The future is TikTok – Harvard Political Review
From the ashes of 2020 emerged TikTok, a new type of social media that paves the way for internet culture, education and activism. TikTok is a video-based social media app with unusual authenticity and growing cultural influence – a rare opportunity for positive social impact through the transformation of the social media space.
TikTok has been available for download worldwide since 2018, but saw a massive increase in user numbers this year. The Q1 of the app Downloads Set the 2020 record for the most downloads of all apps in a single quarter with 315 million and nearly 120 million out of a total of over 2 billion Downloads happened in April 2020 alone. Amid COVID-19 quarantines and mass mobilizations against the status quo, TikTok’s innovative and unique design is at the forefront of a new wave of social media that is changing the way we interact with one another and digital content consume, changed.
New app, new structure
What makes TikTok so special? The structure of TikTok ensures that the content a user sees is less dependent on who they are following compared to other social media. The central feature of TikTok is its “For You” page, an exploration page that constantly provides new videos from creators that the user does not necessarily follow and with whom they have often not interacted. While the Instagram Explorer page performs a similar function, it is more peripheral to app usage, is dominated by popular accounts, and is more dependent on the user’s previous activity than the For You page. Similarly, Twitter users are only exposed to new content if introduced on it by those they follow or if it’s popular enough to be trending.
Although TikTok tailors the “For You” page to individual user preferences by prioritizing content and creators that the user has previously dealt with, the sheer volume of videos it offers calls for new topics and obscure creators every “For You” page to keep up with demand. This regularly exposes users to new content that is not based on their previously identified interests, followers, or searches, and it is this aspect of the “For You” page that makes TikTok a powerful tool for getting exposure to different viewpoints and new ones to promote information.
This structure makes TikTok a base platform – the app promotes all creators, not just the famous ones, by giving them every chance on the “For you” page. Going viral on TikTok is significantly easier than on other platforms, as no advertising or an existing follower base is required to get known. As a result, TikTok expands a host of unique perspectives – just this April dispatched some inmates from prison quickly became known on the app. While privilege and fame are still extremely visible on TikTok, they are significantly less dominant than on current social media titans and their predecessors.
TikTok culture is the real youth culture
TikTok has retained much of its early culture when it was just teenagers having fun. All videos are filmed with cell phone cameras, and even the most famous TikTokers film in dirty bathrooms with poor lighting. The minimal expectation of superficial film quality (as opposed to Youtube or Instagram) gives TikTok the communicative advantages of video while maintaining the focus on content over aesthetics (like Twitter) to create a form of social media closer to real life than the competition. On TikTok, imperfections and authenticity leave a lot to be desired, with popular trends ranging from bad Camera angle to autotuning Russian Grain Advertising.
The authenticity of TikTok is a breath of fresh air. Most companies, politicians, news organizations, and even celebrities discovered it late and have minimal presence in the app. No candidate for the 2020 presidential election tried to advertise on TikTok, and the app has involved to combat misinformation about elections from all sources (as opposed to competitors). Some politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have created accounts, but their activities are negligible. In fact, the most persecuted politician in the app is the Minnesota State Senator Matt Little.
TikTok’s advertising guidelines and sponsorship culture help maintain this basic quality. Advertising is seldom built into the platform by placing it on a user’s feed, like on Instagram or Twitter, and any ads that are placed can not be political. Most of the advertising on TikTok is created by the creators themselves, creating a higher standard of accountability by relying on someone’s reputation. Sponsorship transfers the benefits of advertising to creators, not the technology platform.
TikTok took this progressive advertising policy a step further by adding introduction the Creator Fund is a financial alternative to sponsorship. By creating this multi-billion dollar program that distributed Funding YouTubers based on the number of views they received, TikTok has removed the YouTubers’ reliance on sponsorship and enabled its successful YouTubers to have creative freedom that is free from corporate interests. These measures on TikTok’s administrative side have minimized corporate interference in content and created more responsible advertising – a stark contrast to Facebook’s persistent refusal to do so keep its advertisers responsible.
Overcoming leadership obstacles
TikTok isn’t just a place for dances and frivolous trends. It is a growing Space for political activism, education and comment. A recent TikTok movement in June resulted in the Trump 2020 campaign overestimating the number of attendees for a rally in Tulsa Oklahoma. cheated after number inflation by TikTokers. The instance shows the political power of TikTok, but also how little it is on the politicians’ radar.
TikTok has many commendable features, but the app is not without its resistance. India made plans Ban TikTok in early July and the Trump administration followed shortly thereafter. TikTok is under attack from all sides and is being scapegoated by the Chinese government either as a superficial time waster or as a ploy for mining data from American citizens. The latter claim has been largely disproved and considered a xenophobic dog whistle rather than a issue the substance.
The double standard imposed on foreign tech companies isn’t due to a newfound government concern for the privacy of its citizens – it’s motivated by the threat to American technology dominance worldwide from non-American corporations. In a blatant case of American exceptionalism and hegemony, Trump specified that he won’t ban TikTok if it is bought by a domestic company. Considering that TikTok is a basic platform for free expression where privacy threats no longer exist heavy As Facebooks but advertising leagues beyond, it becomes clear that Trump’s posturing about TikTok’s concerns is nothing more than political Games. TikTok has proven that it has to be reckoned with – not because it wants to undermine American democracy, but because it enables people to mobilize and communicate digitally better than ever before.
TikTok isn’t just a fad – it fills a void in the online world that has grown over the past decade for authentic, collaborative, and adaptable social media. As a further developed and improved platform, it has the dynamism to change social norms and digital hierarchies. TikTok is an innovative product that is already changing the world and trying to suppress it would mean ignoring reality and missing out on all the good it can bring.
The future is now and the future is TikTok.
Image source: Pexels // Kon Karampelas