TikTok has quickly become one the biggest social media platforms in the past few years. As of October 2020, the app has almost 700 million users.
The app has gained traction, especially with young people, because of its curated algorithm. The app takes in videos you like, comment on, share and stay on longer to perfectly curate the content you see to your specific tastes and interests.
Despite this specific algorithm however, the app still seems to have it’s own predetermined videos that it pushes onto your “For You Page,” and others that it pushes off, despite if they fit into your specific interests or tastes determined by the algorithm.
These predetermined videos consistently only show people that fit a certain beauty standard.
This beauty standard consists of hourglass-shaped women with tiny waists, big butts and big boobs, and muscular men with six packs that are over 6 feet. And anyone whose physical appearance doesn’t align with those beauty standards are then shadowbanned on the app.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these videos of people who do fall into the beauty standard, the fact that TikTok consistently promotes these videos more while demoting videos of people who don’t fit into it is where there’s an issue.
When TikTok promotes or demotes specific videos based on looks, it shows that as a social media platform, they believe that people who look a certain way deserve more engagement and attention, no matter what the actual quality of the content is.
According to The Intercept, TikTok specifically told moderators to suppress content that included people with “‘abnormal body shape,’ ‘ugly facial looks,’ dwarfism and ‘obvious beer belly,’” as well as many other things, in order to attract new users.
By doing this, TikTok promotes a toxic environment, which is incredibly unhealthy, especially for its younger viewers.
In March 2019, 69% of users on TikTok were between the ages of 13 and 24, although users under 13 need only enter a false birthdate to access the same content as those over 13.
When you’re that young, constantly seeing people with the “perfect body” getting popular and famous on the app, while people who look like you get the opposite, is incredibly discouraging. It creates a sense of unworthiness and breeds low self-esteem and self-confidence. It teaches young people that in order for people to like you on this app, you have to look a certain way, which promotes many unhealthy eating and exercising practices.
In a blog post, University of San Diego student Micha Handler explains these situations well by saying, “Girls aren’t moving their bodies because they want to, they are over-exercising, under-eating, and following false nutritional advice because they think that if they do, they will then look like the girl they see on their screen.”
TikTok claims that their mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy,” but based off of how they run the app, and how much they seem to value physical appearance rather than actual creativity, proves that they don’t care to inspire creativity or even bring joy. Based on their actions, their actual mission is to inspire low self-esteem issues and feelings of unworthiness in young people.