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The TikTok phenomenon

If you ask a group of friends their opinion of TikTok, I bet you’ll get a wide range of reactions. There will be those who cringe, those who laugh and those who say the app is a security concern. While these are all valid responses, I believe TikTok is the best thing to happen to generation Z.  

United States President, Donald Trump, has threatened to ban TikTok in America. (Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash)

When I first heard of TikTok, my instinct was to avoid it. The app seemed like a new, scary world where 15-year-olds who were more attractive than me got famous for making faces. But during the dark, lonely months of quarantine, I changed my mind about TikTok. I downloaded the app and never looked back.  

What is TikTok? 

TikTok is an app that allows users to create and share less than a minute long videos using a combination of clips, filters, sounds and text. With a variety of functions, TikTok has become the perfect platform for our generation’s creative and digitally oriented minds.  

When opening the app, users are met with the “For You” page and a video instantly plays. To watch more, the user swipes up on their screen and with each swipe a new TikTok video curated to your interests appears. A lot of content can be consumed in a short amount of time. This factor is key in making the app addictive for our generation’s short attention span

“Through TikTok, young people can showcase the open, expressive generation we are.”

Due to these features, TikTok has been the subject of comparison to Vine, a now dead app that used a similar format. Vine captured the same weird humour, but TikTok is more versatile and accessible. The effective app design and algorithm are to be credited. The swiping function means users do not actively decide what to watch, making it easy to mindlessly scroll through everything from fashion to food to a llama dancing to a Russian cereal commercial song and Willy Wonka doing the WAP dance. 

A creative outlet 

What sets TikTok apart from other social media apps is the content. Unlike Instagram, where posts are often refined and curated, TikTok is full of people being funny, showing off their personalities and not taking themselves too seriously. There’s a place for everyone to put their own spin on the latest trend.  

TikTok has surpassed two billion downloads worldwide. What’s all the rage about? (Photo by Geoffrey Howard)

Through TikTok, young people can showcase the open, expressive generation we are. Shelby Brady, a recent Dalhousie University graduate, began uploading to the app during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“I was inspired to make TikToks because of how fun and lighthearted these videos were,” Brady says. “TikTok gave me a break from the overwhelming stress [of the pandemic].” 

The app has approximately 800 million monthly users with 60 per cent being gen Z  (those born between 1996 and 2015).   

TikTok is also a place that represents the diversity of interests amongst young people. Distinct genres of the app have formed and are humorously known as the different “sides” of TikTok. There is everything from the popular “Straight” vs “alt TikTok,” as well as more niche communities like “Harry Potter TikTok.”  

TikTok encourages people to express themselves in ways that may not be mainstream. It gives a voice to many talented people, who may not reach the same level of success using other platforms ruled by traditional celebrities. It makes you feel like you’re watching your friends goof around because that’s essentially what it is.  

“I personally just really enjoy it,” says Brady.  

The future of the app 

While Brady notes, “society today is so full of such heavy topics. . . TikTok gives you a break from that,” the political context of the app cannot be ignored. U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to ban new downloads in the United States leaves the future of the app unclear. 

Whatever happens, it is certain TikTok has changed the social media game and asserts our generation’s growing influence on the world, even if we’re doing it through viral dances and memes.  


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