TikTok, the leading social media app for teenagers across the globe, has been widely used for young adults to express themselves via music and comedic skits. The platform supports content ranging from dance videos to activists raising awareness on a variety of issues. Currently, an increasing number of celebrities around the world are making use of the app to promote and attract digital natives, people who are familiar with technology, to join the playful social media app. However, outsiders to the app may overlook the dark side of TikTok—cyberbullying.
With more than one billion user-generated videos uploaded to the app, anyone’s content can pop up on a user’s “For You Page.” Compared to other social media platforms where the focus is on content from people you follow, the TikTok algorithm has been curated in a way that enables bullying, as you would not typically torment people you know or love. Furthermore, many users have taken advantage of the comment feature on the app, using it to criticize a creator’s video and content in a derogatory and uncivil manner, commonly targeting “abnormal personalities” and racial or sexual orientation matters. Charli D’amelio, one of the most famous teenagers in this generation, became famous for her dance videos on the app. Many users accused her of having no talent and only becoming famous for her appearance. The sixteen-year-old dancer has received a profound amount of hate since she became popular in late 2019. Last year, she responded to body-shamers with a tweet stating, “Stop talking about my body! It’s not your place to tell me if I’m losing weight or gaining weight.”
The fact is, bullying should never be acceptable, even if it seems like everyone else is doing it. D’amelio continued on Twitter, asking, “Why don’t we all just be respectful and understand that we should just be kind and uplift everyone instead of trying to bring others down? … it doesn’t matter who you’re doing it to… it’s never okay.” But despite a TikTok spokesperson’s claim, “TikTok is a safe space for our community and we have a zero tolerance approach to bullying and harassment,” it is clear the app has a lot of work to do.
All in all, yes, people are allowed to criticize others’ content, but there is a right and wrong way to do that. TikTok needs to be turned into a positive place, where people can post whatever they want without being afraid to be judged and bullied, as long as what they post is in itself is not offensive. Younger audiences witnessing the normalization of online bullying can be led to believe that being rude in an uncivil manner is the social norm and acceptable. Let TikTok be that source for everyone.