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What is TikTok and why are teenagers obsessed with it?



  The TikTok logo on an iPhone X.
XanderSt / Shutterstock

TikTok: teens love it and parents don't understand. The congress is afraid of it. Brands want to earn money with it. It is perhaps the most controversial (and beloved) social network ever. Downloads from the app quickly surpass those from more established social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. TikTok even broadcast a commercial during the Super Bowl 2020.

So, what is TikTok and how does it work? Why are legislators desperately afraid of it? And ̵

1; perhaps more importantly – why do you care?

A brief introduction to TikTok

TikTok is essentially a video sharing application, not unlike Vine, who stopped Twitter in 2016. People can post and use videos. range of soundtracks and Snapchat style filters that can change faces or create other intriguing visual effects.

People can follow other accounts and create a feed with new content from the creators they like best. There is also a & # 39; For You & # 39; feed that shows a random assortment of videos from others. This mechanism offers an endless series of new things to look at and feeds the highly addictive nature of TikTok. However, it is also what makes TikTok a tempting platform – it enables people with even the smallest followers to & # 39; viral & # 39; and become celebrities online at night.

Perhaps the greatest virtue of the & # 39; For You & # 39; feed how it exposes someone to content from creators that they would not usually follow. It pierces the filter bubble. For example, within 10 minutes you can see the content of people whose political views are wildly different from those of yourself or other communities where you are normally not involved, such as the army or police.

To illustrate this point, within five minutes, I switched from looking at someone demonstrating a new cosplay outfit to an American pilot who confidently hung on the tailgate of a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

The serendipitous nature of fame on TikTok also attracts people from other platforms. When I interviewed rapper Shevin McCullough (who acts as Showtime Shevin), he described the platform as & # 39; fertile lands & # 39; compared to YouTube. Although YouTube is much more established, it is harder for new creators to create a die-hard following.

Furthermore, TikTok has the standard functions that you can expect from a social network, including direct messages and the ability to "like & # 39; video & # 39; s.

TikTok is for the Memers

Of course we have only the surface of what makes TikTok special, searched in. Compared to almost any other social network, TikTok is more optimized to create memes People can reuse audio images from other videos and create a unique view of someone else's idea

What does that look like? Here is a four-minute supercut of people making their own synchronous videos from a short excerpt from The Living Tombstone & # 39; s No Mercy about the dangers of choosing a character in the popular multiplayer FPS, "Overwatch." [19659004]

There are also duets, which are exactly how they sound. A person places himself next to someone's video different and makes effectively a whole new piece of content. If you are curious about how that is, here's a short clip of people who make a clip of someone who is lip-synchronized with the song by Charlie Pugh, Betty Boop .

RELATED: What is a Meme (and how did they originate)?

How TikTokers earn money

Unlike YouTube, generating revenue from content is still relatively underdeveloped on TikTok. For example, there is currently no option for makers to earn money by displaying ads on their videos. This remains the biggest hurdle for TikTok when it comes to attracting great talent from other social networks.

One way creators can make money is through live streams, receiving "tips" from viewers who have virtual gifts. This mechanism is somewhat complicated. In short, people on TikTok can exchange real currency for TikTok coins to fill their virtual "wallet". They can use these virtual coins to provide makers with virtual gifts. Once received, these gifts are converted into another virtual currency called Diamonds, which makers can withdraw in cash. The exchange rate varies and can be changed by TikTok itself.

There is also influencer marketing. It is not uncommon for brands – especially in the fashion and lifestyle spaces – to work with popular makers and send them swag or money in exchange for listings. Although live streams are accessible to everyone on TikTok, only the biggest names are asked for an influencer marketing deal.

Why TikTok is so controversial

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. It is the result of a merger between two existing apps: musical.ly and douyin. TikTok is unusual because it is the only internationally successful Chinese social network, with an appeal that extends far into the western world.

This has caused some fuss within the conference halls, with many legislators calling it a "national security threat" and asking for testimony from the TikTok leadership team. In the US senate, a two-party front has arisen against TikTok, with senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton asking for an intelligence probe in the app.

The social network in Beijing not only has access to information from Americans who use the platform, but it can also censor the content that Americans see on the network. For example, lawmakers are concerned that TikTok can censor video & # 39; s on issues that the Chinese government finds sensitive, such as the Hungarian democracy protests or the plight of the ethnically-religious minority of Uighur.

ByteDance rebuked Congress's claims for what it is worth. However, it did fire to remove the popular video from an American teenager about the situation in Uighur. The company later claimed that this was a "moderation error" and broke the teen's account.

What the future has in store

TikTok is an intriguing video platform. It combines all dopamine-triggering mechanisms that ensure an addictive app. It is also uniquely optimized for creating memes of otherwise harmless content. It can produce viral stars out of the blue and is essentially a glory factory. These factors alone explain the rapid growth and continued popularity of Generation Z.

As it grows, it will undoubtedly continue to attract the attention of those in power halls, as they try to make the existence of a Chinese social network just as successful. like everything from Silicon Valley.


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