Tik Tok. These 6 letters have forever left their mark on my productivity levels and dancing abilities. Tik Tok is the latest trend on social media where users perform short dances to popular songs or make funny skits and memes, similar to how Vine operated. This new craze has led to a black hole of endless trendy dances, inappropriate jokes, and a need to go viral.
When it first appeared on social media, I swore to all my friends that I would never download it despite them all being on this platform. However, the devil got ahold of me and one day I bit into the Forbidden Apple – I downloaded Tik Tok. Since then, my school work has been collecting dust on my desk and my limbs move automatically the minute Renegade comes on.
While Tik Tok poses a threat to my academic career as I often spend countless hours scrolling through this app instead of coding, I have noticed facets of this app that make me uncomfortable. The dark side of Tik Tok isn’t the jump scares that catch you off guard at 2am nor is it the potential security threat that it poses; no, the dark side of Tik Tok is more subversive than that. The oversexualization of minors and spread of hateful rhetoric thinly disguised as jokes have made Tik Tok a platform where pervertedness and racism has been allowed to run rampant.
Videos of 15 year old girls doing fun dances while lip syncing has led them to be sexualized by older men who lurk on the app. They often send these young creators explicit messages and repost these videos to forums that are crawling with similar predators. Moreover, the nonchalance concerning the sexualizing of young girls from both Tik Tok and its users leave a bad taste in my mouth. Rather than protect these young girls, the platform and users all have done nothing to catch predators and to protect future creators. In fact, they often encourage this behavior as more pretty young girls lip syncing means more revenue for the app and more guilty-pleasure eye-candy for users that are the same age or worse, much older. In addition to the sexualization of young girls, many creators have also been able to use Tik Tok to allow their hateful rhetoric to spread as they collect laughs and likes. Racist jokes have appeared on my timeline time and time again, amassing over thousands of likes and comments with people applauding this behavior. Because they claim these jokes are just to be funny, the effect of these words are lost on the creators and their viewers, who are usually still in their formative teenage years. The catch is that while these Tik Tok creators are displaying racist ideologies as “jokes,” the songs that are playing in the background are often created by black artists. The captions they choose to use go completely against the identity of these artists whom they are play8ing and the fact that these “jokes” are so positively received erase the real life consequences that racist rhetoric can amplify.
While Tik Tok is a great way to waste time as the millions of videos on there do have interesting and funny content, there is still an underbelly of seediness that exists within the app. Sexualization of girls and overt racism disguised as jokes have made Tik Tok an unsafe space for young girls and marginalized people. As a community, I believe that there is a way to still enjoy the purpose of Tik Tok without making certain groups uncomfortable and without normalizing pervertedness and racism.