It’s been well over two years since TikTok arrived in the United States in August 2018, offering a rejoinder to anyone who thought social media had lost its way. The app had everything: social commentary, comedy, crafting, memes, challenges, makeup tutorials and, of course, dances. Even those who weren’t totally sold on it couldn’t avoid the videos, which proliferated across platforms like Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
By April 2020, TikTok had been downloaded more than 2 billion times; in the fall, it had an estimated 850 million monthly active users.
Despite its growth in size and scope, the uninitiated still largely view the app as a tool for other, much younger people to use. “TikTok is a children’s dancing app, where children will upload videos of themselves dancing, that children and adults can enjoy,” the comedian Nathan Fielder recently joked. While it’s true that TikTok has transformed dance culture online, the platform has more broadly become a rich social and entertainment network. And in 2020, there was hardly a corner of society it didn’t touch.
It Turned Entertainment on Its Head
TikTok’s most obvious impact can be seen in the entertainment world. “More than any other social network since Myspace it feels like a new experience, the emergence of a different kind of technology and a different mode of consuming media,” the journalist Kyle Chayka wrote in November.
Primarily responsible for the uniqueness of the TikTok viewing experience is the For You page, an algorithmically programmed feed that serves you the
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