TikTok, a social networking platform aimed at teenage mobile phone users, was the world’s second-most downloaded app in 2019. In July 2020, it was the most downloaded app. The phone-only app allows users to record themselves dancing or goofing off to music or spoken-word clips, then edit the footage with various effects. Despite its seeming frivolity, young people have used the platform to convey political messages, arrange political events, and hang out in an online world devoid of grownups.
How does it work?
Each TikTok is a 3 to 60-second video that loops once completed. The video that the user submitted takes up the majority of the screen. The app’s filter and video-distorting effects collection is similar to Instagram filters, but for video. The audio file that goes with the video is described at the bottom of the screen. These “sounds” can be submitted by the user or selected from a library of popular sounds. This library includes professional musician song excerpts and goofy recordings of people talking.
You swipe up to go to the next TikTok. Swipe right to reveal the account that uploaded the current TikTok. The screen of a smartphone displays thumbnails of video clips.
How it stacks up
When TikTok is compared to other digital media platforms, it becomes clear what distinguishes it. TikTok, like YouTube, is entirely made up of videos. The primary manner of accessing TikTok, like Facebook and Twitter, is via scrolling through a “feed” of short, digestible posts. The default manner of encountering content, like Netflix, is through the recommendation algorithm, not through creating “friend” or “follower” networks. TikTok, like Snapchat and Instagram, can only be made on mobile phones, which favors younger users who are more comfortable with mobile phones than computers.
Storage of information
TikTok is mainly information dense due to the combination of video media and the “feed.” Each TikTok has a lot going on, and there is an endless stream of TikTok. Unlike text, video media functions on two parallel pathways, simultaneously providing explicit and implicit information (social cues such as the TikToker’s attire and haircut or emotional effect from music). The “feed” allows a social media user to sift through numerous bite-sized pieces of content per minute, collecting information far more efficiently than a television broadcast. These tendencies, when combined, make scrolling through the “For You Page” a whirlwind experience, representing a substantial gain in information density.
TikTok alters the costs and rewards of uploading as well. On the expense front, because TikTok is created for smartphones, it is easier for some users and more difficult for others. As a general rule, the more you spend utilizing a technology in your life – and the earlier in your life cycle those years are – the more adept you become at using that technology. TikTok also promotes videos shot in the vertical orientation inherent in smartphones, allowing them to be generated wherever the user goes, anytime they have a spare moment.
In terms of advantages, the emphasis of the recommendation system over “friend” networks ensures that everyone will receive at least a few views, even if it is their first TikTok. Because of the importance of “follower” networks in determining what people view, you might log on to Twitter and tweet hundreds of times before you acquire any “likes.”
TikTok’s “For You Page” alternates between presenting users’ incredibly popular TikTok and TikTok with only a few views, fostering greater equality than traditional social networks. Overall, TikTok provides an online venue for young people who feel abnormally detached from the adult world, one in which they will almost certainly receive some attention.
Familiar sounds, unusual movements
Finally, TikTok’s “sounds” that users blend with their films provide a creative approach to categorizing and exploring a social media network. If you click on the “sound” button at the bottom of a TikTok, you will see all of the other TikTok that use that sound file. The most prominent example is a specific dance routine accompanied by an accompanying “sound.” The audio is the same across this collection of TikTok, but each user offers a unique video of themselves dancing.
TikTok memes can be seen in these dances. On more text- or picture-focused platforms, “memes” consist of a fixed “meme format” that is subsequently remixed by users who change the image or words to create a given “meme.” On TikTok, however, the raw material being remixed is the user’s body as the user executes the meme-associated activity, which I refer to as “embodied memes.”
TikTok’s body is significantly more visible than on other sites. While clever humor is essential on Twitter, TikTok favors conventionally gorgeous or otherwise stunning bodies even more than Instagram. This also implies that the identification categories becoming increasingly crucial in politics play a significant role in TikTok. Embodied memes frequently make fun of the TikToker’s race, gender, attractiveness, or location.
More traditional visual memes can appear nameless or disembodied as they circulate the internet. It’s impossible to separate the individual from the meme on TikTok.