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4th December 2020

Time’s up TikTok: Here’s why I’m not wasting another 15 seconds

Pippa Dennis has ended an incredibly toxic relationship with TikTok and tells us all about why
Time’s up TikTok: Here’s why I’m not wasting another 15 seconds

From data breaching to disorder preaching, it’s time to stop the clock on TikTok.

Head bowed in shame, I surrendered. I felt defeated as it dawned on me that the thrill of Zoom ‘breakout rooms’ was not enough to eradicate my lockdown boredom. In a reluctant plea to fill this Corona-induced void, I put my pride aside and joined the other 800 million active users worldwide in downloading TikTok, waving goodbye to all my functioning brain cells.

In early October, Pakistan banned the app on the basis of ‘immoral and indecent’ content. It has since lifted the ban after a period of ten days.

Rumours have increasingly circulated that Trump is banning the app on the basis of ‘national security concerns‘. The ongoing saga of the TikTok ban in America has once again been halted due to the US Commerce Department ‘pending further legal developments’. What a relief!

But seriously, how will people cope without being confusedly entranced by videos of ex-Love Island stars half-heartedly dancing with their perfect teeth beaming at their two million viewers? TikTok is not currently being deleted in the UK but I wouldn’t throw a party just yet.

This app has gradually assumed the role of my NHS track and trace app, since I keep deleting and re-downloading it. TikTok’s highly addictive nature keeps us desperately trapped in its unproductive clutches.

We, the generation marked by increasingly shorter attention spans, bask in the allure of TikTok’s rapid 15-second clips: it provides us with the antidote and the poison simultaneously. And make no mistake: on a daily basis, TikTok beckons us to waste away our time in return for cheap laughs and exacerbated self-esteem issues, since ‘For You’ pages are dominated by a dazzling array of gorgeous teens, Toosie Sliding across all our insecurities with their perfect hair and unattainable physiques.

If this wasn’t enough, some members of the community have complained of videos on their ‘For You Page’ showing unhealthy dieting, excessive exercise, references to suicide, and a whole host of concerning content accessible to all.

If you’ve also been unfortunate enough to develop co-dependency problems with the app, you may have noticed the array of experimental videos trying to ‘crack the algorithm’ and uncover how your ‘For You Page’ personalises and prioritises the content that you see. The answer? Although all apps consume phone data, it seems TikTok’s Nonstop data absorption has really flipped the switch.

Claims from previous years about the app’s abuse of data protection continue to set off alarms. Boasting over two billion downloads via the app store and Google Play, this app opens the door to a data protection nightmare.

Last year, The Guardian reported the worrying statistic that Bytedance (the company who owns TikTok) was fined a whopping £4.2 million for “collecting the personal data of children under 13“.

This summer, the nation watched on as India renounced TikTok, banning the app for ‘threatening national security’.

This does little to help TikTok with the alleged reports of it being spyware in disguise. This app has a lot of bad press, so why are we all so willing to overlook it?

From my experience using the app, it seems to be a largely unregulated platform which does little to protect children from being targeted and contacted by inappropriate adults.

BBC One launched its investigation “Panorama: Is TikTok Safe?”  at the start of November. The documentary raised concerns for TikTok’s handling of child predators. TikTok’s failure to intervene with child safety was portrayed when an account staged as a fourteen year old girl received explicit messages from a 35 year old male. Whilst TikTok does not allow users under the age of sixteen to send and receive direct messages, users are often – according to the documentary – able to get around this by lying about their age.

On the 17th November, TikTok announced new features to enable tougher parental controls. These features include the “ability to change settings remotely, disallow carrying out searches to children, and to prevent strangers from seeing their posts”. Children are able to override the parental controls, but their parents will be notified of this.

Does this app do anything to protect its viewers from videos which may be highly triggering? It’s no surprise many have drawn parallels between this app and Tumblr, which arguably pioneered a generation suffocated by unrealistic beauty standards generated from the internet.

For me, the trance is broken, I’ve seen the natural, not phone-screen-generated light and removed it from my life.  If anything, I feel grateful that this app wasn’t around when I was a teen.

On that note, TikTok, it’s over. I’m done, and everyone else should be too.

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