TikTok, the ticking time-bomb (Part 1)

What makes TikTok so desirable

This is Part 1 of a three-series blogpost.

It’s time I did this blog about my take on TikTok, the most populate short video app that has gained immense popularity. This blog may offend the sensibilities of some, but I got to do what I got to do.

Here are some startling (and disturbing) facts and numbers for TikTok:

  • India leads TikTok’s global user base list with a staggering 300 million users of which 120 million are active on a monthly basis. The global user base is 500 million.
  • In December 2019, time spent on TikTok by Indian user was more than the next 11 countries combined!  Now, that’s worrisome.
  • According to Data analytics firm App Annie, in 2019, Indians spent over 5.5 billion hours on the app, which is an astounding 240% more compared to time spent on the app in 2018. Gosh!
  • In 2019, Indians accounted for 48% of the 1,560 hours spent on TikTok by users outside China.
  • A majority of Indian TikTok users are 18-35 years old coming from tier-2 and tier-3 cities.
  • Approximately 52% of Indian TikTok users earn less than Rs 25,000 ($350) per month.
  • The average Indian TikTok user spends 52 minutes per day on the app. In that timeframe, they may watch more than 200 videos, including carefully targeted ads or offers

Well, topping the global TikTok user base is an achievement India was better off without and not something Indians should be proud of!

What makes TikTok so desirable

Amidst the nationwide lockdown, TikTok alone registered 20.2 million downloads in India in a 31-day period ending April 12. People across communities, age groups, social starts and professions have taken to TikTok like a frenzy. Users include Bollywood celebrities, housewives, masons, vegetable vendors, domestic helps, software engineers, municipality workers, physicians, policemen, illiterates, students, school teachers the list is endless!

According to report Reddit CEO and Co-founder Steve Huffman could not convince himself to install TikTok on his phone because he considers TikTok to be “fundamentally parasitic” as it’s always listening using the fingerprinting technology. For those who are unaware, ‘fingerprinting’ is a combination of audio and browser tracking to determine which users are watching and sharing a video on both the app and on the web. Apparently, TikTok would work just as fine if these scripts are disabled. However, TikTok chooses to use them instead. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has similar concerns regarding TikTok.

If the tech giants and pundits are so apprehensive, scared and doubtful regarding TikTok, what is it that makes TikTok so desirable to the common man?

The popularity of TikTok can be primarily attributed to the never-ending flow of titillating videos, cringeworthy content, suggestive expressions, risqué humour and raunchy moves. Who cares that most of the content violates the basic code of conduct, ethics, morality, and of course privacy?

The increasing popularity of TikTok is evidence that we have a grotesque, scintillating, sexual, raunchy, hate-filled dark side to us, in contrast to the otherwise sober-sanskari-value-loaded outer personalities we project! The viewers love to watch a middle aged real-housewife move raunchily to a raunchy b-grade song, as much as the woman does hoping to attract as many likes and explicit comments as she. That’s possibly her only claim to fame!

Truth may be a bitter pill to swallow, and that’s the reason most users prefer to remain in denial, proclaiming that the app is “just for fun, and nothing more”.

I do agree there are some users who do post informative, non-provocative, innocent, funny videos, but they are just a handful! They are what they are, exceptions. Evidently, they have far fewer takers!

Read Part 2: Behavioural profiling of TikTok users

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