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Image / Editorial

Tik Tok: We need to talk about the app loved by everyone under the age of 18

by Edaein OConnell
10th Jan 2020

Tik Tok is the latest social media sensation, with over 500 million users. As a digital native, surely it would be my friend…

It was only a matter of time before another social media platform came to brainwash a generation.

I am not here to dramatise the entirety of social media, but it’s quite the addictive stimulant. And this new app is like what Dawson’s Creek was to teenagers in the 90s. The app in question is Tik Tok. Launched in 2017 by Bytedance for markets outside of China, the app allows users to create short lip-sync and comedy videos. Seen as the predecessor to the video app Vine (RIP), it has experienced an exponential surge in popularity in recent months.

Tik Tok now has over 800 million users worldwide and this number is most certainly expected to grow.

As a 25-year-old whose life has grown alongside social media channels, I presumed the transition to a new app would be easy. Technology is my friend. It can’t scare me.

Social media is like another family. Facebook is my social media grandmother, Twitter is my mother and Instagram is my sister.

Surely, Tik Tok would be my cousin.

But Tik Tok scares me.


It’s frightening. The turn of phrase “putting yourself out there” takes on a new meaning in this world of dance routines and miming. Confidence often belongs to the youth and the young ones of Tik Tok have it in spades. When my friends and I were 15, putting a selfie as your Facebook profile picture was enough to turn you into a social pariah. Only the certain few did and we looked at them with disdain.

“Watching Tik Tok is creating wrinkles in my face. Some from worry, some from laughing and some from sadness”

Maybe this is why the app makes me uncomfortable. This new brand of youth has no qualms when it comes to confidence and self-promotion. Whereas, we did. The age gap is also an issue for me. They are all so young that it hurts me. The more I think of my dislike for the app, the more I believe it’s just jealousy. I yearn for my teenage years. Those days of reckless abandon which were often tinged with intense insecurity.

Watching Tik Tok is creating wrinkles in my face. Some from worry, some from laughing and some from sadness. God, I’m dramatic but trust me, one look at this app and you will feel a yearning like no other.

There’s a lot of awkward dance moves; a lot of jumping transformations from casual clothes into their dressy equivalents; and there’s a lof of generation Z pop culture references that I will never understand.

Tik Tok fame

There’s also the fame element. Tik Tok is the new hot ticket into social media stardom. These stars are already monetising videos and in my short time perusing the app, I noticed quite a few #ads making an appearance. Getting videos on the ‘For You’ page equates to thousands of followers and from there, the world of Tik Tok is your oyster.

“Users show the extent of their wealth, showing quick snippets of mansions, designer bags and dream-worthy cars. The target users are of an impressionable age.”

Generation Z is quite funny. From the depths of Tik Tok, the new, shiny and most talented social media stars are emerging. They make funny meme style videos, where they photoshop themselves into pictures with people like Greg from Love Island. Or videos depicting the naivety of first-year secondary school students and the fierce stress of their sixth-year counterparts.

Unbeknownst to myself, I have laughed with them and at them. However, then I think about ageing and it immediately feels wrong. It’s as if I’m trying to get into a club with a fake ID where the bouncers have repeatedly refused me.

The darker side

Like all social media, there are darker places which lie within this shiny new world. Certain videos such as the “rich girl check” are uncomfortable to watch.

Users show the extent of their wealth, showing quick snippets of mansions, designer bags and dream-worthy cars. The target users are of an impressionable age.

This flaunting of wealth can cause feelings of unworthiness and can invite comparison in a world that is already in constant opposition. There have also been disturbing reports regarding predators asking children for nude images and in-app bullying and harassment.

Despite these concerns, the app is thought of as one of the most joyful on the market with the New York Times calling it “the only truly pleasant social network in existence.”

It’s seen as a place where individuality and quirks are celebrated unlike the picture-perfect landscape of Instagram and even YouTube. It also remains largely untouched by commercialisation, which is very rare in a social media world driven by money.

Is Instagram the new Facebook?

There was a time when Facebook was everything. Then came Instagram and we flocked to that island. Facebook is long forgotten by anyone under the age of 35, but will the same thing happen to Instagram?

“The story seems similar to Snapchat, which engrossed millions of young social media users before falling foul to Instagram Stories.”

Younger generations are savvier to the curated feeds of the picture app and can smell if someone is authentic or not. The random feel of Tik Tok is credible and its pull is magnetic. The story seems similar to Snapchat, which engrossed millions of young social media users before falling foul to Instagram Stories.

And so, we wait to see if Tik Tok is just another fad or is a long-term social media addition. Until then, I have deleted the app. The final decision was made after I asked the ‘best friends’ group chat of 25-year-olds if they had joined Tik Tok. They replied they didn’t even know what that was.

This was a sure sign it was time for me to make a graceful exit.

Read more: Instagram bans filters with ‘plastic surgery’ effects to improve mental wellbeing

Read more: Is it time to finally break up with our digital selves?

Read more: Instagram: Why hiding ‘likes’ is a powerful move

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