We're Worse Off Without TikTok

The popular app TikTok could be banned in the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says. Perhaps he's not into the "Savage" challenge.
The popular app TikTok could be banned in the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says. Perhaps he's not into the "Savage" challenge.
Aaron Weiss/Unsplash
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Some may see it as a threat to American democracy (because China?), but TikTok is instead an organic platform that is bringing out the best in American creativity, activism and other cultural efforts. The truth is, we would be worse off without it.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday stating that the Chinese-owned app is a national security threat and promised to shut it down next month. The social media app responded on Twitter assuring their users that TikTok would live to see another day with talks of Microsoft taking over. TikTok is expected to file a lawsuit as soon as Tuesday.

We can raise tired political arguments about President Trump, but let us ponder on how remarkable it is that his policies have somehow entered into the 15-second video realm of the internet. What makes TikTok so special is that, especially now, the app offers a needed escape and rest from a constant stream of bleak news. With TikTok, we can travel, create or follow a new food recipe, play a prank on a loved one or re-create some ridiculous Gen Z dance challenge.

An estimated 100 million users are on TikTok in the U.S. alone. If Trump wants to lose any chance of a vote among younger generations, he pretty much just guaranteed it by taking away their most cherished collective toy.

Blogger Jessica Serna, 26, employs the TikTok app to showcase different cities across Texas that may appeal to Dallasites and beyond. Under the username @MyCurlyAdventures, Serna says TikTok’s ability to cater to certain audiences allows her increased engagement compared with Instagram or YouTube. On TikTok, a compressed version of one of her YouTube videos ended up with millions of views and an increase in followers and likes for Serna.

The Dallas-based blogger is one of the thousands of local TikTok users using the platform to the best of their abilities, all without contributing to a national security threat from China.

It’s hard to take the politicization of TikTok seriously when at its best, the app is a creative escape. Count me as one of millions of procrastinators who instead of doing their work are often instead scrolling down the customized “For You” section for hours on end, sending videos to friends left and right.

It’s a bit surprising, even ridiculous, to find myself defending this app. As an aging millennial, I’m well aware that TikTok is mainly targeted for the next generation of online users. It is, after all, an app where dance challenges rule over the toxic rhetoric and politics that have long poisoned mediums like Facebook and Twitter. Not to say that TikTok can’t be a platform for activism as well, as was the case with the Black Lives Matter movement, which found a welcoming space among anti-racist GenZers. This versatility shows just how strong and unifying TikTok can be.

It’s difficult to see why such a creative and diverse app can be seen as a threat, especially considering our data is breached left and right by companies sharing our information. That is, unless those trying to ban it are somehow, in some way, against creativity and diversity. Whatever the case may be, TikTok has a home here and whether we know how to use it or not, we should all embrace its presence.

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