• Mauro Herrera

Do You Want To Go Viral? Go To Tiktok, But Do It At Your Own Risk

If you're over 25, you probably resisted downloading TikTok as I did, but when the pandemic hit, none of us could help it. In the last year, the growth of the app was tremendous, making it one of the social networks with the most active users to date.

Many came out of curiosity and although at the beginning we did not understand the lip syncs, the dorky dances, and the gen Z humor challenges, we got a place where we laugh, learn, and are impressed.

For some, TikTok is the rawest and purest social network, because, unlike Instagram, you don't need to make up and filter your entire life to make it look perfect. Millions of viral videos were made in pajamas with a messy room in the background. You don't feel that to reach an audience you have to look like a supermodel, like influencers who post photos on private jets. TikTok is about creativity and making a fool of yourself in your bedroom, which many love!

One aspect that many love about this platform is the ease of going viral. However, that is one thing that worries many parents and mental health professionals. What are the effects on the mind of a teenager being seen by millions of people overnight? Is this immediate virality a mental health risk?

The social network where we can all go viral

One of the differentiating keys of TikTok is that although you can follow your favorite creators, most of the time, the content you consume is provided by an algorithm. Some studies suggest that almost everyone watches videos on the For You Page rather than the following page. This means that your videos can appear on the devices of millions of users around the world even if they do not follow you, know you or speak the same language as you.

The result: a video of someone dressed as Waluigi dancing to WAP made millions of views in one night.

Hate it or love it but that's a blessing... or a curse.

This algorithm-curated content has generated much discussion, many claiming that it favors young, attractive, white people over users of other races. Complaints and accusations about the algorithm's criteria have come and gone. I honestly don't even know how an algorithm works so I won't dip my toes in that water.

What is undeniable is that this has caused ANYONE to be popular on TikTok, and this can happen out of nowhere at any time. You don't need to create the most elaborate content to achieve crazy high numbers.

One day you wake up and you have two million new followers

Brittany Broski decided to record herself while trying kombucha for the first time and recording her reaction, without knowing it and not even trying, became one of the most viral memes of 2019. If you don't know who Britanny is, you probably know her better as the Kombucha Girl.

At least she's 23, but what happens when this happens to a 16-year-old girl?

That we millennials feel weird on TikTok is no coincidence. The vast majority of users are between 16 and 24 years old. Feel old yet? We are millennial fish swimming in Gen Z waters.

The most popular influencers and creators of TikTok are teenagers, such as Charli D'Amelio, a 16-year-old girl with 112 MILLION followers. Jesus Christ, I have an adrenaline rush when I get more than 2 likes on Twitter.

This massive and sudden virality worries many people, not all teenagers know how to deal with a wave of millions of followers and comments. How can this overexposure affect someone's mental health?

A well-known case is Claudia Conway’s, a 15-year-old girl who blew up overnight after posting a video hating Donald Trump (I can't blame her). But this fame ended in adults doxxing her, her family member, and her parents having to quit their jobs.

Not all of us are prepared to stand on a stage with millions of people watching us, especially if each and everyone has something to say about us or our appearance.

Every teenage girl's dream

Parents have many reasons to worry about their children being watched by people all over the world. Feedback, whether positive or negative, is a tricky subject to handle, especially if all you did was dance to a Jason Derulo song.

Do you remember what I told you about the controversy around the TikTok algorithm? Well, it doesn't end there. If you put the most benefited users on the platform, we will find a disturbing pattern: teenage girls.

TikTok gave these girls a chance to go viral by doing the things girls have always loved to do: dance dorkly in their rooms with their friends to their favorite songs. Now imagine that thanks to that you gained millions of followers, brand deals and you became rich in six months.

Damn, why couldn't I become wealthy by doing what I loved to do the most as a teenager?! That is: sleeping 17 hours a day and taking long and suspicious showers.

We do not know if it was the intention all this time of the Chinese company that founded TikTok, but this social network seems to be made to be the dream of every teenager. Get famous fast, easy and without any talent required.

It also seems to be the perfect place for predators but it's only Tuesday at 11am and I don't want to go there.

In short, the cases of people who could not bear the virality on the internet are thousands, from YouTubers, Instagrammers, and all ers. Cyberbullying is real, the attention can be overwhelming and if your mind is not in the right place, it can all be a perfect and dangerous formula for disaster.

The Mental Health creators on TikTok

Here you can find everything from a dog that is famous for biting its owner's microphone to scientists who explain the Big Bang and the theory of relativity in less than 60 seconds.

Mental health was not left out. Taking advantage of the real and unfiltered TikTok, many people have been open to their diseases, disorders, and conditions to give more visibility and awareness on these issues. A boy with Asperger's shows us the lesser-known aspects of his daily life, a therapist gives us tips to identify and respond to panic attacks and a girl shows what life is like after going through eating disorder rehabilitation.

Showing these lesser-known sides of mental illness is amazing, and it's something we couldn't have had so compactly and directly on other social media. Many have found and built communities united in the fight for mental health, others have found their voices in the stories of others, and some have found a way to turn their daily challenges into a way to create content that is enjoyable for millions.

In conclusion: there is no conclusion

TikTok can be a hellish place full of hate and toxicity or it can be the place where you find the solution to all your problems. It will always depend on the use you decide to give the platform. On the other hand, knowing how the algorithm works and that when uploading each video we risk being watched by hundreds of thousands, we must be careful.

Now if you excuse me, I have a dance to learn and a Wario costume to buy.


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