TikTok: entertainment or epidemic?

Written By Shannon Hartnett, Co-Opinions Editor

In 2017, Music.ly came into the social media platform. It was designed for users to post videos of themselves dancing and lip-synching to popular songs. However, the world turned on its side when the app changed its name to TikTok and users began changing the quality of their content. Now, instead of strictly posting dance videos, it has become a form full of funny videos, storytelling, acting perspectives, and generally anything the user can think of.

Recently, as in the last couple months, I personally feel that TikTok has exploded on the internet. Opinions vary from die-hard fans who love the app to luddites who refuse to watch any of the videos. A few months ago I didn’t know what the renegade was, I didn’t know what a VSCO girl was, I never heard the phrase “Okay Boomer” uttered and I really didn’t think I would include scrolling through TikTok into my daily social media usage. Yes, I am admitting it here that I use TikTok. I also blame my 14-year-old sister for my slight obsession I have. She would send me videos that I found myself laughing at until I finally gave in and downloaded the app. It started as a slow descent into obsession. At first, I didn’t use it much, then as time went on, I found myself on the app more and more. Then, at last, I made an account.

I feel slightly ashamed to be admitting this. I am a 20-year-old college student, surely, I have better things to do to occupy my time. Regardless of my bad habits and poor time management decisions, TikTok is something to talk about. Other news surrounding the app includes: The Chinese government can steal all of our information through the app, the app allows child predators access to provocative videos of underage girls, and that the app is encouraging these said videos in order to become famous.

Now the validity of these statements is the bulk of my commentary about TikTok. First, the issue concerning the Chinese government. Apparently, they censor any material that criticizes their government. Many people who have made videos about the Hong Kong protests or have simply created a video making fun of the governing bodies is shut down. While this does present an issue, it hasn’t gained as much traction in the United States. The problem that U.S. users have with the app is that they reserve the right to all content published on the app. Users have found their own content being used for ads without compensation for their work. While I see this as a problem, it doesn’t outwardly concern me right now.

The big issue that I see with this app is the promotion of underage girls dancing sexually on the app. Many would say the parents of said child should be monitoring their kid’s phone usage and that the blame falls on them. Others would say the app itself is at fault for not monitoring the ages of viewers or content being put out. Then there are people who would blame the girls for posting the content, despite their clear innocent displacement. Again, regardless of where to place the blame, it is a clear problem with the platform and unfortunately, I don’t have any solutions on how to solve the issue. I don’t think young girls barely past the age of 15 should be sexualized as they are on this platform.

This is where I start to think about my usage of the app. Everyone needs joy in their lives and TikTok gives me just that. Does the fact that I have the app downloaded mean that I am a part of the problem? I would say no, because I am not one of the perverted adults using the app for ill reasons. I use the app to laugh and for mindless scrolling when my brain needs a break from homework. Where should the line be drawn between minors and internet content? This is a bigger issue that follows all social media platforms, but how do we as users combat this issue?