How Tik Tok affects culture – The Argonaut

Whatever you may personally think about the platform, Tik Tok is not only here to stay for at least the immediate future, but it has become so popular that Tik Tok culture has bled over into becoming just another part of modern culture. The platform has become so large that it has some real and noticeable influence on how we interact in the real world. From the words we use, to the way we interact with each other, to the kinds of content we look for and the songs we listen to. For better or for worse, Tik Tok is here to stay.

The various strengths and faults of the platform are no longer relevant to exclusively the world of people who are actively using the app. One way we can see this is in the way people are able to communicate with one another. Tik Tok has an environment where even small profiles without a following can go viral and be seen by thousands or millions of people. On top of that, the content is moderated by an algorithm. Not having the layer of stuffy executives deciding what should be seen and the organic way that content on the platform allows for a greater variety of content that “makes it through” and this has allowed more people from marginalized communities to have more of a voice. This is absolutely not to say that the algorithm is unbiased. It very much so is and anyone who has spent significant amounts of time on the platform either scrolling or posting can attest to that. Especially in cases of racial or gender based discrimination. However, there is a much larger cultural exchange on this platform than on other forms of social media. Through this we have seen a large group of people on the app appropriating African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in their speech. This is doubly nefarious when it gets rebranded as “Gen Z slang” and is extremely disrespectful to the people who created and spread it.

Another way we can see Tik Tok changing the way we speak is the way people have been using specific wording to skirt around the automatic content filters that will hurt a video’s performance if spoken. The most common one that comes to mind is the use of the word “unalive” in place of “kill” or “die.” The list of words that will hurt the performance of your video is ever increasing and people are constantly working to try and find a way to communicate ideas without words that set off content filters. Though they may be about controversial subjects, these aren’t bad words. They have a specific purpose to talk about specific things in our society. Often we will hear arguments talking about how it is designed to protect minors, but this leaves out the responsibility that Tik Tok as a company has for protecting the children that use their platform. It is well known that there are not many protections for minors. I have many criticisms of the app. From the moderation doing a terrible job of differentiating between educational and inappropriate content, to the way the algorithm pushes people towards more and more extreme content and the fact that the platform doesn’t support its creators properly. Tik Tok has a significant number of issues, but they are exasperated by the sheer number of people on the app, and the fact that every experience is crafted specifically for each user.

Because of the sheer number of people using the app, and because it is so simple to post something, we see the formation of an ecosystem where creators find and occupy small micro niches that appeal to a small but dedicated audience. This has led to large communities centered around music, art, everything else one might be able to think of and so much more. It has become a place for people to find new music and connect with the musicians in a much more personal way. It has become a place for independent artists of all kinds to show off what they make and create a platform for themselves. Activists use the platform to find and connect with supporters. I hear people say “Oh Tik Tok is just a bunch of 12 year olds dancing” but the stereotype does not accurately reflect the simply vast amount of content on the platform as well as the massive diversity of people who use the platform. There are several good criticisms of Tik Tok. A few of which are outlined here. But the idea that it is anyt hing but just another social media is out of date. Like any social media, it has deeply toxic elements. These elements reflect the toxic elements of our culture and it is important to focus on real issues and understand the thing you are criticizing. Tik Tok is not perfect, but the sway it has on our culture should not be discounted and because of that we should all be considering the way we interact with it.

Blu Thomas can be reached at [email protected]


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