TikTok has become one of the most popular social media platforms to date since its emergence in August 2018, with about 1.1 billion users worldwide, according to Brandastic. Its continuous loop of short videos can range from dancing challenges to pranks, and this variety is what makes the app so popular. However, certain content within the app promotes insecurity and self-hate to its young, impressionable users. While TikTok’s positive influence is undeniable, there are also underlying consequences that directly affect our generation.
Let’s be clear, TikTok isn’t all bad. Everyone has the ability to go viral on the app, which is especially helpful to anyone from small, independent artists to up-and-coming local businesses. The app promotes easy advertising and a space for artists to find a community of people who enjoy their work, thanks to the “For You” page. These are only some of the reasons why TikTok has become so popular, but you can’t have the good without the bad.
Among TikTok’s many challenges are some that become popular largely because of the beauty of the people who take part in it. Challenges like the stargazing trend involve people laying on their bed and looking up at their ceiling, showing off their chiseled jawlines and “perfect” facial profile. This challenge, among others, ultimately can lead to people comparing themselves to popular users, creating insecurities they didn’t even know they had.
Although these challenges don’t require that the participant be ridiculously attractive, the individual videos that go viral are often the ones from creators who have made a following based solely off their beauty. The creators could be genuinely good people, but their presence alone can subconsciously breed beauty standards in younger users who may begin to believe they need to look a certain way to be noticed.
There are other instances where TikTok’s own community guidelines can cause people to feel ashamed of what they look like. Toriana Rollins, senior media arts and design major, identified a trend that disproportionately removes content created by plus-sized people while the same kind of content remains on the platform after it’s posted by those who more closely fit “accepted” beauty standards.
“Plus-size people try to embrace themselves, but TikTok won’t let them use the platform to do that,” Rollins said.
Along with creating insecurities, TikTok often supports a self-deprecation style of humor that leads to further self-hatred within the impressionable 16-24 year old audience, which makes up about 60% of the users, according to Brandastic. This humor may be generally popular because many people perceive it as relatable and share it with their friends. However, this can only prolong peoples’ negative feelings about themselves. Although these remarks are often in the context of jokes, people’s negative beliefs may be reinforced by all the likes and comments they get and those they see others get.
TikTok also ruins the attention span of its users, according to Federal Computer Week (FCW). With continuous content that can be accessed at the swipe of a finger, users can swipe for hours without noticing. This endless swiping trains the brain to judge the significance of things in the first 15 seconds of its discovery, according to FCW. This short attention span and quick-to-judge attitude can bleed into everyday activities, according to FCW, possibly leading to impatience and inattentiveness at jobs, schooling and even during conversations, schooling and even during conversations. Fresh content is only a swipe away, making it that much harder to take your eyes off the screen. There’s no need to search for something specific, like TV channel scrolling or YouTube video surfing.
TikTok isn’t harmful enough to need an immediate ban from all app stores in the world, but it’s worth noting all the negative impacts it has on the young, impressionable users of its platform.