Something pursued by many, though achieved by few, global influence came easily to TikTok; a viral media sharing app developed by Zhang Yiming. Teens took to the app quickly to share various videos, from comedy sketches to popular dances, and even spreading social awareness.
Part of the appeal to teens is that they can scroll down their feed or “For You Page,” endlessly seeing people who aren’t like them from anywhere sharing different skills and opinions. Another asset of Tik Tok is that adults “don’t get it” and media giants say that’s on purpose. As of earlier this year, the app has more users than Twitter. While being designed the creators saw the potential the world’s youth had for their app. They also saw the potential issues adults could bring about on their new-aged app.
“[I love] all the dance trends on TikTok,” said Trinity Chokshi.
One of the reasons for TikTok’s early-onset success is its strategic expansion as well as merging with an already popular app. When the apps company creator, ByteDance, theorized TikTok they decided to purchase the already-popular karaoke app, Music.ly, and by effect started out with a significant number of users. ByteDance clocks in at an estimated $75 billion dollar value, making it the most successful start-up in the world. However, something they did not see coming was the revolt against their own nation on the app. ByteDance stems from China, where residents can only use the modified Chinese version of the app “Douyin” (抖音). International users, on the other hand, have started to use the app to turn the media blackout in China on its head.
“I’ve had TikTok since it was Music.ly so, I’m an OG.,” said Chokshi.
Right now, the country is under fire because of its silent incarceration of Muslims and endless protests in Hong Kong. Try to mention either of these things on TikTok, however, and the user’s account will be promptly deleted. Teens on the app are trying to counteract this by making seemingly harmless videos starting as humorous and quickly transferring to the harsh topic of the events occurring in China.
“Curl your lashes obviously, then you’re going to put them down and use your phone you’re using right now to search up what’s happening in China, how they’re getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there,” said a teen on TikTok.
Days after posting this, her account was promptly deleted. This has given users notice that if someone on TikTok posts a video that the owners take issue with they will have it taken down. Quickly, this began to spark outrage in the young audience of TikTok. Their anger stems from the claim that the actions of TikTok only perpetuate the stigma regarding what is happening around the world, specifically how those in different countries are made unaware of it. However, it is possible that TikTok’s actions are only for their own good. The creators are surely aware that even if they do disagree with the actions of the Chinese government, leaving such feedback on their app could lead to a backlash from the government itself.
To circle back to the adults who aren’t made to “get” TikTok, this creates an issue because statistically, adults are far more likely to be aware of events like this happening, without having heard of them on platforms like TikTok. NPR ran a story about the silencing of global events on TikTok before the idea became more mainstream and trending on the app itself. This becomes an issue when adults are more aware of what is happening around the world than teens. Specifically, because in 50 years those who are young now will be the lawmakers then.
Not only does TikTok’s disregard for crisis happening globally make people less aware of said events, but their actions also make it so people who are suffering spend longer without help. With apps like these seemingly ignoring international occurrences, there is less of a chance of foreign aid, while others wait, quality of life rapidly declines for those overseas.
“I see adds about global events, but I don’t see TikToks about them,” said Chokshi.