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I often find myself caught in a cycle of downloading, deleting, and redownloading TikTok. My reasoning for deleting TikTok is the same every time, but I still somehow manage to redownload the app in a matter of days. At first, I found it to be extremely tempting to scroll for hours each day and finally felt that it was best to delete the app for good. Eventually, I got the app again, partially because I wanted to be up-to-date on the most recent trends that my friends were talking about, but also because I missed the entertainment. More recently though, I’ve kept the app on my phone for longer periods of time as I’ve begun to better navigate my consumption of the content on the platform. Even though I’m a member of Gen Z and I’m supposed to love everything related to technology, growing up with social media is strange. It seems simple or trivial because of how integrated into our lives it becomes, but social media has been shaping our lives in significant ways and has affected our moods and perspectives. It’s another facet of our lives to observe and regulate so that we can remain emotionally and physically well.

Highquality entertainment, fashion inspiration, and learning opportunities can come in the form of a three-minute video on TikTok. I love watching my favourite TikTok influencers, including @JulestheLawyer, @Tinx, and @KateGlavan. I benefit from videos about behavioural economics that give me tips on decision-making, or critiques about pop culture that discuss trends such as “photo dumps”. TikTok creates a microcosm of knowledge and entertainment; it both reflects the culture and shapes it.  

It appears that if you’re not on TikTok, you’re missing out – and that is both its fatal flaw and biggest strength. Oftentimes, jokes and conversations are made based on TikTok sounds and I often feel pressure to watch TikTok remain connected socially. Many creators have gotten their big breaks on TikTok. Of course, there are many ways to remain connected without consuming these 15-second videos. In terms of being aware of how the platform is shaping culture and how it’s altering business opportunities for self-employment, one could argue that you’re missing out on critical opportunities if you don’t have TikTok. Ultimately, without TikTok, I think it’s possible to find these opportunities elsewhere.

Its ability to help creators grow at unprecedented rates has created a huge shift in social media, career, and marketing opportunities. It’s cool to see micro-influencers grow their accounts and the app provides individuals with the opportunity to build their platform on a greater scale than ever before. That being said, you truly have to get lucky to win the TikTok-famous lottery. If you gain a significant following on the app, there will be many more opportunities to grow your platform in the future.

As a member of Gen Z, I have been consuming social media for a long time. Of course, it has impacted me both positively and negatively in ways that I probably won’t fully understand or know. However, I’ve noticed the tremendous impact that TikTok has made on me over the past year. For instance, I definitely internalized some of the expectations that the “That Girl” trend perpetuated. Eventually, I reflected on the standards I had set, wanting to constantly wake up early, work out, and live an aesthetic life. Ultimately, I realized that those standards were unsustainable and boring (I recommend listening to Binchtopia’s podcast episode My Higher Self Owns an Apple Watch for interesting insights about the self-optimization trend). Realizing my internalization of the trends has helped me be more critical of what I consume. I’m able to watch TikTok and set better mental boundaries by being aware that everything is manufactured.

If you’re able to use TikTok and on an average day spend a healthy amount of time on the app, I think TikTok’s benefits outweigh its disadvantages. I personally have found it a struggle to not spend an hour at a time scrolling, however, over time I’ve set better limits. For me, a part of setting limits has been a) Setting a timer on the app for 40 minutes and once that timer is up (because it always is) I set a 15-minute timer. The 15-minute timer helps keep me aware of the amount of time I’m scrolling and stopping after a reasonable period of time. b) Not deleting and redownloading the app has helped me because I see it as just another app on my phone. I don’t deprive myself of TikTok because I know that banning myself from the app will make me crave TikTok content even more. c) Recognizing TikTok’s positives and negatives have helped me keep things in perspective.

When I feel unsettled by the negative content that shows up on my FYP, I’ll take a break from my phone. Ultimately though, I appreciate the creative content and unique creators. I’ll continue to be inspired by some content, while trying to come to terms with the negative aspects of the app over time. If nothing else, it’s interesting to watch this form of media evolve and learn how it continues to shape us.

Celia Callaghan

Queen's U '23

Celia Callaghan is in her third year of Commerce at Queen’s University.
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