communicate with your friends.

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