The New Big Thing: TikTok

Written By Hailey Kim, Staff Writer

 TikTok. If you said those words a few years ago, the only thing anyone would have thought about would have been the ticking of a clock. Now, most people immediately reference the fun, interactive (and often addictive) app teenagers enjoy as a way to destress from their everyday responsibilities. TikTok is a relatively new social media platform where users upload a variety of videos—from daily vlogs depicting the everyday lives of teenagers to intricately choreographed dance videos. 

Many parents hastily categorize the app as a “distraction,” but what they don’t realize is that TikTok actually intended the app to become a place for teenagers to promote their ideas about politics and worldwide events and to share their opinions on dance, art, comedy and more. “It’s a place for people to express their feelings and be creative and try to think of funny things others have never thought of before.” Luke Coppage ‘24 said. 

TikTok reveals some of the secrets, and blind spots, of its recommendation algorithm - The Verge

ByteDance, a Chinese media company, created the app by combining two other apps, and Douyin. An algorithm runs a user’s #foryoupage, which then determines the specific type of content the individual will most likely enjoy. “There are lots of funny videos and comedy skits…My friends will make skits on a lot of news that comes out, like when PS4 announced they were recording party chats on their platform,” Coppage said. The app then allows teenagers from all over the opportunity to share those opinions with each other. 

Scrolling through TikTok’s #foryoupage illustrates very well the thoughts and opinions of  the modern generation. Users who share similar opinions can easily find others who are like-minded, but those who disagree can stir up heated debates. Take the Black Lives Matter protests, for example. When the movement first began, the TikTok algorithm became flooded with collages of people marching in the streets. The comments and shares and reposts reached anywhere from 10k to 10m. As more viewers saw the videos and felt compelled to join the movement, their reactions strengthened its influence. The movement gained greater visibility within society and news coverage because of social media. Promoting the movement on TikTok furthered its presence. “We fight until there is change,” @babymamarexkitten said after commenting on a video tagged under the black lives matter hashtag. 

But lighter topics are also prominent on the app, such as dancing and humorous subject matter. Many types of dances become popularized because TikTok provides users a fast track to fame. “TikTok famous” dancers such as Charli D’Amelio gain as much attention worldwide as celebrity singers or actors. Multiple famous users who started out making videos in their bedrooms now loom large as figureheads in society. TikTok stars (like Addison Rae) even started their own makeup lines which they promote to their worldwide fanbase. 

For some TikTokers, the hope of becoming famous on the app motivates users to learn dances created by the popular influencers, while others rely on original content. Many young TikTok users pour hours into one video, perfecting it in the hopes that the #foryoupage algorithm picks it up and distributes the video for other users to see. For others, TikTok is the perfect place just to relieve stress and have fun. Shreyas Iyer ‘21 found himself becoming more and more interested in the videos; one was not enough. “It was so addicting,” Iyer said. “There was no reason to stop scrolling. I looped infinitely through them.” The humorous content is similar to that of Vine, an old social media app famous for its short but iconic videos. 

But TikTok includes content that was not reflected on Vine: politics. Many videos criticize politicians and use political scandals to support their opinions. For example, many people mocked President Trump when he tested positive for COVID-19. Frustrated users portrayed him as an irresponsible leader who was unfit to be a presidential candidate. Another way people use TikTok is as a news source for politics and as a tool to engage in political discourse. “I learned about Trump’s diagnosis through the comment section on one of the videos on TikTok,” Gracie Gore ‘23 said. 

TikTok's Charli and Dixie D'Amelio Sign with UTA |

However, TikTok might end up an app of the past. In an article for The New York Times entitled, “Trump Administration to Ban TikTok and WeChat From U.S. App Stores,” Ana Swanson, David McCabe and Jack Nicas said Trump argues China uses the app to spy on, and collect data from, the American government. The article said TikTok runs on a set of domestic security rules set by China, leading many government officials to believe it threatens the safety and security of American data.  On August 6, 2020, Trump released an executive order stating he would try to ban TikTok, but it was pushed back. However, Trump did succeed in banning WeChat, another platform owned by ByteDance, rendering it completely useless in America.

TikTok has become one of the most influential social media apps to countless teenagers who enjoy it for relieving stress, engaging in conversation, or just viewing fun dance videos. But the impending ban of TikTok looms like a dark shadow over American teens, threatening to take away a vital part of their lives. As  Josh Gartner, TikTok spokesperson, states in The Times’ article, “We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order… a significant platform for both voice and livelihood.” For teens everywhere, that pledge is good news. They hope the app can take a licking and keep on ticking. 


Online newspaper:

(Swanson, 2020)

In-text Citation (Direct Quote):

(Swanson, 2020)


Swanson, A. et al. (2020, Sept. 10). Trump’s administration to ban TikTok and WeChat from US app stores. The New York Times. Retrieved from