The Rise of TikTok

Okay, if you don’t have TikTok by now, where have you been? I mean, congratulations on managing to avoid it. That’s some strong will power that I don’t have, but it’s definitely worth downloading if you’re bored and love to procrastinate!


Originally known as until 2017, TikTok has become a global sensation and its audience has grown exponentially since late 2019. It used to be embarrassing to have TikTok; it was something that just wasn’t talked about and the app was always hidden at the back of your phone. It was a guilty pleasure. So why did this change? Why has TikTok taken over? In the words of The Office and a TikTok sound itself, “oh how the turntables.”


We’ve just experienced almost a year-long global pandemic and some of us unlucky ones are still going through it. What do you do when there’s absolutely nothing else to do? Go on your phone of course. Fortunately, we had TikTok at our fingertips and people began to come around to the idea of it. Before we knew it, TikTok was everywhere.


So how has TikTok managed to captivate our attention for this long? It’s all in the features. Whilst TikTok is just another social media platform, similar to Vine (rip), some features make it unique from the rest. Firstly, its personalised algorithm is what encourages us to scroll for hours on end. When you first download the app, it’s like a blank canvas; the app doesn’t know what content you enjoy yet, so it simply places a random selection of popular videos on your “for you page.” The more you interact with content, the more the app understands you. This is what causes the addiction, because you’re choosing what you view, meaning it’s difficult to get bored. The algorithm of TikTok has also helped to create the different sides of TikTok. At first, it was just “straight” and “alt” TikTok, but now there’s a whole variety of sides including “bricktok” (yes I’ve ended up here and yes I did enjoy it, oddly). These different sides inadvertently create a community feel and help you find others who are just as weird as you.


Furthermore, TikTok is unique in that there’s more of an ability for fan engagement and connection to celebrities than on other platforms. The main feature allowing this is the “for you page”. If celebrities choose to engage with videos related to them, then it’s likely they will continuously see other related videos and therefore often see fan videos and be able to comment on them. Additionally, compared to Instagram, TikTok feels a lot more casual and somewhat like a big inside joke which helps celebrities appear more human and authentic.


Using TikTok is also becoming a popular marketing strategy and a popular method for influencers. There’s an ability to become viral overnight. You could be your “average Joe,” like you and me and post one video that suddenly gets over a million likes. This is crazy! Influencers will work for years on Instagram before achieving success. So, of course, everyone is going to move to TikTok if it can do this. Many YouTubers have also downloaded the app and post more content on TikTok than on YouTube. Personally, I find it hard to watch YouTube now, as my attention span has just decreased even further. I’ve gone from being able to watch 10-minute videos to 60-second clips maximum! This all then leads to endless scrolling for hours. I spent 3 ½ hours on TikTok yesterday! That’s a lot when you consider the fact that on average each video is only about 15 seconds long. Thankfully, lockdown is an excuse to be on it this long. It takes so much effort to stop scrolling because all I can think is that the next video down might be the funniest yet (and no, sadly it never is). Asking a couple of my friends what their screen time was, it seems like they have similar habits to me.


There’s no doubt that TikTok has taken over the social media universe. TikTok sounds seem to be forever on repeat in my head and I can just go round quoting them in my daily life. Instagram has even incorporated a reel feature in their app which is extremely similar to the concept of TikTok, suggesting other platforms are noticing the slow loss of interest in them. The real question is, how long before TikTok becomes just another app that we used to use?


Words By: Chloe Hill

Edited By: Nina Bitkowska