It was late March 2020. I was sitting at home, bored in quarantine, and fending off my friend’s recommendations to download this weird app called “TikTok.” She claimed it was funny and just she wanted to share her favorite videos with me, but I was skeptical. Wasn’t TikTok some silly app for twelve-year-olds? It couldn’t be entertaining for a grown college student like me, right?
Well, I was pretty wrong. Over the past year, TikTok’s place in our cultural conversation has evolved from a weird app that had something to do with Musical.ly into one of the most popular social media apps of the time, amassing about 800 million active users, according to Datareportal. This success is unprecedented, especially considering the controversy surrounding TikTok’s Chinese origins and the potential banning of the app by the United States government.
Whether TikTok is ultimately banned or not, it has still made irrevocable changes to the landscape of social media. Firstly, TikTok’s ultra-customized content has created a form of social media that is wholly specified to each person. While Instagram’s explore page or Youtube’s suggested videos work in a similar way, TikTok’s “for you” page surpasses all of these platforms with its famed algorithm. Future social media sites will undoubtedly take inspiration from TikTok’s techniques, and future social media interactions may become more and more tailored to individual users.
Another interesting aspect of TikTok’s development is the actual length of the content. With videos no longer than 60 seconds, the platform is condensing content into smaller and smaller pieces. According to a January Forbes article, TikTok’s rapid nature of scrolling through content may continue to shorten users’ attention spans, which could influence future content creation. All media may be forced to evolve to the attention span of the general population, and TikTok could be a factor in that change.
While TikTok’s future is uncertain in the U.S., it’s definitely left a lasting mark on the social media scene. The app has created an entirely new genre of content, propelling a new generation of famous creators. Though it, like most social apps, has negative and positive effects, its popularity clearly shows that its algorithm is groundbreaking in many ways.