Social media has been deeply integrated into our society. This is especially clear in the context of Generation Z, who make up over 60 percent of the TikTok app’s users. Social media has been increasingly expanding for years now — we don’t really know life without it. As a society, we are addicted to scrolling through our phones aimlessly, nearly thoughtlessly and consistently. It has grown more prevalent amid the global pandemic when our lives as we knew them turned predominantly virtual. Socializing with others regularly has lessened to an extreme degree and if you do find yourself interacting with another human being, it’s most likely through a screen.
Although social media has largely been used to supplement in-person social interaction by allowing people to connect despite distance and busy schedules, it has taken on a more crucial role in today’s society. The COVID-19 outbreak has made the traditional forms of human contact dangerous, so now social media apps offer some of the few outlets for contact that is risk-free when it comes to virus transmission. It is no coincidence that the mainstream app TikTok had begun to gain popularity at the beginning of the pandemic. Currently the app has more than 1 billion downloads in 150 markets all over the world. With everyone sitting at home, it was tempting to look into what all the hype was about and I found myself consumed with it as well. And I must admit — I spend a lot more time on TikTok daily than I have ever spent on Instagram or Snapchat, two other applications that are integrated into my everyday life. I find myself stuck in a never-ending scroll down my “For You” page, observing that TikTok is a huge platform with so many different corners and communities within it.
There are food videos, mom advice, dancing, therapists, artists and informative videos about the planet, but it doesn’t end there. This app is a great outlet in the age of citizen journalism, considering that TikTok has given over 1 billion outlets for the people who use the application to share their opinions or knowledge. Niche communities like these have provided resources to people wouldn’t have access to otherwise. For example, videos of therapists sharing their most helpful tips on how to combat anxious thoughts could help someone who does not have the means to consult a therapist themselves — especially amid a pandemic when mental health issues are increasing and resources are limited.
I think the algorithm that curates the content what you view is what makes this an ideal and effective platform for citizen journalism, because you don’t have to have a big following for others to see your videos. Instead, the app curates itself to your specific interests and shows you more videos that are similar to the ones you have liked, saved and interacted with. TikTok is such a powerful mouthpiece for people to share their knowledge, stories and experiences in a unique way. As technology and what we can do with it advances, so does human creativity. It is impressive to see what people can do in a short 60-second video and how many unique trends emerge from this online platform.
Madison Graham is a sophomore majoring in English.