The Latecomer’s Guide to TikTok

Oct 26, 2022 · 38 comments
Midwesterner (Illinois)
I was hoping for more of a description, not a user manual.
Eugene Gorrin (Union, NJ)
The first sentence stated it has become impossible to ignore TikTok. Well, I’ve achieved the impossible. I’ve ignored TikTok and will continue to do so. A win for me!
Jeff P (Washington)
TicToc asks to access one's contact list.... Sure, right away. People who use these things are nuts.
Mark (L.I.)
People will follow anything. Just look at all those following Trump. Your witness.
Old Gregg (Gregg's Place)
1. When the NYT publishes a how-to for the old people, the young people move on to something new and incomprehensible to the old people. This article marks the jumping of the shark for TikTok. It is soon to be overrun with Minions memes, MLM solicitations, and forwards from grandma, 2. Don't forget when you join TikTok, you get all those followers in the Chinese state intelligence apparatus for free. So make sure to make a nice video showing how much you appreciate them sifting through your personal data on your phone.
Jefflz (San Francisco)
Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News. Chinese interests own TikTok. The US is overwhelmed by political lies and propaganda spread by foreign owned media enterprises. Why do we allow our nation to be poisoned by these huge profit-makers that have no concern for the future of our democracy - a democracy which is failing with the help of these amoral media companies.
J Barrymore (USA)
So, it may be a National Security issue and possibly harmful to children but hey, let me help you get started!
DaDa (Chicago)
Missing from this explanation is an answer to, Why?
Ron May (Philadelphia)
Because it’s fun! It can be quite educational too.
Small Town (New England)
The Latecomer's Guide to TikTok: Don't. I'm fact, turn off all of them. None of these social media companies have anyone's best interests in mind but their own. If you want to save the planet, save the country, save democracy, save your last shred of sanity—get rid of social media!
JBC (Indianapolis)
"It has become impossible to ignore TikTok." As others in the comments note, their lives are just fine without ever engaging with TikTok. The same is true for all other forms of social media. FOr many people they are an optional accessory to life, not a mandatory staple. TikTok has many benefits to those who wish to accrue them, but to say it is impossible to ignore is simply not true.
Matthew (North Carolina)
@JBC I generally agree with you, although I think it is worth noting that TikTok has become such a large cultural force, it has impacts in driving trends, thoughts and the general discourse of society whether you use it or not. In that way, it arguably does impact almost everyone, and while it can be ignored, that doesn't mean it is not creeping into your life in other ways. For context related to my reply, I do not use TikTok.
JBC (Indianapolis)
@Matthew I agree that we may be indirectly impacted by TikTok even if we do not attend to it ourselves (a bit like the cerulean blue sweater in The Devil Wears Prada). But I would distinguish impact from attention. Had the author said "Whether you know it or not, you are likely affected by TikTok" as her opening assertion, I would have agreed.
ntyb (ny)
Impossible to ignore - never used it and do not need it. People thinking what is obvious is new and important, maybe for background noise like a fan I would do that. I leave my tv on, but don't watch it for that reason, yes quite is nice.
Tim (Brooklyn)
Thanks for all this info. As a very mature male, I exist without any SM platforms (which, when I was young, were where trains came to). Innocence is bliss without SM.
Stephanie Turner (Eau Claire, Wisconsin)
I'm old, and I like Tik Tok. I don't even have an account; I just downloaded the app, started scrolling and swiping while waiting for things to heat up or finish baking in the kitchen, and soon the app was delivering me the kind of content I enjoy: cats, fitness, and cooking vids. I just wanted to weigh in as a casual user who hasn't become brain-dead from using the app.
MogulJD (Winter Park, CO)
I recently observed a 20-something spend an entire 2-hour flight watching an endless scroll of what appeared to be completely meaningless seconds-long videos on TikTok. It made my eyeballs hurt. We wonder why national test scores have plummeted? That's being blamed on COVID - ok maybe partially to blame. But having seen the trash that is on TikTok and what can only be a detrimental effect on young people's already diminished attention span, I suspect we'll have years of successively lower test scores. Social media brain drain.
John F (Sargentville Maine)
@MogulJD. It’s not clear from the use of word “observed” whether you watched this 20 something during the entire 2-hour flight, but there are some suggestions that you might have, ie, your hurting eyeballs, in which case you might want to worry more about your own mental state than that of more youthful Tik Tok observers. A movie or magazine would probably have made the time pass faster than staring at another passenger staring at his or her cell phone.
Mac (Everywhere)
Once again, I'm ahead of a trend. I already "did" TikTok, grew bored with it and sent the app to the graveyard with Facebook, Insta, Vine, Twitter and a couple of others I've forgotten about. As Ariana Grande would say, thank u, next.
