Throughout the pandemic, Tiktok has sustained many people, especially myself, while stuck at home. The app has become more and more popular with teens in the last two years. While it has its detractors and downsides, Tiktok has delivered as a great social media app.
Tiktok began as Musical.ly in China in 2014, focusing on lip-syncing videos with a user base of young American girls. After getting bought by another Chinese company, Bytedance, they changed the name to Tiktok and made it available worldwide (except in China, since they already owned an almost identical app there called Douyin).
After primarily hosting lip-syncing, dancing, and cosplay videos, more and more people, especially teens, became attracted to the app in 2019. It has grown even more during the pandemic. One of its greatest appeals, which keeps people engaged and interested in the app (despite the fact that before 2019, it was called “cringe” by many teens, a sign of disaster for products aimed towards younger people), is its accurate algorithm.
The algorithm Tiktok has a very unique and different from other social media platforms. The main page of the app, the For You Page, is an explore page that is extremely tailored to each user’s interests. For me, it shows cooking tutorials, funny memes, and people showing what they do for their hobbies/jobs. These may seem like broad topics, but every category is so whittled down to the specific types of these videos I like that it’s difficult to describe. The algorithm latches on to what types of content you like very quickly, and the accuracy is surprising.
The hyper-specific content makes a better and more pleasant experience using the app. For example, on Twitter, you’re shown tweets, retweets, and occasionally likes from people you follow. It’s not tailored to your liking, which, while it can expose you to new perspectives and content, also exposes you to content you don’t have any interest in seeing. On Tiktok, everything is tailored to your tastes, which makes for better experiences.
The platform also has an easy-to-use, comprehensive editing system. Tiktok has a wealth of “sounds”, or music and audio clips that users can put in their videos. There’s a constant stream of new filters and features, which has made the app’s editing tool just as advanced as other editing platforms.
This is very unique to Tiktok, and it’s made it stand out from other platforms like Youtube. Youtube does not have a built-in video editing tool, despite it’s algorithm prioritizing longer and more cleanly edited content. This has let Tiktok become the foremost place to post content that’s a minute or shorter, especially in the void that Vine has left.
Tiktok has made way for fun trends that have kept people busy during the pandemic, even going as far as producing a musical. Starting out as just a simple song by Tiktok user Em Jaccs that was an ode to Remy the Rat quickly grew into a sensation where many users were writing their own songs for a hypothetical Ratatouille musical. The songs and other creations were compiled into a virtual benefit show for the Actors Fund starring Tituss Burgess and Kevin Chaimberlain. They made over $1 million and drew over 160,000 ticket sales.
Like most social media platforms, Tiktok is not immune to negative effects. For instance, there’s a lot of content that is triggering for people with eating disorders. This has been a problem in online spaces for years now, but with the video aspect of Tiktok, it’s easier to compare bodies and meals than on other platforms.
There’s also a lot of misinformation on Tiktok, with the video format making it easy to lure people into liking and following people that spread fake or twisted facts. However, there’s also a lot of professionals like Professor of Psychology Inna Kanevsky that debunks this content. There’s many teachers, scientists, and other professionals that use their accounts to educate people about their fields.
Tiktok is an innovative platform that hosts a lot of innovative content, so it’s no wonder why people love it.