You may have seen TikTok videos played across other social platforms like Instagram and Facebook, but the chances are if you are over 30 you probably haven’t downloaded it. However, it seems to be on the phones of just about everyone else, having reached over 2 billion downloads in April 2020.
For anyone who may not have become acquainted with it yet, here’s a short overview. As with any other social network, the core of the platform is User Generated Content (UGC). Facebook and Twitter have your ‘written status update’ (pfft, who does those anymore), Instagram is the King of the Photo. So what’s TikTok’s medium? It is simply a short video with a maximum length of 60 seconds.
Dancing videos, singing videos, musical videos, comedy videos, videos of your kids falling over, videos of people cooking, videos of makeup tutorials, videos of science experiments, videos teaching you maths, videos of gym workouts, videos of just about absolutely anything. You’ll find it on TikTok.
The ‘For You’ page. You don’t have to follow endless people on TikTok to start using the platform properly. Just simply sign up, and start scrolling through videos. The videos on your ‘For You’ page come from the “TikTok algorithm”. To take it straight from the horse's mouth, the “algorithm” is based on 3 factors:
- User Interactions - such as the videos you like or share, accounts you follow, comments you post, and content you create.
- Video information - which might include details like captions, sounds, and hashtags.
- Device and account settings like your language preference, country setting, and device type.
It is the randomness of the For You page that makes TikTok highly addictive, seemingly never ending compilation of videos that the TikTok algorithm thinks you will find amusing, and it is very easy to lose track of time while scrolling. The For You page also makes it a lot easier for much smaller accounts to go viral on TikTok (which seems to be a major attraction among teenagers), as on this page video views don’t rely on your follower base, but the quality of the content.
Now onto the controversy
Executive Orders from President Trump threatening to ban the app in the USA unless it's taken over by an American Company. The CEO of Reddit, Steve Huffman calling TikTok fundamentally parasitic and actively telling people “don’t install that spyware on your phone”. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance’s state ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and seemingly zero oversight over what happens to all of the User Data shared willingly by anyone using the platform.
A lot of people have a lack of trust in big tech companies, wondering what they will do with all that data. However, this just isn’t the case with today's teenage population, who grew up surrounded by Technology and Social Media (to put it in perspective a lot of the users of TikTok would have been born around the time Facebook was founded). And this younger population just don’t care what a company does with their data, and would much rather be on the app instead of having FOMO (Fear of missing out) from seeing all their friends on while they are not.