From the “Renegade Dance Challenge”, to funny meme videos like the “Berries and Cream” guy, TikTok has it all when it comes to entertaining content. I mean, if you have the app, you know for a fact that it can be quite addicting. People find themselves scrolling endlessly through videos that were strategically placed in their “for you” page thanks to the app’s own algorithm. Given how addicting it is, it’s unbelievably easy to spend hours in the app. Thing is, while the first hour might seem harmless, the more you scroll, the weirder the videos seem to get. I personally used to have TikTok, and honestly, most of the stuff on my “For You” page were either videos of dances or funny challenges, but here and there, I would get these weird cryptic videos with eerie music and flashing images. Since then, I’ve deleted it, but now and then my friends will send me some videos from the app or they’ll talk to me about the latest trends. Sadly, I’ve come to realize that cryptic videos were not the worst of it.
And just to preface this post, I will be mentioning some sensitive topics such as su•c•de, r•pe, and beh•ad•ngs.
- Fetishizing killers
Starting off with something that has been happening for a while now, a specific segment of TikTok has slowly become a breeding ground for “cults” that admire school shooters, serial killers, and overall murderers. Heck, they even make fan accounts and post edits dedicated to them. Just this year, some people on the app had been “simping” over 21-year-old Cameron Harris who had been convicted of vehicular homicide and was charged on the 8th of April with 24 years of prison after taking the life of 24-year-old Jessica Reisinger and her 20-month-old daughter while they were crossing the street. People went so far as to start a hashtag – #justiceforcameron- supporting him.
Aside from Cameron Harris, people also seemed to defend Isabela Guzmán, who at just 18, stabbed her mother 79 times. While some say that she killed her because of resentment, the court ruled insanity after Guzmán was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
According to people that support her, her defense is that she lived in an abusive household, grew up poor, and her parents were divorced. For these reasons, she had a lot of built-up anger towards her mother and just lashed out that day.
- Sexual predators
Everybody who knows about TikTok knows that the great majority of users are minors. And what do sexual predators usually prey upon? Exactly. This has resulted in various people disguising themselves as harmless accounts and ultimately getting to groom children on the app. There have been many cases in the past years, but even more surprising is to see famous tiktokers, people so many children look up to on the app, be the perpetrators of this kind of behavior.
One example of this is the infamous Tony Lopez, who was thenーor still isーa member of the “Hype House”. Allegedly he had been texting and exchanging explicit content with two underage girls. He also engaged in sexual acts with one of them during January of 2020 and urged the other to do the same thing later on in April of the same year.
- Disturbing videos
You’re done watching a TikTok video and you scroll down to watch the next one. Oh cool! Another dance video, you think. It seems to be yet another video of the standard young girl dancing to a pretty well-known song. Suddenly the video cuts to another clip. A clip of something traumatizing…
This has been the case for many as disturbing videos of a beheading and a suicide became viral on the app. An app that, as I’ve mentioned before, is very popular among young kids. I will not go into detail about how, when, and who as to the video’s origin, but these videos seem to have surfaced on the app after becoming viral on other media sites. One of them was actually part of a Facebook Livestream.
Many young children have sadly come across those videos and in some cases, have developed PTSD because of it. The worst part is, given that these videos pop up on the “for you” page, they’re part of “an endless stream of trending TikToks that play automatically as you scroll without any warnings or filters”, according to Jenny Rapson. A blogger at HerViewFromHome who has shared her views about TikTok’s sometimes dangerous content in an article of hers.
- Deathly Challenges
Of course, everyone remembers the Flip the Switch challenge, the trying to keep your hand still challenge, etc. You know, the kind of harmless and funny challenges you want to try with your friends or loved ones. Well, challenges on TikTok have taken a sharp U-turn for the worst. Ever since the Tide-Pod challenge, there have been many TikTok challenges created for the sole purpose of taking risks and achieving a bizarreーalbeit morbidーadrenaline high out of it. One of the deadliest challenges so far, one that has already taken the lives of three kids, is the Blackout Challenge.
The rules for this challenge entail that the person doing it must asphyxiate until they pass out. As they slowly gain consciousness again, they’ll feel a euphoric high.
Apparently, this isn’t the first time this challenge has gained popularity. A study conducted by the CDC back in 2008 reported 82 deaths from children in the ages of 6-19 between the years 1995-2007 because of a so-called “Choking Game”.
These types of “games” have been branded to children as “easy-to-do” and “consequence-free”, but the reality is far more complicated than that.
- “Shadow Banning”
What was supposed to be a way to censor negative content on the app, turned into a ploy to censor people that don’t fit into the cookie-cutter image that the app wants to project. Many members of the lgbttq+ community, people of color, plus-size people, people with facial disfigurations, and people with Down Syndrome have come forward about their videos mysteriously not receiving likes anymore or their accounts being reported.
Apart from censoring people by the way they present themselves, TikTok has also banned accounts that share political backlash on China’s mass detention of Uyghurs, Russia’s government, and discrimination towards LGBTTQ+ members. There was even a study conducted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) where they found that TikTok bans content they think is politically controversial. Taking into consideration that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, you would imagine why they’d ban all the things I just mentioned.
- Promoting eating disorders
Last but not least, we have what many young girls fall into because of social media’s portrayal of beauty: eating disorders. With the hashtag “What I eat in a day” having thousands of uploads, many young teens are faced with different ways in which they should be eating, to look a certain way. There are cases in which they are shown videos of a “healthy” what-I-eat-in-a-day, where the quantity of food shown is barely enough for a growing body. And then there are other cases in which people boast about the amount of food they can eat in a day, while still looking like the stereotypical perfect girl you see in movies. This results in a lot of girls being frustrated with their failed attempts at achieving a certain body type while following a specific diet they saw on the app. It feeds into their insecurities and their belief that there is only one right way to be healthy or content with their body.
Even though TikTok has been deemed as the app for entertainment, the truth is, it’s not always the safest or appropriate app for many. Sure, there are a lot of amazingly talented people on there, and some really funny content as well, but a lot of people feel that, aside from having straight-up disturbing stuff on it, it can be quite toxic at times. Now, this isn’t an article to completely diss the app. Also, I’m not saying that anyone that has TikTok should automatically delete the app. On the contrary, what I’m trying to say is… TikTok, you can do better.