I want to unpack the pros surrounding TikTok. As a TikTok enthusiast, I’ve seen a lot of great things come out of this app, but I will highlight my favorites here.
Community: Any social app creates a sense of community. It allows you to digitally connect with friends, family and strangers with a few clicks of a button. However, I think TikTok really excels at creating niche communities for people to join and participate in. For example, I’ve recently seen a huge wave of medical professionals creating informative, funny videos about their jobs and health facts. As you continue to watch TikTok, the algorithm recognizes the ones you like and will begin to customize your FYP, or For You Page, to certain themes and topics that you seem to enjoy. Once you get over that initial hump of watching, you will find people, places and topics that interest you!
Entertainment: It seems silly that an app can create an infectiously entertaining and positive environment, but TikTok does it! Do you ever watch Vine compilations or wistfully wish Vine was still alive? Many in our generation can recognize Vine quotes from popular videos at the drop of a hat. TikTok is so similar and creates the same kind of entertainment and humor that our generation thrives upon.
There’s always pushback when it comes to a social media app. People think social media can create a toxic environment for one’s mental and intellectual development. The arguments facing TikTok have been no different, and even more aggressive than I’ve seen against other social media apps. Here’s a few reasons to steer clear of TikTok.
Time: Time can fly when you use TikTok. As you scroll through videos, it’s easy to spend hours on the app and ignore that homework you’ve been putting off. For some reason, TikTok seems to occupy users’ time more than other social media apps. If you begin creating TikToks, this may consume you even more. Be careful not to fall into the trap of endless scrolling.
Discouraging: I don’t think TikTok alone struggles with this, but it can be really difficult to see others thriving on social media and not feel the same way about your life. I’m not sure what to call this other than feeling some sense of FOMO or discouragement that your life is not as perfect as others’. I think TikTok can create a similar problem. Some people may seem prettier, funnier or more perfect than you. Just keep in mind that no one lives a perfect life, and don’t let it discourage you.
I love TikTok. I think it’s a fun app where people can share wild, humorous and weird videos. And while I don’t make any videos, I have my favorites shared in order to show my many friends who refuse to download the app.
But I also know that, like with any social media site, there is a dark side.
To understand the dark side, we have to start by understanding privacy laws in the U.S. Of course, that’s like asking someone to read a book in a foreign language they don’t understand. Generally, the right to privacy is protection from embarrassment, your right to your personhood and protection from emotional harm. Pretty simple.
If only it were that straight forward. In this digital age, social media apps, like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, are getting around privacy protections and tracking and profiling users for data. The most famous case of this was in 2018 with the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Facebook is not the only site to get in trouble. TikTok has also gotten in trouble for collecting data without user consent. This time it was children’s data.
Children have a bit more privacy protection; “the FTC stated in its complaint that TikTok violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) rules by failing to provide direct notice to parents, failing to obtain consent from parents before collecting personal information, and failing to notify the children’s parents about the app’s collection and use of their personal information,” according to Kiara Ortiz in the article “Underage Social Media Usage and COPPA.”
While this doesn’t really affect college-aged students, I think it is important to note because it’s just more proof that privacy laws in the digital age need to change.
This wasn’t written to get you off TikTok. I still use the app daily. Rather, being informed is an important part of being a member of the internet community, and that means knowing the dark side too.