TikTok is a relatively new social media app that allows users to embed audio clips, as well as record short videos of themselves and upload them to the platform.
It’s fair to say that social media has warped the way that people think nowadays.
There are the more obvious effects that websites like Twitter and Facebook have had on public opinion about issues like politics and public figures, for instance. And on a more personal level, social media platforms can also demonstrably and negatively impact mental health, with several studies finding higher rates of anxiety, depression, and body insecurity among frequent social media users.
This is attributed to a variety of factors, with one of the most prominent being FOMO. FOMO, an acronym for the “fear of missing out,” is exacerbated by social media platforms due to influencer culture and branding. After all, if your timeline on Instagram is filled with supermodels going to Fiji, buying Gucci bags, and marketing weight-loss diet teas, all while beaming like they’re happier than you’ve ever been—well, you’d certainly be tempted to mimic that lifestyle as much as possible.
But if you can’t afford trips to Fiji or Gucci bags, and the sham products that your favorite influencer sold you aren’t working, it can create a deep sense of shame, and cause you to question their self-worth. The picture-perfect lifestyles that many people lead on platforms like Instagram can create a false sense of failure for other users for not having a fancy house or a sports car. This is an issue most prominent with Instagram, but Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube can curate your feed and promote top creators, all of which push successful, rich, beautiful influencers and celebrities over smaller, more relatable users.
All of this is also why TikTok is such a refreshing change of pace—it works as an equalizer against other social media apps, and creates a better sense of community and belonging for its users.
TikTok is an Equalizer
Anyone familiar with TikTok knows that users spend a majority of their time on TikTok’s “For You” page.
It’s a complicated algorithm that is difficult to understand and grasp, but the main idea behind this page is that it works similarly to Youtube’s recommended videos or Instagram’s explore page. All of these pages suggest content to users based on past engagement and can introduce and promote new creators to a wide variety of people.
What’s notable about TikTok’s “For You” page is that it’s designed to serve as the user’s homepage. Instead of navigating towards it, as one might do for similar pages on other social media platforms, users open the app to their “For You” page and can scroll through or refresh it indefinitely. In this format, every video shown may be different and come from vastly different creators, both big and small.
TikTok has become the best app to start trying to build a following because of this unique feature. After all, any TikTok can become viral, and creators like Charli D’Amelio have had huge success using the app, even managing to turn a profit because of it.
The “For You” page is incredible because it streamlines content in a way that makes it accessible and feels authentic. For the first time on a social media platform, the mainstream of content isn’t dominated or interrupted by huge celebrities and influencers, but rather different people of all different races, creeds, and backgrounds.
TikTok users like Chloe Hayden and Gates Royale have used TikTok to talk about issues like autism and body health and positivity respectively, and have grown large followings and supportive communities in the process. People feel represented by TikTok, especially when they’re able to interact with posts and engage with these creators in an organic way. Through TikTok, creators who may not have had the chance to grow on other platforms can flourish and thrive.
Since so many more creators can grow and succeed using TikTok, it disrupts the traditional ways that social media has been used throughout the past decade. And that’s what makes it so revolutionary.
Why TikTok’s Success Matters
The positive benefits of social media are often overlooked by the controversies and issues that have arisen in recent years due to these platforms. After all, it’s hard to view websites like Twitter and Facebook in a good light after a former president had to be banned for inciting riots in one and serious proof of data mining was found in another.
But social media was originally created with the idea of connecting people across the Internet. Friendships have been created and strengthened through these platforms. It’s even important to note that the “like” button on Facebook was created as a way to encourage more posts and positivity, proving the good intentions behind a lot of social media functions.
Plenty of social media platforms since their debut have become more stratified and catered to influencer and celebrity success. However, TikTok has proven that people feeling understood, and accepted by communities, is the main driver of social media. TikTok’s huge success can not be overstated—in 2020, It’s become one of the biggest apps in the world, surging to the top of the app download charts on both the Google Play Store and the App Store.
Of course, it’s not all good news with Tiktok. Experts have expressed concern over security for its users, and the beauty and relative youth of several famous creators has led to the new stereotype of “TikTok teens” that can contribute to mental health issues like body insecurity and depression. Additionally, allegations that TikTok was suppressing videos from disabled and so-called “ugly” creators also surfaced in March 2020.
But TikTok has also helped create environments for all different kinds of creators to thrive. Chloe Hayden, one of the TikTok users mentioned above, has praised the app for allowing a community of autistic women to develop, a demographic that’s always been historically underrepresented and ignored. People are now able to see content from people that they relate to and understand, and that gift cannot be overlooked in the camera-ready, social media-centric world of 2021.
TikTok certainly has far to go, but its promise of connection and community-building is one of the best aspects of the app and the reason that so many people have downloaded it. Even if one more person feels seen and heard by using TikTok, then it’s been a worthwhile endeavor and proves the importance of connection for everyone.