How Fast Can You Say FYP?

TikTok Logo

Soha Kassab


Recently, the popularity of TikTok has increased, with a growing number of users using TikTok, due to the short videos, reels and high quality audio, alongside with content that is considered entertaining; such has online challenges, dancing, to name a few. However, TikTok also has a darker agenda, and with global unintended consequences of using TikTok, 10 Downing Street sidelines the warnings for the UK. In this article, Soha Kassab covers the darker agenda of TikTok on society, including its long-term consequence and impact on the TikTok users and the general public.

In this era of quick-fire entertainment, TikTok has skyrocketed to stardom, gaining an international audience with its short-form videos and catchy audio. While some might find the dancing challenges and lip-syncing trends funny and captivating, TikTok has been generating a much darker agenda, with conscription may having been denied by Downing Street.

It’s been staging its very own drama production. Influencers have turned real-life crises into sensational spectacles, causing online mayhem and chaos. With views and likes treated as currency, mental health and human connection appear to be taking a backseat on this digital rollercoaster. 

Most of our generation (I say ‘most’ because, in true Gen Z fashion, I do not believe in generalising) solely depends on these apps for everything. No, really…everything. We use it to check on our friends who haven’t attended a lecture since the beginning of the semester. We use it to beg our grandparents to tilt the iPad away from their foreheads over video calls. We use it to post embarrassing-, no- no- aesthetic, no- candid photos of our lives depending on our mood and alas…we usually also use it to get our world and political information. 

It’s no secret that the majority of us were raised on and by social media and its influencers so it comes as no surprise that we also trust it when it comes to acquiring insight into the geopolitical state of the world (which, not to be a pessimist, has been dysfunctional since way before any of us were even born.) This brings me to the loaded question of the article; 

How has social media’s culture of widespread information left a permanent dent in our generation’s mindset? 

Twitter wars and Facebook feuds have already been extensively studied and heavily critiqued. However, Tiktok’s recent popularity in the past few years merits extra attention. After a couple of years of being an active member of TikTok (which is to say that I’ve been a victim of so many niches – insane – microtrends, subcultures and multiple faux arcs of self-searching), I have come to realise that TikTok thrives on its participatory culture. Since so many users start using it around four to fifteen years old, the app’s algorithm has no difficulty re-programming this generation’s entire mindset and persona. Things such as clothing, jokes, opinions and aesthetics have all become so international and abundant due to TikTok’s nature of starting new microtrends every few days which causes people to fixate on the same style of living for the same amount of time that it’s almost like we’re all clones of the same person. 

While our lack of originality can be dismissed by some and turned into a self-deprecating joke by others, TikTok’s influence has affected more critical aspects of our lives such as our ability

To understand the gravity of genuine issues and the long-term effects of that are getting more and more alarming by the day. The dangers of using TikTok as a source of information are more profound and far more daunting than any of us realize. In other words: yes, it is actually that deep. So, let’s break this down to try and understand how and why TikTok is baiting us with fake information on serious world issues such as presidential elections, the possible eruption of world wars, and the most recent one in the UK, the conscription rumours over conflicts with Russia. 

There has been a growing rise of Sensationalism on TikTok: 

One of TikTok’s…unique aspects is that, unlike Twitter and Instagram, it wasn’t made to connect us with other people; it was made to entertain us. Some could argue that it was also created to distract us from developing fundamental critical thinking skills. It’s me. I’m the one who could -and will- argue that. 

