Succumbing to the TikTok temptation... | Jack Marshall's column

It happened. I snapped. It’s done.

Monday, 21st December 2020, 7:00 am
The TikTok logo (credit: TikTok)

Phone on. Play Store. Download completed. Open application. Welcome to TikTok. Create account.

For the uninitiated, TikTok is a social media platform centred around short, snappy videos often backed by music.

They can be about anything: dance trends to catchy songs, animal gaffes, practical jokes, make-up tutorials, sports clips, snippets of comedians’ most famous quips, lip synching… if you can think of it, there’s a TikTok about it.

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Already one of the most popular apps in history, TikTok was downloaded even more prolifically during lockdown as people confined to their homes searched for a connection with the outside world.

A constant stream of bright, loud, brash, in-you-face entertainment is hard to resist, and so for countless people, flicking through the app has replaced Horlicks as *the* nighttime ritual.

TikTok is furiously addictive. The videos just keep coming, each increasingly tailored to lean towards similar genres of videos you’d spent more time watching, matching hashtags on clips which you’d ‘liked’ before so as to keep you coming back for more.

The app gets to know you and then refines your TikTok diet to give you a constant fast-food sugar rush, cementing your attention on your phone.

Because of this quicksand hold it has over people, TikTok is big business. The platform’s most popular star is 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio, who has over 100 million followers and a net worth of $4m. Pretty much all she does is corny dances to bubblegum-sweet songs and she’ll never have to work a day in her life.

As with all social media in 2020, all of this has a sense of terrifyingly malevolence. Research shows Facebook’s datasets know people better than their own spouses based solely on their ‘likes’ so it’s hard not to detect a whiff of cold-blooded, algorithmically-driven data-mining. It knows that I like TikToks of fat cats and James Acaster on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

And so it quietly feeds me more.

But is that so terrible? Some TikTok content is truly just brilliant, so if I get more of the good stuff whilst brewing up I’m not complaining.

I know it’s fundamentally a waste of time. I know it’s addictive. I know that the Chinese app’s developers are probably mining my data to sell to advertisers to bleed me for revenue.

But goddamn if it isn’t fun...