The Evolution of Tik Tok

Submitted by Sarah Happel on Thu, 01/23/2020 - 11:40 - 0 Comments

Many of us remember Musical.ly from sixth and seventh grade - we’ve most likely stumbled upon our old accounts at some point. I’ve personally felt my face burn with embarrassment while watching my old videos, yet I still remember how much fun it was to watch my favorite celebrities and friends lip-sync to fifteen-second song clips in 2x speed, as well as practice transitions by fiddling with filters and slow-motion. But in November 2017, Tik Tok replaced the app that heavily impacted our childhoods.

According to Natalie Jarvey from The Hollywood Reporter, Musical.ly was taken over by a Chinese company called ByteDance, which merged it with its own app - Tik Tok. “Combining Musical.ly and Tik Tok is a natural fit given the shared mission of both experiences - to create a community where everyone can be a creator,” said co-founder of Musical.ly Alex Zhu in a press release.
 
Debra Aho Williamson and Man-Chung Cheung from eMarketer mentioned that three months since the merge, Tik Tok downloads skyrocketed; increasing twenty-five percent in the United States, as well as twenty percent internationally. With Tik Tok’s users added to Musical.ly’s, the app is now extremely popular worldwide. 
 
Tik Tok culture has risen from the app’s extreme popularity. While the app still has songs like Musical.ly did, they are rarely lip-synced to. Instead, people take more creative approaches. For example, users of Tik Tok have invented and defined multiple personalities, like what it means to be a VSCO girl. Although in reality, VSCO is an app, Tik Tok users assigned character traits to the name. Now, VSCO girls are so widely known that people dress up as them for Halloween - wearing oversized T-shirts, covering their wrists in scrunchies, and using metal straws. If it wasn’t for Tik Tok, VSCO girls wouldn’t exist.
 
As well as developing personas, Tik Tok can also increase the popularity of songs. Often, songs go viral, leading to millions of people listening to the song and knowing the artist. The app has also made dance moves more popular, such as the Woah. Various versions of the Woah have been derived from the classic, thanks to Tik Tok.
 
This social media platform provides a place for people to get creative and share their ideas with the world. “As well as expressing their creativity, people can connect and inspire one another,” a Lincoln student commented. “Also, it’s a great thing to do when you have nothing else to do.” 
 
However, Tik Tok also comes with its fair share of downsides. Because of how short each video is, people can spend hours on the app without feeling much time passing. Additionally, the app’s content can lower self-esteem. “A lot of people post videos that show off their bodies, which just makes people lose self-confidence,” mentioned a female sophomore. Furthermore, Tik Tok, like all social media outlets, can be dangerous because of the wide age range and sexualizing of teenagers, as well as uninformed children sharing personal information without considering the consequences.
 
Despite the drawbacks, people still gravitate toward the app. One of the main factors that drive people to use Tik Tok is the hope that their content will go viral, which is not uncommon. For a video to go viral, you have to get on Tik Tok’s “For You” page - however, nobody really knows how it works. A popular theory among users of the app is that your video is first put on a few people’s “For You” pages, then, if enough people engage with the video (like, comment, share, etc.) it is placed on more “For You” pages. 
 
Various types of videos go viral; some people enjoy watching videos that make them laugh or they can relate to. For others, visual appeal earns their likes - such as an aesthetic video, impressive makeup, a cute animal, or even an attractive person. Consequently, many people become Tik Tok famous without much effort because of their physical appearance. However, above all, creative, original content is often recognized.
 
This app arrived in the United States as a surprise, perhaps a disappointment, but has quickly proven itself. It paved a new era in social media, heavily influencing teenagers in particular. In elementary through middle school we had Musical.ly, but now, we have Tik Tok.  
 
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