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Confronting Conformity

TikTok’s negative impact on the younger generations
A+person+wearing+a+device+with+the+TikTok+logo+attached+to+it.+TikTok+sucks+people+into+the+app%2C+making+it+harder+to+differentiate+digital+from+reality.
Birdie Brereton
A person wearing a device with the TikTok logo attached to it. TikTok sucks people into the app, making it harder to differentiate digital from reality.

 In a world where social media reigns supreme, there isn’t one day that someone won’t get a notification or scrolls aimlessly through a plethora of mind numbing posts. The constant presence of social media has become a fact of life: water keeps people alive, food is important, social media is everywhere. 

No explanation is needed to introduce TikTok, in fact, most of you probably have it. This rocketing to popularity mostly began during the 2020 quarantine since no one had anything else to do. I, myself, joined TikTok in 2020 and continued to scroll on the app for years after that. I eventually decided to leave due to both the problems it had caused in my own life and also my irritation with those that use the app regularly. That’s not to say there weren’t good people on TikTok, but I found the way that TikTok had affected my generation as deeply troubling. 

One of the main problems with how TikTok affects its users is how it encourages conformity. Obviously, trends have always been a thing, but the way that TikTok perpetuates this idea that you need to be the same as everyone else isn’t healthy. Those videos that show what a really skinny person eats in a day just makes others feel less than and encourages terrible eating habits, the videos that advertise hundreds of dollars worth of skincare products that won’t actually make your skin look like theirs, the videos that work to shame you for not having a fifty step morning routine. These kinds of videos do nothing but make others feel terrible about themselves, and since these videos are usually advertising something, gets them to waste their money on something that they didn’t need. 

It’s not just in clothes and skincare products either, it reaches far beyond that and into people’s ideas and opinions. Many people on the internet are afraid to voice their own opinions because they know that they will be harassed for it. The problem with this approach is the divide that it creates between people. It’s great to speak to like-minded individuals, but issues arise when that’s the only people you speak to. Without differing opinions and viewpoints that can offer you new insights, you’re stuck in this echo chamber of close-minded thinking. This makes it much easier to look at other points of view and scoff at them, not even giving them the time of day. 

When someone only collaborates with those who agree with them, they can easily become so far removed from others because the two agreeing viewpoints are going to continuously build off of each other until they can’t even fathom bridging the gap and considering other perspectives. This is even more troubling due to the fact that it’s mostly young children on these apps, which is arguably the most important time to be learning about the world and forming your own opinions.

TikTok’s algorithm is so smart that it actually keeps people from even seeing other people and their opinions. It can be quite shocking when one leaves their bubble and realizes that not everyone around them thinks the same way. I know that personally, when I was on TikTok, I would talk to somebody about something I thought was really popular, only to discover that it’s actually a very niche topic that TikTok has just been pushing towards me. Or when I would be very cozily inside my little bubble of like-minded people, until I went out into the real world and came across people who not only had separate opinions, but opinions that differed so much that it gave me a sort of whiplash. During this time I felt much more antagonism towards others for even having a slightly different opinion, because how could they when I was so obviously right? 

Nowadays, I’m able to admit when I’m wrong and I’m also much more willing to hear out other viewpoints and learn from others. This was difficult to do when on TikTok because no one on the internet is interested in civil conversations that challenge their views, which means the only thing happening in online discussions are insults and condescending tones. This wears on a person, bleeding into real life and creating someone nobody wants to be around. I think everyone can confidently say that they’ve met someone who has spent far too much time on the internet without any real social interaction. 

TikTok is a great place to meet interesting people and find new interests, but it’s also an unhealthy environment that encourages conformity and unhealthy habits. That’s truly where the problem lies. Although TikTok can be a great place for interacting with people and finding your own niche of entertainment, it falls down the same hole as most other social media sites, which is inadvertently causing insecurity and stoking the flames for discourse. If you have TikTok and enjoy it, that doesn’t mean I’m telling you to delete the app. You should just be more mindful of what you’re watching and recognize when you are being negative about yourself and others. 

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