Tiktok is currently the most rapidly growing social media platform in the world. Its unique format and engaging content have even found its way in other apps such as YouTube and Instagram. Online influencers with millions of following have started to flock into its content feed and companies have started to take notice. The platform has also seen an exponential rise in its userbase thanks to the COVID-19 lockdowns. That is why allegations of Tiktok being a national security threat being owned by a Chinese owned firm have become the main contention of why the Trump administration has been threatening to ban the platform. This is under the notion that the Chinese government can gain access to data within Chinese owned companies under local law. Tiktok currently has 800 million active users worldwide, with the majority of its users ranging from 10-29 years old. Bytedance, the application’s parent company, has recently decided to sell its US operations to Microsoft though no deal has been finalized. The issue seemingly sending ripples across the globe may have only created even more curiosity of what makes this social media platform special.

The application is made unique by its compressed format, easy to use video tools and never-ending challenges within the community that keeps it engaging. The 15-second cap for each content uploaded allows for easy to consume content. Most videos are straight to the point and exude engaging content in a bite-sized format. Tiktok is by no means the only creative outlet for social media users. What sets it apart is how its deceivingly simple format created an outlet for millions of people across cultural boundaries to embrace their uniqueness.  Each post is oozing with personality, enabled by the plethora of video tools provided by the app. The “challenges” which include lip-syncing songs, dancing to personalized choreography, and meme creation provides a continuous stream of content. These types of content are not exclusive to Ttikok but the culture within its community plays an inherently significant role.

The Tiktok community attempts to foster individuality and multiculturalism at the same time. Content creators and users alike are motivated by being able to express themselves in an environment embracing authenticity, which seems to be constantly yearned by a generation burdened by the dissonance of expectations and apathy. This makes it attractive to cultures that are prone to conservativeness. Younger Filipinos born in an age of hyper-connectivity constantly experience dissonance, particularly in cultural identification and societal norms. Ironically, this also allowed them to question what truly makes their Filipino heritage unique and worth being proud of. Tiktok has become an outlet for such sentiment for its younger user-base. The demographics of the users have also made it more likely that the content uploaded within the app is safe from the societal judgment of a more conservative population which has steadily penetrated other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

The freedom the application provides is not its only alluring asset; the algorithm it uses in recommending content in a user’s content feed is another factor that makes it addicting. The app filters content that would resonate with the user’s interests. The brevity of the content and the sense of discovery with every swipe makes the user stay within the app for extensive periods. Combined with the challenges that encourage participation, and a community unbounded by societal judgment, Tiktok created a formula that harmonizes with the social media needs of a constantly innovating industry.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ronald is a marketing communication specialist and a TEFL certified online educator. He enjoys reading novels and writing prose as a freelancer. He has an undergraduate degree in Organizational Communication and a master’s degree in Marketing Communication. He has also worked in the academe as a lecturer and consultant in the fields of Marketing and Communication Studies.