Divided opinions

The cons of TikTok’s personalized content are worth it for the pros

While I may wake up hoping for a “bones day” courtesy of Noodle the pug, there is so much more to TikTok’s ultra-personal algorithm that keeps me scrolling.

I used to be incredibly opposed to TikTok, I contently groaned that it lacked the exact feature we now debate. I thought I was going to be launched into a cookie cutter, endless scroll wasteland where I’d only ever see the D’amelio’s and their accompanying posse. However, once I gave it a chance, I found my social media home.

The algorithm is exactly what drew me to TikTok. I got bored on Instagram quickly because the following feed was too random for my taste and the explore page didn’t know me at all. I get bored with Twitter quickly because sometimes it’s too much reading for the social media mood I’m in and so TikTok just checked all the boxes for me.

How the algorithm works isn’t that surprising either. According to TikTok: “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too”.

The factors mentioned above include user interactions, i.e., the videos you like, the comments you post and the content you create, video information like the hashtags used, the sound, the effect, and the caption, and finally device and account settings, more basic stuff like country, region, and language.

The For You Page curation doesn’t stop there though, it also considers things like interest indicators. Things like if you watched the video all the way to the end, if you opened and interacted with the comments, if you swiped over and looked at the users account and how many times you watched the video before you scrolled.

All of this to say, I have found my social media home. I have found communities that I personally connect with, and I have made meaningful friendships through this platform because it served me content so accurately.

But, with great power comes great responsibility. I’ll be the first to admit my screen time for TikTok is quite high, but I also must take that with a grain of salt because if the app didn’t exist, it would be replaced with something else. Furthermore, for people who are less comfortable with their TikTok usage, there are several failsafes in place.

First, there will be a gentle nudge to move on from TikTok from a video that will appear on your FYP. If this is too subtle, there are other options like the built-in “Digital Wellbeing”. This includes a time limit users can place on their TikTok usage that can only be bypassed with a passcode.

As for parents, they can utilize “Family Pairing” which allows them to do the aforementioned restrictions but also change their child’s privacy settings.

The hyper-specific algorithm can have my data because I’m home.