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National Threat or Lifestyle: what is behind TikTok?

This year’s State of Mobile report by App Annie, an internet analytics company, declared that

TikTok is now officially more addictive than YouTube. Report reveals that average American spends almost 24.5 hours in TikTok per month and monthly engagement is growing non-stop, faster than Facebook, Instagram, or any other messaging app. The most active users of TikTok are so called Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2010). According to KidSay’s, youth market research agency, the majority of US teenagers (about 68%) are using TikTok.

The main question remains: what or who is behind TikTok enormous popularity?

TikTok image in the media

TikTok is constantly being attacked by various Western media. The popular video app is portrayed like a tool to damage youngsters mental health and even like a threat to national security of some states, complaining about TikTok being the hand of Beijing, which is trying to get TikTok users’ personal data and provide it to the Chinese government for its own purposes.

Media coverage of TikTok by some of the Western media

Secrets to TikTok popularity: are there any secrets at all?

First and foremost, the app reflects young people’s lifestyle, both Western and Chinese youth. TikTok’s speed resonates with the life rhythm which today’s young people got used to live. The app’s design is captivating, fast, dynamic and stylish. All of this is what younger generation consider entertaining and attractive. The video app is bringing colors to their lives and easy to use. With the simple features it offers, every ordinary young user can create an extraordinary video clip to capture events important and dear to him or her. Basically, Tik Tok is a tool which Gen Z uses to record and share the beautiful moments of their life: travelling, parties with friends, fashion, dancing, shopping, etc.

Another value TikTok brings to young people is the feeling of community. At that very age Gen Z youngsters are starting to live an independent life, they are searching for their own place and trying to identify themselves within their social group and society as a whole. Through showcasing their personality via videos on TikTok, young people are gaining more confidence. Moreover, in contrast to Instagram or Facebook, here they can be just themselves, as through the video format users are able to express themselves more freely without the necessity to take the one and only perfect single shot. In TikTok it’s almost impossible to be fake and young people feel this difference.

The craze over the app comes with risks. Dangerous challenges posted on TikTok and young people mental health problems are causing concern among parents, schools and governments, so regulatory adjustments faced recently by the platform seem quite logic.

Is control over TikTok realistic?

The key to TikTok’s success is what it offers to its audience. It provides a completely new way of communication, which earlier social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter weren’t able to create.

Considering its popularity is a natural phenomenon, there just couldn’t be any companies or governments able to possess TikTok, filter its content or take any other actions to make the platform controllable.

In 2020, the US president Donald Trump has accused ByteDance, a Chinese parent company of TikTok of the American users’ data leakage to China’s government. Though the US Federal Court voted in favor of TikTok, its decision wasn’t the main reason for the app to stay and continue growing.

Trump wanted to make TikTok leave the US, but didn’t succeed. Not because his plan was not good enough or because his efforts were not consistent, but because to make TikTok leave is impossible. Especially right now, when the app got the record amounts of subscribers and became so powerful and influential worldwide. Today, we can even say that TikTok is an integral attribute of the young people in the West and Generation Z in particular.

TikTok can be and will be criticized, but this criticism sounds more like mere words, which would not be able to affect the video app current position and popularity, neither would it destroy its reputation nor make devoted TikTok community continue to use the platform.

Photos: Brendan Smialowski, Philippe Lopez

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