By Tillie Moore
After being released in 2016, TikTok has changed the face of social media. Short videos that took limited time can go viral, while other videos that took effort and cost money can flop. Scalability is remarkable and oftentimes unintentional.
TikTok is a platform for pop culture to reach mass audiences quickly. When aimlessly scrolling through the ‘For You Page’, two serious and current issues have become highly publicized on this app. TikTok is overrun by the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While the significance and complexity of these two events differ, TikTok has become a platform for unqualified people to speak on them due to anonymity and created an easy way to spread false information.
Mixed in with trending sounds and dance videos, videos pertaining to the Depp and Heard trial recur. These videos vary from Depp testifying to zooming in on Heard making faces. No matter what the video is, Heard is being made fun of. The app has popularized a trial that deals with serious topics and has made it into a form of entertainment accessible to anyone. The hashtag #JohnnyDepp has skyrocketed to 10.3b views and #JusticForJohnnyDepp to 5.4b views. Different sources have written articles about Heard’s lawyer being a Depp fan, Heard lying about a concealer she used, and simple moments in court such as Depp drawing on a post-it note.
To acquire TikTok fame, users are acting opportunistically by using other people’s trauma to gain views. Viewers are unaware of the specifics of the trial so misinformation is spreading rampantly. Furthermore, no matter the outcome of the trial, TikTok is sensationalizing an incredibly difficult topic to speak about. Although the general consensus is that Heard defamed Depp, the intense and polarizing reaction on TikTok may scare people away from sharing their own trauma.
TikTok has also brought a brand new audience, and therefore opinions, to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A simple search on google describes this strange phenomena. As described by The Guardian, “TikTok was ‘just a dancing app’. Then the Ukraine war started.” The article points out a fascinating decision by the White House to brief 30 TikTok stars on the war.
Tiktok is changing how we consume media in the present time. Some users post informational videos and others post trauma for views. Soldiers and civilians post videos of explosisons and bombs going off. TikTok can be a good source of quick information that reaches larger demographics easily, but it is also a platform of harmful and false information. The BCC describes this issue in the article “Ukraine war: False TikTok videos draw millions of views.”
TikTok has only grown over the past few years and will continue to do so, considering the tumultuous nature of our society. Users can rely on TikTok to be a platform to comment on and receive information on practically any current event or pop culture moment. Oftentimes through anonymity, people can freely express their opinions on matters that I am not sure they have the right to. As these events continue to unfold, and more noteworthy crises take place, I am interested to see how TikTok changes as a source.
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