Mary W (Farmington Hills, MI)
“It has become impossible to ignore TikTok.” I beg to differ.
Wilhelm (Finger Lakes)
I'm sure there's a whole stable of young people who think they'll get rich and famous overnight as a ticktok influencer. Good luck with that.
Stale frybread (Ohlone land)
I love the idea of learning the viral dance moves, and I love music. But after almost 20 years of social media use, I'm burned out. If we could have TikTok without the infinite scrolling, with a feed that just shows me content from people I follow, I would use it. Unfortunately I'm tired of being manipulated into being online longer than I want to be by Silicon Valley bros with way more money than me. I got rid of my Facebook a couple years ago, and my other accounts will soon follow.
The Queen of Feral Cats (Virginia)
No thanks. I'm currently trying to heal my busted, internet-addled attention span, not make it substantially worse. I'm a linguistic person who gets overwhelmed easily by jarring sounds, and I'm dismayed by how difficult it's become to Google simple directions that aren't conveyed in a video format with cutesy ukelele music bouncing in the background. Just give me a written list of steps with accompanying pictures. My god. Also, whatever happened to the days when people wrote editorials as a means of conveying their thoughts to people? Why does EVERY thought now need a floating, expressive head attached to it? It's cool to measure and contemplate your words! Verbal diarrhea is like the new, cool trend. No Tik Tokking for me, thanks. I am proudly and happily too old for it. I'll now resume responding to my AARP emails and shaking my rake at the children on my lawn.
Matt (NYC)
>> It has become impossible to ignore TikTok. Wrong. Never installed it, never will.
vjskls (Austin, Texas)
Like some of the other commentors, I just don't get it. What's the value in watching an endless stream of video clips? Why is watching a bunch of amateur videos worthy of my time? Massively influential? I don't think so. All these anti-social media apps come and go. Today this one's up, the others are down. Tomorrow it'll be something else. Who cares?
Mac (Everywhere)
@vjskls TBH, the only TokTokker I kind of miss after deleting the app is the smokin' hot guy in tight joggers who posts thirst-trap TikToks with an adorable pet squirrel named Peanut. ; )~
Khoi Nguyen (Why)
The quick jumpsuit videos on TikTok give me a headache. No interest in the scarily-advanced algorithm of this Anti-Social media for me
Jill from Brooklyn (The Interwebs)
TikTok: what if we made Twitter but for Theater Kids.
Emily (USA)
"TikTok is not just for viral dance videos — it’s also wildly complicated. Its algorithm, which makes it easy to consume videos, has been blamed for amplifying misinformation and other harmful content. The Biden administration is currently negotiating with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, over concerns about national security and the safety of Americans’ personal data on foreign servers. And there are ongoing concerns about the mental health harms the app may pose to teenagers and young people." Why on earth would I download this?
Kelsey (USA)
I only joined TikTok (and only use it on desktop) to follow Jorge Herrans' progress as he makes a musical based off The Odyssey, "Epic" (highly recommend). There are a lot of great creative projects such as his and many quality videos on the service covering a wide array of topics. However, like with pretty much any social media, TikTok is definitely a double-edge sword. It all depends on how one uses it, and there is also the fact that its security of users' personal data is incredibly dubious. There should be more awareness spread about that.
AgnosticGirl (USA)
TikTok was all good and dandy until little kids started making videos for TikTok during playdates and sleepovers.
Nathan Newman (Manhattan)
or.. you could actually do something crazy like read a book.
Librarian (VA)
@Nathan Newman or... both. They're not mutually exclusive.
The Queen of Feral Cats (Virginia)
@Librarian - True...but how many younger readers honestly frequent your library?
Daddo (Boston)
Here us all you need to know: You will be happier if you never use it…. Or any other “social” media.
Stevie Lee (West Valley City, Utah)
You lost me at "ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese parent company." I'm reluctant to give the US any of my personal information, I'm definitely not giving anything to the Chinese Communist Party. The fact that TikTok is a thing in the US shows how little people know about geopolitics, and how poorly the media disseminates geopolitical information. If people knew justa fraction of what China was up to, they wouldn't go anywhere near TikTok.
Scott (New Brunswick Canada)
Im a genx who has come through all the evolutions of tech and communication since the mid 80s and my first commodore 64. After adopting many SM platforms - I'm backing off all of them. Turning them off, deleting or turning way down. Its all too much - the endless need for content, the endless need for responses, the endless lengths people will go to get attention. i dont think any of these apps are making us better in any way. And with China having massive behind the scenes control - I can only feel that people are really playing with fire by using and promoting TT. I've had my fill of the virtual, time to start engaging with the real world.
S Clark (Minnesota)
@Scott Time to find out what happens ... when people stop being polite ... and start getting real!
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