TikTok is one of the most popular social media services of the last years. It has achieved popularity especially among teenagers and has known a growth that made it on the top list of social network services together with brands like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. TikTok is also an app that literally divides the users of the internet: some of them simply love it because they find it funny and easy to use, while others criticize it for being an app totally targeted to teenagers, not featuring useful content but just videos of people dancing. In other words, half people recognize TikTok as an app which deserves to be recognized as a main social network, while others call it a 'cringe' app. What's the truth?
The Origin of TikTok
As always, condemning a social media service totally and just because of the first things one hear about it is not good: not because you may risk to be called a 'boomer' by the average TikTok user, but simply because that's the truth: there is always something good and bad in every app we use. Before going into this, it would be interesting to understand the true origin of TikTok: the popular short videos service has been launched after acquisition of Musical.ly by the Chinese company ByteDance. The same company was running, years before, a service that is nonetheless the Chinese version of TikTok: Douyin. Then, after acquiring Musical.ly, ByteDance released the same Douyin service it was successfully running in China, changed some features and imported Musical.ly content in order to run the international version of Douyin: the app everyone knows as TikTok (yes, that musical note that represents the TikTok logo can also be seen as a 'D' for Douyin).
Before continuing with trying to understand if TikTok is a good app or a 'cringe' app (like most of its detractors love to say), here some little facts about Douyin:
- Douyin is one of the most principal social media services in China: it is not used just for entertainment, but also for sharing news, videos regarding public safety and even for selling stuff inside the app (something we can see also with Facebook here, which is a social media service that allows its users to do several things).
- Douyin has many young users but, in general, the app has still a wider audience. While international TikTok has been culturally considered as an app for teenagers (even if it seems that even many adults are trying this app), Douyin in China is recognized as a social network that everyone can use.
Then, the most important fact, which is directly linked with the ones before:
- Douyin is not a place where you will find tons of people dancing through the last popular hit or copying trends launched by other creators. Of course there are also these kinds of videos, as Douyin has also its side of basic entertainment, but Douyin is much more: on Douyin you can find nice food recipes (and also ideas to turn a very simple dish into something artistic), videos about life hacks (from the video that will show you how to clean the borders of a window by cutting a dish sponge in the between, to videos showing original ways to use objects meant for other scopes) and educational videos. As written before, also news and videos regarding public safety.
Understanding The Real Value of TikTok
When you read about Douyin you may think we are talking about an app which is completely different than TikTok. In a certain way yes, this is true, as they are two services running into different countries and with separated databases. The reality is that, if we exclude the different geographical areas and the fact the two services are running independently from each other, the app is still the same: the idea behind is the same, the interface is even the same.
Still, when talking about Douyin, everyone can recognize its important role in China, which goes far from the simple idea of an app that entertains users. So why the international TikTok got another destiny? There is a possible reason: TikTok faces competition from several social networks so it had to find a niche. Following the acquisition of Musical.ly, TikTok found it easy to promote the same level of contents inside its app. This kind of content is what teenagers mostly love and this has made TikTok the 'social network for teenagers' for excellence. Videos of dancing, with the addition of influencers coming from the other social media: all of this results in a specific niche of videos that many detractors find 'cringe'. They believe TikTok is simply an app where people dance on songs and copy trends from other creators. Of course TikTok is also this as, as written before, it is an app meant for entertaining users. Still, TikTok doesn't lack of channels about cooking, educational videos or videos discussing social issues. Simply, these channels are followed by a niche of TikTok users and many people outside the platform wouldn't even notice them, as they start with the preconception that TikTok is only an app meant for posting cringe videos or copying trends from others. The reality is that TikTok, like Douyin, is an app for everything, even if it is still mostly known for videos of teenagers dancing and following trends launched by other creators. TikTok is like YouTube, something where you can find everything, with the only difference that YouTube is mostly known for long videos (even if with YouTube Shorts, the platform is also featuring short videos), while TikTok is just focused on short videos.
Calling TikTok a 'cringe app' because you don't like a specific kind of videos that are popular, but don't certainly make the whole platform, is like going back to 10 years ago and calling Tumblr a 'platform for girls pretending to be self-harming' while, at the fact, the idea behind Tumblr was to provide an innovative social blogging service. You may like or not like a specific kind of videos that you can find on TikTok, still the app can be very useful, if you win the preconceptions that mainstream critics is making against this popular service. China, with Douyin, is a perfect example that TikTok may be much more than a simple platform where to share some dance steps copied from a random influencer.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Alessio Ganci