16 Comments

Always interested in your takes on this kind of thing. I think you capture the first wash of TikTok delirium very well. As a user who has repeatedly gone viral, been banned then indefinitely shadow banned there is something sinister lurking beneath that algorithm, as you point out here. While the north american GM has issued several statements on making it a more "equitable" app and there are certainly more Black creators on the fyp then when I started lurking 2 years go, it feels like maybe more corporate woke-speak-- even today a slew of popular trans, queer and disabled artists are being mass banned for "violating community guidelines". I'm glad you touch on that angle briefly here and would be interested to see if this kind of meta-critique could exist in the algorithmic space of the app itself! Ofc you said you weren't interested in posting your own vids so thats just my wishful thinking :)

Expand full comment

I appreciated learning more about TikTok in your evocative piece, which I received through a curating service from Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf. I also appreciated your concluding reflections on passivity, addiction, and potential exploitation--which, after reading your ekphrasis, I was prepared for but still disturbed by.

Expand full comment

can you show me youressay

Expand full comment

As a social media marketer who has yet to download the app for myself, I'm drawn to articles thoughtfully written, as this was, that express the ominous sense that I've been getting from social media consumption, especially since the start of the pandemic. Your essay reminded me of a gentle walk through a world much like Alice in Wonderland, a hole that keeps growing and evolving, entrancing you until you can't remember what's up or what's down, what you like or what had planned for the day. You captured that feeling well and it was the first article I've read in a while that was a true pleasure to read. Perhaps, though, it's time I started to read more.

Expand full comment

I really rated this piece. I also tried to formulate my tiktok observations in a Medium piece,. Ut reading what you wrote just made me realize how superficial my own observations had been. At the end, when you reprised the Benjamin reference, I thought, 'oh fuck, this is pretentious and indulgent' but then you really got on top of it with the aura comment. I don't think that analogy is fully baked yet, but it has tremendous potential, I would almost like to see you expand on it in a piece of it's own.

Expand full comment

I’ve tried to describe TikTok in writing, but all I could come up with is that I LOVE its diversity and the emotions it stirs up in me. Also, the connections you can make with other people on TikTok is real. It’s a platform where you can be heard as well. It’s been wonderful for my mental health this year. Your essay describes this experience in depth and you nailed it!

Expand full comment

Very interesting! Something I'd be inclined to point out is that tiktok uses a fast frame rate, which makes the videos look jerky and old-fashioned and a bit otherworldly. I first saw it on adverts for tiktok in early days and I found it oddly disorienting, so I don't think I'll ever be a proper fan. To many people it's entrancing, though.

I'm glad you didn't skip over the tinkering of the employees behind the scenes, as many articles tend to ignore that. It doesn't require much manipulation to instigate a trend or edge certain types of people into higher rankings, so I think the effect tends to be underestimated. The downplaying makes you g people feel like anyone can be a star, but it's not so simple as that. Most popular stars are young and attractive in a non-threatening way, but more importantly they move dynamically and are expressive

Expand full comment

Great post, very insightful and interesting to see how addictive can be, even more so than Instagram. I wonder if it’s better for teens’ mental health than Instagram? On the other hand, it has the potential to limit attention span even further. Instagram reels are clearly a way of Facebook trying to bury the platform, as stories did to Snapchat, but I have the feeling it won’t work this time. At least TikTok pays its top creators.

Expand full comment

Great piece, Kyle. Worked perfectly. I have skipped Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, but I must now try TikTok. Initially, I thought it was some stupid thing for Tweenagers.

Expand full comment

Great read, I love your approach to the subject. Helps a geezer like me (i.e. - somebody older than 25) understand what's substantially different about TikTok compared to other platforms du jour. Still sounds equally likely as a conduit to tranquil personalized experience as window into future machine-controlled hellscape (and no reason it can't be both), but I like seeing it in explored with curiosity like this.

Expand full comment

Great read. Didn't mind the free-flowing nature of the piece at all, thought it mirrored your subject. In particular, I liked some of your closing thoughts on how the platform feels completely open to your whims and yet we're only being shown a slice of the reality that tiktok wants us to see.

From another direction, I work in Hollywood and I sometimes feel like a dinosaur watching the meteor fall -- at least this essay allows me to identify exactly what is going to bury me.

Expand full comment

This was such a good read! I’ve never seen such a sophisticated and analytical view of tiktok, so this was extremely refreshing. I mostly just hear my friends telling me to “just get tiktok already”, but this essay helped me really understand the pros and cons in deptg! Amazing writing!

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment