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Why I Stopped Being on TikTok

The House of Representatives recently adopted a bill that would, in the worst-case scenario, ban TikTok in the United States. The bill still needs the approval of the Senate and the signature of the President. Additionally, following the bill's approval, six months must first be allocated to the current CEO of ByteDance, the Chinese-based company that owns TikTok, to sell its stakes.


Let’s be honest, numerous factors could change in the time before TikTok gets officially banned. Also, figuratively, would it be the end of the world if it did? I don’t think so.


Dangerously Addictive, just like Facebook and Instagram


TikTok is extremely popular, with more than 170 million users in the United States alone. Most of the users, if not all of them, got caught in the application’s addiction. Many users affirm they spent hours looking at short videos instead of a few minutes, as they had originally intended. It may seem anecdotal, but when it becomes a habit, this behavior promotes cause for concern. 


A study from 2021 proves there is a correlation between high TikTok use and low grades for college students. Social media platforms such as TikTok intentionally use strategies to keep their users’ attention as long as possible. With their algorithms, applications send personalized content to every user. Then, because they stay so long on the application, the students lose track of time, meaning they become more easily distracted in class and when they are supposed to do schoolwork. 


It is concerning how efficient TikTok algorithms are in keeping their users’ attention which results in many users becoming dependent on the application. When TikTok emerged, close to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it appeared to be just another way to interact on social media. However, confinements and social distancing are over and the world is slowly returning to normalcy. Spending hours looking at my screen suddenly seemed like a waste of time. What do we earn after a daily 2-3-4 hour TikTok marathon? Probably just insomnia if we were doing it before going to sleep.


Few informative videos, just like with Facebook and Instagram


However, I am not saying TikTok videos are all useless. For example, the Our National Conversation TikTok page is useful for understanding recent political events. However, others are purely for entertainment and publicity. After multiple hours on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, I cannot explain what I learned. It was certainly entertaining, but only a few videos were informative. 


Entertaining videos and misinformation posts amalgamated on TikTok are also concerning because users may not always clearly distinguish them from fact. In the current context of polarization, false accounts spreading fake news can easily increase the affective polarization in the country. In other words, they can intensify the sentiment of resentment and hate from different users towards other users who share different opinions. 


Potential new TikTok ownership, no difference


Politicians supporting the bill affirm the necessity to implement it because they affirm TikTok is a national security issue even though the current Singaporean CEO of TikTok has no tie with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).


However, is a business owner or a politician like Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin under the Trump administration more ethical and suited to be in charge of all American users’ data than a Singaporean CEO with no ties to the CCP? They would still use the same business strategy by selling our data for profit. What would prevent them from doing it? Nobody would buy TikTok for millions and not sell our data or make their users pay for using the application. Just like Meta, TikTok already does it, and stopping the sale of users’ data would be rejecting one of their main revenues. 


Facebook and Instagram have been heavily criticized regarding their data management, but TikTok employs a similar strategy (yes, I read the privacy policies of TikTok).


There is no perfect solution to the matter. If TikTok is banned, a new social media platform will probably emerge and inherit TikTok’s place. But I believe the problem with TikTok is not the data management, but it is our critical thinking and our ability to control ourselves because getting stuck in a vortex on TikTok is easy. 


The best we can do is stay aware of the dangers TikTok and other media represents. It is impossible to keep all Americans away from TikTok, but transparent data management and an efficient awareness campaign about the consequences of using TikTok would be ideal. Let’s face it, social media entertainment easily becomes an addiction.


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


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I agree with your points, but the idea that the CEO is not a member is negligible to a point given the influence and the fact that he would never say if he was unless explicitly recorded. The video below is a much better example than the one popular on social media: https://youtu.be/xEuRznnu5YI?si=xR9iYO3Sq70LsNbH

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The issue lies not with the CEO but rather ByteDance. As a Chinese company, ByteDance is required to provide any information requested by the CCP at a moments notice.

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