2020 has been a not-so-typical year, to say the least, and we have never had more free time due to quarantine protocols of COVID-19. For many, the free time we once had was extended dramatically to the point of boredom. However, new apps, technologies, and other at-home activities have taken up this time. Since the beginning of quarantine, the short-form video platform, TikTok, has taken the world by storm. In just two years, the “Musical.ly” turned “TikTok” app has become a staple in internet culture and society, and it has immensely impacted the social interaction of Generation Z.
TikTok consists of 15-60 second videos on a trending “for you” page and a following page. The following page allows users to follow whichever creators and friends they want, while the “for you” page guides users to both videos popular on a large scale and videos geared specifically towards what they previously liked. As of September 2020, TikTok had 800 million active users worldwide. The app has also been downloaded over 2 billion times on the Apple app store and Google Play. Although 41% of users are between ages 16-24, the app’s popularity has impacted people of all ages and cultures (Oberlo). But where does all this popularity come from? What makes TikTok so addictive to everyone?
35-year-old Zhang Yiming, creator of Byte Dance, another video-sharing app, launched the app, Musical.ly, in September 2016. Although seemingly simple, the idea of scrolling through a feed of funny and interesting videos was a genius idea. The app comes across very similar to “Vine” but is more focused on the trends of today, along with dance videos. With short, timed videos, there is no commitment to the one video you are watching. If you are bored, all you have to do is swipe to the next video. Like many other social media apps, the creator’s format of targeting previously liked videos to the user makes users more likely to be addicted to the app. Juliette M. ‘22 says, “Personally, I can get distracted by TikTok since my ‘for you page’ is catered to things I like.”
Forbes calls TikTok “Digital Crack Cocaine” because of its ongoing success and attraction. The app is still gaining more users each day. It is important to note that the “for you page” never runs out of content and, to users, it appears the videos people produce are endless. Juliette and many other users across the world find that “TikTok having pretty much every type of content there is on the Internet [is what] makes it so addicting.“ According to Dr. Julie Albright, a sociologist and professor at USC, “our attention spans are lowering” and the use of short-timed videos is a quick fix to prevent users from getting bored on the app. Yiming used this tactic to keep users engaged when using the app. In addition, TikTok can be a very informative app if the content comes from the correct users. As said by Chloe M. ‘23, “TikTok is very good at recommending daily life hacks, like how to take notes easily. Last week, I got an idea for a Starbucks drink from a TikTok video.” Videos range from cooking tips to dance tutorials to fail videos and so on. The range of content on the app is one of the greatest attractions.
The impact of TikTok on the world, and particularly on Generation Z, has made digital history. Not only has TikTok been able to bring some people joy during quarantine, but it has also helped many users shape their views, opinions, and outlook on our evolving world. According to Maya B. ‘22, “ I think TikTok has a lot of power to change people’s opinions and political views because there are so many vocal influencers expressing their opinions on certain stances.” Hearing from voices across the world that you may or may not relate to can impact users to step in other people’s shoes. Chloe V. ‘22, said, “TikTok has made me more involved in politics.” It has similarly affected many others.
Like our world today, TikTok is ever-evolving and altering to cater to the desires of the app’s users. Although TikTok has caused quite a stir in the political and social climate, it has also been a great outlet for young adults to use their voices and express themselves.