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TikTok's Most Dangerous Trick May Be Killing Your Happiness - But There Is A Cure
TikTok logo in front of sad emojis
Pop Culture

TikTok's Most Dangerous Trick May Be Killing Your Happiness - But There Is A Cure

TikTok is a primary source of entertainment for countless people, but the joy it provides might not be entirely fulfilling.

TikTok is one of the more recent social media platforms to have entered the public consciousness. It is also one of the most successful in history, boasting a massive one billion monthly active users as of April 2022. Despite being founded significantly later than its contemporaries, it already has more users than Snapchat, Pinterest, or Twitter. It is also only four million users away from eclipsing Instagram.

The platform’s success is likely driven by the amount of content users can consume in such a short time. TikTok videos are designed to be brief, and the algorithm is designed to cater to your viewing history as meticulously as possible, which would theoretically further contribute to the joy of users.

However, despite TikTok’s massive success, it has also encountered numerous controversies, even for the standards of a social media platform. More specifically, TikTok has been under increased scrutiny for the way it formats its content, the disturbingly intimate methods of its algorithm, the censorship policies implicit in the app, what actually appears on the platform itself, and the potential mental health issues that might arise in both content creators and users. In all of this, it can be said that TikTok trivializes the pursuit of happiness that people naturally embrace.

How TikTok’s Algorithm Aims For Maximum Pleasure

tiktok logo close up

According to the platform, TikTok’s algorithm “recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors – starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too.” So far, this seems like the average social media platform in terms of how it offers posts to its users. The algorithm also operates under the following factors: user activity, subject matter, location and language, audio, and what the user reports as uninteresting.

Theoretically, this contributes to user’s satisfaction with the platform. Thanks to this algorithm, TikTok can pretty much create a selection of videos that are perfectly compatible with the user’s interests, cultural background, and region of origin. It panders to the users’ wants and makes sure to provide a feed that will interest the user as much as possible.

TikTok’s algorithm puts happiness and pleasure at the forefront, and it employs this strategy by narrowing down the content to what the user is nearly guaranteed to enjoy.

However, the overindulgent consumption of any kind of content, regardless of one’s opinion on the content itself, only seems like a heavenly endeavor in theory. The stimulation provided by the enjoyment of watching a good video is intensely amplified on TikTok. The videos are short, and there is always another one to replace it. The TikTok experience is fast paced, and it is easy to spend hours exploring the platform to provide entertainment for oneself.  

The Problem With TikTok

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TikTok has become exceptionally popular over the past couple of years, and it inevitably attracted polarizing people and decisions. Aside from the inevitable problems with cyberbullying that come with the Internet, TikTok has been the source of concern for many people, even for social media standards. It has often been compared to an addiction, and has been accused of contributing to the reduction of its users’ attention span.

These criticisms are natural and expected. Over the past few decades, society has been developing a dependence on the Internet, which was only been amplified with the emergence of social media and the increasing ubiquity of the web. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram all get similar flack.

What separates TikTok from its predecessors is the very nature of the content. The other platforms require some form of communication, whereas TikTok is essentially a newer version of YouTube that provides more offerings at a quicker pace.

Unlike other forms of social media, what little required reading that was already present in those platforms is next to nonexistent in TikTok, specifically because its selling point is videos. However, it treats the distribution of videos as if they were Tweets, “snaps” or Instagram stories.

TikTok has assimilated a form of entertainment into the social media pipeline. What was formerly a subset of filmmaking has been reduced to content as disposable, but also as gratifying, as social media posts.

The Relevance Of TikTok’s Relationship With The Pursuit Of Happiness

woman scrolls phone in nature at night

Obviously, the vast majority of people on TikTok are not the creators that can potentially profit from the way the platform is designed. While the effects of TikTok’s catering strategy affects its entire userbase, the people who are exclusively part of the audience are the ones whose joy is susceptible to becoming single-minded. Successful TikTokers usually have plenty of material comfort to be as genuinely happy as possible. The same cannot be said about the ones that join the fun to admire the spectacle.

Admittedly, TikTok has plenty of interesting subjects that are covered by some of its users, hence why the algorithm is so effective. There are countless videos of artists showing how their craft is constructed, compilations of nostalgic pop culture, depictions of nature, and other topics. However, it might be unproductive in the long run to experience this communal feeling by hopping from one thing to the next.

TikTok is at this point too popular to actually ban without the guilty party being met with overwhelming backlash. It will remain a dominant social media force for a while, but that does not mean that its users should abandon their interests if that were to end. What matters is the shift in cultural attitudes.

People who depend on TikTok for the daily pleasures of life, whether they are oblivious to it or not, should be encouraged to pursue what they see on the platform in other contexts.

By turning our culture’s relationship with TikTok into one of more moderate consumption and providing opportunities for people to engage with these interests in real life, several issues people have with TikTok will become increasingly irrelevant. It might be challenging, but in the long run of this hypothetical scenario, TikTok will still keep its users, who will in turn gain more fulfillment from their hobbies.


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