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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

You’re sitting with a friend, and both of you’re discussing the latest news online, a situation you’re both familiar with because the videos about it on TikTok have been appearing on both of your TikTok feeds. Suddenly, as you explain your posture, you realize you have just uttered word by word what your favorite creator has expressed in her latest video. You pause, as you begin to wonder if you truly formed an opinion or if you just repeated what another person said.

During the pandemic, we saw the rise of TikTok as the number one go-to social media platform. As its success grew, an ever-increasing amount of creators from different backgrounds began to flock to its doorsteps. From political debaters to spiritual new-age creators, everyone has a community in TikTok in which you can enjoy their content. 

But why is TikTok so good at giving us what we want? The answer lies in its algorithm. Unlike other social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok’s algorithm is tailored with minimalist details taken into consideration. Bryant Venezuela explains, “...TikTok’s algorithm, in addition to traditional metrics, uses subliminal interactions — even the mere length for which one views a specific video — to curate and determine a user’s in-app experience…”. And although his article focuses more on the political aspect of the algorithm’s usage, we can still apply the basics of his theory to every other video that’s regurgitated on the app. 

It goes a little like this:  TikTok observes and analyzes every detail of your interactions, from the hashtags that you click to the minutes you spend in a video. The result is a perfectly curated For You Page with only the content you, as an individual user, desire. Here lies a both troublesome and innovative discovery: the creation of echo chambers in social media. 

GCF Global defines an echo chamber as “…an environment where a person only encounters information or opinions that reflect and reinforce their own. Echo chambers can create misinformation and distort a person’s perspective so they have difficulty considering opposing viewpoints and discussing complicated topics. They’re fueled in part by confirmation bias, which is the tendency to favor info that reinforces existing beliefs.”

When was the last time you saw a video of the opposing political party of your choice? Or a video of a person with a different economical background from yours? Or even more common, a video of someone that does not share your same interest?

TikTok makes the best of its technological advancement to isolate you into specific groups, which constitutes a problem in and of itself. The lack of interaction with different opinions breeds hostility and intolerance. As you further fall into a pipeline of your own opinion, with people who share the same views, less of a debate is made, and confirmation bias is inevitably reinforced. 

TikTok is reactionary, and the way it works is that, the stronger your reaction is as you elaborate your opinion, the higher the views and stitches your videos get. In turn, it makes the content creator prisoner of stronger vocabulary and faster reactions, rather than providing a space for a healthy conversation. It doesn’t help that the comment section is limited to a certain amount of characters, which in turn limits nuance in explaining your position.

The reactionary nature of TikTok heavily influences your For You page. As you begin to scroll through your feed, it may initially feature videos of a happier demeanor. Before you know it, ardent or downright angry reaction videos begin to appear on your feed. Videos of the same topicーthink of any topic, from more dense situations like modern-day feminism to simpler topics like funny cat videos. The angry video sparks the sought-after emotion. Besides scrolling through videos on the same topic, you also spent a long time in the comment section. You might have even engaged with them by agreeing with the funny remarks, or by replying to someone’s comment. 

Let’s take the topic of cats for this example. You watch a video of a dog person calling a cat stupid, and the video is stitched by a cat person saying how their opinion is based on a more internalized issue, such as misogyny and lack of consent. Their opinion is strong and holds more value in your mind because it uses words like “fun fact”, “ according to research ” and “based on this study”. The comment section is filled with people that agree with them and you begin to wonder if you should explore more about this subject. But you’re tired and you’re on TikTok. Soon enough, you decide that going through the trouble of doing some additional research is not even necessary, given that another video explaining this topic automatically appears once the first video ends. The following videos lack mentions of research, but their creators’ speeches are delivered with a heavy amount of academically inclined vocabulary. Soon enough, you’re convinced, and suddenly, more videos begin to confirm what you now believe to be true: your opinion has shifted from  “I don’t agree with dog people not liking cats” to “all dog owners are misogynistic and lack consent awareness”. 

It is when these thoughts begin to form in our minds that we must stop, ask ourselves to look further from our opinions, and expose ourselves to the “other”. Sheltering our beliefs from opposing views does not allow for growth and tolerance. In this time and age, where everyone is reactionary and words are the strongest weapon, we must remember to be wise and think for ourselves when speaking up.

Writer, editor, artist, and social media enthusiast, Naomi thrives on fun daily challenges and lots of bed rest. When she's not working, she's outside trying to find the latest hobby to dig her hands on.