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We all know that app, the one where you record and post short funny videos for the whole world to see. The content posted on it often reflects contemporary tastes and senses of humor. Some creators could even gain fame and success from their presence on the app. No not that one where your videos could only be six seconds, the other one. The one that has grown to dominate youth culture and social media in the past few months.
TikTok, the immensely popular video-sharing app, has become nearly unavoidable. With its spawning of dance trends, meme formats, and revival of classic indie-pop songs, the platform has already left a sizable mark. That’s not to say, however, that this is anything new. Elements of a number of different social media platforms, including Tumblr and Vine, have lent themselves to TikTok. Neither of those platforms are with us anymore (at least in the mainstream), both for their own different reasons. In this episode of Arts, Interrupted, the team considers what about TikTok’s predecessors made them special, and how they have shaped one of the biggest apps today.
The gang began by discussing Tumblr, a blogging platform that allowed teenagers to explore and share interests and culture, but ultimately met its demise due to its censorship rules. Tumblr paved the way for the viral nature of TikTok’s content, and both platforms foster a wide variety of communities, both positive and negative.
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More structurally similar to TikTok, Vine, capitalized on the shorter attention span of their increasingly younger user base. The app served as a launchpad into fame for many of its popular content creators. Unlike Vine, however, even if you have a very popular TikTok, it’s probably not going to get you very much tangible success. Worse yet, when TikTok users become famous, they are often younger than the stars of Vine. Many worry that TikTok breeds child fame in an unhealthy manner.
While it reflects similarities to Tumblr and Vine, TikTok transcends the popularity of either. It has amassed over a billion downloads and practically controls the top spots on the Billboard charts. What draws people in, however, is not simply the creative content. TikTok has a hidden underbelly of artificial intelligence that it uses to keep us scrolling. The team left off with a discussion about the privacy of TikTok and the potential dangers of the app’s surveillance on its users.
This episode was brought to you by executive producer Sam Small, content producers Emily Ohl, Max Rosenzweig, Martha Starkel, and Avin Katyal, audio producers Ben Schrier and Will Pederson, and audio engineer Spencer Harris. Be sure to tune in after spring break for a new episode.