TikTok. For many, this app abolished lockdown boredom, but in the long run, were the implications of this really positive?

In a world where there is so much pressure on teenagers, with a deleterious exam system and the unrelenting pressures of social media, such as the expectation to live an ‘Instagram worthy’ lifestyle, TikTok appears to provide a safe haven. Bear in mind that this occurs all whilst trying to study, maintain hobbies and keep parents happy, so TikTok provides a break from the pressure to look and act perfectly, which is felt almost everywhere in a teenager’s life. There’s no denying that TikTok is fun, with addictive dance trends and comedy videos that seem to go on for a lifetime, however, there increasingly seems to be more harmful content appearing on young people’s ‘for you pages’ than previously. 

Surrey teenage Tiktoker Lucy Parsons (@lucyyparsons) had one of her dances blow up on the app and reach over 4 million views. As a result of this, she gained around 60 thousand followers and Addison Rae, the second most followed person on the app (June 2020), with 73.7 million followers, did her dance as well. It’s already led to her being contacted by artists and other people offering to pay her to choreograph a dance to their songs, and compared to a few months ago, where she only had around 700 followers, the rate at which her account is increasing is quite scary. ‘I am undeniably over the moon about it, however, have already received some negative comments and am beginning to worry about how quickly everything is changing as reality starts to kick in’

TikTok’s algorithm is probably one of the best out there. Your ‘for you page’ is a never-ending stream of 15-60 second videos, with a mix of anything from dances to skits about places and situations such as school which almost anyone can relate to. I know, that with my GCSEs cancelled and the prospect of nothing to do for almost 6 months, much of my time in lockdown 1 was spent mindlessly scrolling through videos, which seemed an excellent way to pass the time whilst everyone else in my household was working. However, as time has passed, the TikTok culture has changed dramatically. Children as young as 7 and 8 are spending their time on an app which sees videos promoting diets of under 1200 calories and people ladened with plastic surgery, and this cannot be good. 

It’s been likened to Tumblr, with ‘thinspo’ and ‘pro-ana’ content which manipulates young people into eating disorders and new insecurities. One video saw a young teenage girl listing her physical features she dislikes that she said she had never even thought about before joining TikTok. Tumblr, which began as a fun app in the early 2000s, led to an anorexia-promoting culture, tipping many people into developing this and many other eating disorders too. Anorexia is most common in girls age 12-16, which happens to be one of TikTok’s main age groups and people need to be ensuring that TikTok doesn’t follow Tumblr’s path.

TikTok seems to have created a culture in which people think it’s okay to criticise and comment negatively on people’s videos This is most worrying for the young children who are witnessing and imitating some of the destructive behaviours that are seen on the app, with the encouragement of unhealthy dieting and the philosophy where it seems to be okay to spread negativity on an app which promotes itself as one of release and non-judgement.

An app of such a large scale undoubtedly has helped many through the ongoing trials of lockdown and for a while the positives way outweighed the negatives, but is this still the case?