TikTok is like some kind of fictional mind virus from a dystopian sci-fi novel.
Except the video app with the psychedelic logo is quite real, and it often targets people with completely insane and sometimes even deadly hashtag trends.
Like almost every social media app, TikTok operates on an algorithm, curating videos based on a user’s interests.
But this is an evil algorithm.
It targets the young. It targets children. The ones who make up most of TikTok’s user base. The app is quite intuitive at collating communities around addictive hashtags, which can lead users being exposed to all sorts of crazy shit.
Sometimes, this can be a productive thing. For example, “BookTok,” TikTok’s highly active army of book worms, is transforming the publishing industry. I wrote about it in article here.
But goodness on TikTok is purely accidental. There’s also a very dark, very deadly, and very weird side to an app that seems to have sprung straight out of Satan’s asshole.
Here are just a handful of ways TikTok is trying to kill you:
The Blackout Challenge
Originally known as the equally ominous “Choking Game,” this viral self-strangulation trend has claimed the lives of numerous children over the last few years.
The idea is simple as it is ghastly. Participants are encouraged to choke themselves in order to to get high, or to fall unconscious, all while on video. People have used belts, ties, ropes, and other devices to purposefully hang themselves in the hunt for internet points. And it’s costing them their lives.
Last July, 2021, an eight-year old girl named Lalani Erika Walton hanged herself with a rope from her bed after absorbing hours of TikTok videos of others attempting the challenge.
Earlier that February, a nine-year old girl named Arriani Jaileen Arroyo also fell victim to the trend. She had used the family dog’s leash to hang herself. Her father found her unresponsive.
Then later in March, there was a 12-year old boy named Joshua Haileyesus who was rushed to the hospital after being disovered unconscious by his twin brother. He spent 19 days on life support before finally passing away.
As a child growing up in the ’90s, I remember learning about how you can purposefully choking yourself to get high. But back then you generally only found out about that stuff word of mouth, and usually from some weird kid in a torn up Metallica t-shirt who sat in the back of the class.
But with TikTok , a bizarre and risky trend like that can spread faster than Covid on a NY subway. For many kids, who are highly impressionable, it seems thrilling and fun. They do it without knowing the enormous risks. And it’s killing them or injuring them for life.
The Fire Challenge
Scratch what I wrote above about TikTok being a dystopian mind virus. It’s more like a digital demon that possesses people.
This trend started from a user who sprayed hairspray onto a mirror, and then lit it on fire to create different designs. Imitators quickly spawned, including Nick Howell, another 12-year old, who wound up burning 35% of his body in March of this year, when he accidentally ignited a bottle of rubing alcohol.
In June of last year, a 13-year-old Oregon girl wound up in the hospital with severe burns on her body due to exploding a bottle of isopropyl alcohol in an effort to mimic the mirror trick.
But if manipulating people into lighting themselves on fire isn’t ghastly enough, how about —
The Eye Challenge
Which got people to put bleach in their eyes, which supposedly changes eye color.
This one, like many of these TikTok fads, started off as a joke from some kid named Greg Lammers trying to show off his cool video editing skills. In his video, Lammers instructed viewers that if you fill a plastic bag with jelly, hand sanitizer, bleach, or shaving cream, and place the bag against an eye, it can change their eye color. After performing the deed, Lammers then cut to a new shot, showing off his supposedly changed eye color. Except he had actually used a contact lens (duh).
While Lammers never expected his video to go viral, it did. To the tune of 300,000 likes, 25,000 chares, and 3,000+ comments. Imitators then started posting their own attempts at the technique, which only resulted in them burning their eyes. Big surprise.
The Milk Crate Challenge
This trend blew up about a year ago. People made videos of themselves trying to scale pyramids of milk crates they had cobled together, which often resulted in them falling down and getting injured. Hospitals saw an influx of patients with cracked ribs and other broken bones over the course of the hashtag scourge.
Like in all the previous deadly and dangerous trends, TikTok made sure to issue a statement about how the app supposedly:
Prohibits content that promotes or glorifies dangerous acts, and we remove videos and redirect searches to our Community Guidelines to discourage such content.
Right. “Prohibits.” Totally.
The problem is that by the time a trend has become big enough to cause real damage, it’s too late. TikTok was the most popular app in 2021, having been downloaded 3 billion times, and having garnered a mind-blowing 1 billion users.
One freaking billion! That’s one seventh the world population.
About a quarter of TikTok users are children or teens ages 10–19, and the kiddos are spending roughly 75 minutes per day on the video-sharing app. Another statistic of note is that the majority of TikTok’s successful ads communicate their message or product immediately. As in like 3 seconds.
In other words, TikTok is custom built for short attention spans. And because of its ravenously-obsessed youthful users base, a trend, however absurd or dangerous, can spread at the speed of human stupidity (which is WAY faster than light, contrary to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity). Millions of clips are posted daily, and users are often sucked into a rabbit hole of algorithmically curated videos designed to keep them hypnotized.
There’s no logistical way TikTok could realistically govern or filter out a questionable trend because of the speed at which they grow through the app’s multiverse-sized ecosytem.
So, what is the solution, if any?
I’m reminded of the thematic summation in the classic Mathew Broderick-starring 1983 film War Games about the Cold War threat of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction.”
“The only winning move is not to play.”
The only way to beat TikTok is to delete the app, and make sure gullible kids can’t see it in the first place.
Yeah, good luck with that. TikTok and all its poison, is here to stay.