Social media platforms are extremely alluring. You join one and a Pandora’s box is opened for you. The more you explore, the more you get into the quagmire. If you have a smartphone, chances are, 80 percent of your application space is taken up by social media apps and games. For a very long time, I have refused to join one social media app i.e TikTok. Previously known as Musical.ly, it was purchased by BetaDance Technology Co. in 2017 and rebranded as TikTok in 2018 with the purpose of monopolizing the video social. In TikTok you can post short form videos (15-60 second) basically used for infotainment (Information + Entertainment).
Resisting the app was easy-peasy until the first pandemic lockdown. I exhausted myself by watching a lot of movies/series, knit till my neck started swearing back at me, and cooked-posted on social media until my friends started disowning me for not inviting them. TikTok came as my last resort to survive in the lockdown. It started off with scout-outing the app for people I know and I ended up using that app for hours.
I found that videos are bombarded at you, one after another, from all across the world. The algorithm makes sure you get similar kinds of videos, on the basis of your search and the videos you have watched (To understand how the algorithm works a documentary named Social Dilemma on Netflix is highly recommended).
On average I was spending 3-4 hours a day watching videos. I accept it, it is highly entertaining and a great time-pass. It is a collection of amazing dance videos, DIY hacks, comedy skits, transition videos, singing, product reviews, etc., etc. It is a big pool of what you want to watch. As the videos are only upto 60 seconds, there is not a moment to get bored.
One thing that stole my heart is the active participation of the queer community who are using TikTok to showcase their talents. Some of them are using it to come out and some for awareness on LGBTQIA++ issues.
But like other social media, TikTok is not free from trolls or cyber bullies. Using fake handles or even from their personal handles people are cyber bullying. In the name of “commenting” people are getting away with body shaming, homophobia, racism and sexism. As most of the users do not know the technicality of how to handle such things, you block them. Another option is to make one more video and call them out. This is a never ending loop and it is high time people start educating themselves on the ethics of social media.
I always had a strong reservation about giving electronic gadgets to children. Last year, due to the pandemic and lockdown, when the schools in Nepal went online, my concern about exposure of unsupervised children online grew to an alarming level. A lot of parents had to give their latest cellphone to the kids; some went further by buying a new one, just so that the kids could have uninterrupted classes. But with a smart phone in their hands, we are exposing them to the realm of the cyber world.
Even in TikTok I see a lot of accounts made by children or young adults without adult supervision. There were few videos where young kids were dancing to an English song whose meaning was extremely explicit and sexual. Even for me to see young adults dance to such songs is pretty alarming but for a cyber predator, it is a box of cheesecake. This is the content they look for. Such contents are downloaded and passed on to adult sites.
It is frightening to see parents or adults post videos of their children to get attention and klout. Allowing young girls to twerk (not realizing what exactly it is) to Munni Badnam or Sheela ki Jawani or some explicit hip hop song online is to expose them to not only cyber predators but also to the pedophile community.
It is important to understand the pros and cons of the social media that we are using everyday. Last week, a compromising Clubhouse voice recording of a young girl was shared on TikTok. It was a “mere” dare in one of the rooms, recorded by a listener and uploaded on TikTok. It is high time we give the right values to our children regarding social media. One thing is for sure: we cannot stop this development and dependency but what we can do is make sure our kids know the difference between what to post and what not to.
These things should be taught at home and in school. Adults need to take out time to educate themselves about the risks of content posting on cyberspace. The Internet is humongous and addictive and it can hold unlimited information forever: once on the internet, always on the internet. This is not something to be taken lightly.