TikTok is a content-based app, which means it depends on content creators to target specific audiences and send particular messages to them through the videos they get on their Fyp (For You Page) (Did anyone need that clarification though?) This is why in 2021, TikTok established “The Creator Fund,” a financial fund to compensate creators for “making incredible TikTok videos.” TikTok’s words, not mine. So how does this relate to the spreading of misinformation among TikTok users? Well, let’s imagine it this way, you know that chick-flick cliche where someone overhears a conversation in the high school bathroom from one of the stalls then completely misinterprets it then goes and twists the story about 30° to their best friend, the best friend goes on to twist the story a further 30° before re-telling it to their study group, then the study group goes on twist the story another 30° to- okay, you get the idea now. That’s how false information circulates TikTok, except in this narrative, everything is virtual. The person in the bathroom stall, their best friend and that study group are all content creators who get paid to tell their viewers illogical news or are the viewers. It’s straightforward to get on your phone, open TikTok, set your camera up, hit the record button, and stand there, lying or passing on misconceived information about political problems and world issues that should have been adequately researched before creating the video. Moreover, thanks to parasocial relationships that influence multiple dimensions among media users, it’s even easier to open TikTok, sit behind the screen and believe whatever falsehoods we’re being told by our favourite creators. 

But why are these influencers so quick to get on their phones and spread the most harmful and senseless rumours? The answer is quite simple: they capitalize off the videos they make on these sensitive topics. In this vast and deformed land of social media, influencers have recognized the allure of garnering public attention by propagating fabricated news on topics they know people will care about. They create dramatized videos where they blur the lines between the reality of the situation and the heavily exaggerated version that their followers will view. This means that the actual narrative is twisted by 180° (remember that chick-flick cliche?) to increase shock value and get as much engagement from viewers as possible. It’s also almost always guaranteed that these videos often go viral at the expense of authenticity and accuracy.

There are grim Consequences and Eroding Thinking Skills behind when using TikTok: 

The consequences of all that information we’re constantly exposed to are more apparent in the younger viewers who are still developing their perspective on life and navigating complex societal dynamics. When these kids spend most of their free time scrolling on an app bombarded with all these overstated tales and sensationalized content, they are bound to struggle with separating fact from fiction and reality from fantasy and developing malformed morals and worldviews. Then, a vicious cycle of fear and uncertainty is formed due to the confusion mixed with their underdeveloped state of mind (a deadly combination). Their trust in legitimate sources starts eroding since they grew up with TikTok; to them, that might as well be the horse’s mouth. 

I do think it’s important to note, though, that power-hungry, view-addicted content creators are not the only factor contributing to widespread misinformation. A lot of the time, it’s us who enable it. (I think this is now my queue to hide.) Let me elaborate! According to a study conducted in 2022 that was designed to find out more about how Gen Z responds to fake news, “72.5% claimed to have never shared misinformation intentionally” Not surprisingly, respondents who did not share misinformation intentionally fall into the trap of sharing it unintentionally (54.8%). So, the good news is: Many of us are not intentionally spreading misinformation through TikTok and other social media platforms. The awful, scary and downright menacing news is that many of us are not intentionally spreading misinformation through TikTok and other social media platforms…I feel like this calls for sarcastic jazz hands. 

So, no, influencers and content creators are not the only ones responsible for spreading misinformation and fake news online. Although, I do think they are primarily responsible for initiating the chain reaction. We, common internet-using, TikTok-loving folks, also carry a big part of that responsibility by not thinking critically about the content we consume to differentiate between what’s accurate enough to spread and what’s another sham curated for attention. 

Before I free you, dearest reader, from the shackles of this article, I’d like to highlight the universal consequence of consuming so much misinformation and disinformation on a daily basis. As our brains – along with any legitimate news source on the internet – get engulfed by fabricated news, we get more and more desensitized to genuine issues. The blurred lines between fiction and reality diminish our perception of urgency and weaken our ability to recognise and respond to actual crises or injustices. This leads to a powerful sense of distortion of social norms and values, so any sincere empathy or understanding is rarely ever present. 

Long story short, TikTok influencers and content creators often stir panic and paranoia among viewers to gain views because that’s what seems to be prioritized nowadays. The drastic escalation of dramatized content on TikTok has sacrificed the authenticity of human connection and replaced it with a culture of superficiality and self-promotion. Ladies and Gentleman, I hate

To be the one to pass on this message (not really) but I’m afraid we are all greatly at risk of falling victim to the disinformation and misinformation proliferated on TikTok which is leading to the inevitable decline of empathy, and authenticity and breeding an overall warped perception of life and humanity.

Soha Kassab 


Featured image courtesy of Alexander Shatov of Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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