Is TikTok Desensitizing Its Users?

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TikTok, the newest app to take over all around the world, but is it training young minds to become insensitive? Originating from the popular app Musically, TikTok was seen as “cringey” with the same lip-syncing, hand moving content as Musically. However, it soon proved itself to be much more than sped up music and weird facial expressions. TikTok quickly earned the reputation as an app that produces content by and for Generation Z.

TikTok is an app where unknown content creators can make videos less than 60 seconds. When posted, videos can be put on the “For You” page, where, similar to Instagram’s “Explore” page, popular videos related to the viewer’s interests are found. Most TikTok trends come from creative and funny uses of specific “sounds,” songs, or snippets of popular movies or TV shows. With these attractive features, TikTok has become a popular app for people to join and post funny, relatable content.

TikTok’s main audience is made up of Generation Z kids, which means most videos are made with Gen Z humor. To others, Gen Z humor seems to be insensitive to current events with the most recent meme content being based on World War 3 and the coronavirus. Though most other social media apps produce memes based on the same events, these trends are most likely to be used in TikTok videos because TikTok is one of the only social media apps used primarily by Gen Z kids. Gen Z creators make content that appeals to their Gen Z audience which means TikTok users constantly watch videos about sensitive topics and there are not many people on the app to educate them on these topics.

The World War 3 trend is a very recent example of an insensitive TikTok trend. At the beginning of 2020, America launched a drone strike on the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq targeting Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani and killing 9 others. People around the world were bracing themselves for a possible World War 3 because of this incident, and it fueled the first TikTok trend of the year. For about the first week of January, a user’s TikTok “For You” page would typically be filled with TikTokers making jokes about being drafted into the US military for World War 3. This caused many young users to legitimately be scared of being drafted. Several people made videos to address this claim and attempt to educate TikTok users.  While TikTokers were joking about World War 3, US soldiers were praying that another war wouldn’t start.

The coronavirus is the most recent hot topic on TikTok. The coronavirus is a virus contracted from animals in China that can be easily transmitted and spread around the world. With their incomplete knowledge from only watching other TikTok videos, TikTok users are joking about the virus itself and Chinese people in general, while people in China are in distress as they worry about their ill or at-risk family members and friends. 

As more and more people make videos joking about events such as these, the types of jokes escalate. What started as a trend, making harmless jokes about situations can become rude and disrespectful that are neither funny nor original. 

Although TikTok has its dangers, it’s not necessarily evil. Making jokes and seeing the positive in bad situations is one of the great things about Generation Z. But when users are not educated on topics such as these and make jokes without considering the real problems of others, it is insensitive and disrespectful. TikTok is a great app, but users, especially popular content creators, have a responsibility to be respectful as they make content. 

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