Op-ed: TikTok  is a vehicle for misogyny, self-hatred and anti-feminism 

Noelia Arteaga, opinion editor 

With over 1 billion users, TikTok has taken the world by storm. We’ve all used it and seen the content catered to the masses. Some of the content is harmless. Cooking, sports, entertainment and other content generally don’t have many negative long-lasting effects on people’s psyche and perceptions. However, there are many types of far more subliminal content that harm women and feminist movements, making it imperative for you to forgo the app. 

Before we dive into the different kinds of content that make TikTok a driving vehicle for misogyny and identity deterioration, we must understand what an echo chamber is.  

Echo chambers are “when one experiences a biased, tailored media experience that eliminates opposing viewpoints and differing voices. Due to the social media algorithm that ensures we only see media that fits our preferences, we have found ourselves in a comfortable, self-conforming feed.”

 TikTok has admitted to creating these “filter bubbles” that keep users trapped in one type of content. This isn’t a big deal if, for example, you love cats but can’t stand dogs so the algorithm just steers you into a cat video hole. But if you’re a young teenage girl struggling with the growing pains of self-esteem and puberty or a young boy who can’t seem to score a date to a high school dance and has unsubstantiated resentment towards girls, then that’s a whole different story. 

The way the algorithm works is by  using “machine learning to determine what content a user is most likely to engage with and serve them more of it, by finding videos that are similar or that are liked by people with similar user preferences.”  

Think of it as a tree. TikTok shows you eight videos when you first join. Then, based on the one you engage with the most, it branches you to eight more videos that relate to the first video. And from that video eight more, then more and more. 

If a person goes into the app with negative preconceptions of a group of people or even themselves, TikTok will launch them  in the way of the content that promotes and even legitimizes the preconceived notions of self-hate and misogyny, trapping them in a room with all the negative rhetoric bouncing from wall to wall right back to their eyes. 

This brings me to the plethora of content, evidence and research that points to TikTok being a net negative for women, men and everyone in between alike.  

It is very difficult to empower young girls on the idea that they can be whatever they want to be — a flagship statement of feminist movements — when they can’t have the one thing that is of immediate concern to them during such a vulnerable time: appearances. A poll from the University of Michigan revealed that two-thirds of teens and preteens were insecure about some aspect of their appearance. Another study found that 15% of 11-year-old girls were unhappy with their appearance and by the time they were 14, 29% said they were unhappy. 

Often, user preconceptions are not even necessary. In a study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, or CCDH, new accounts in four English-speaking countries were set at the 13-year-old age minimum. “Within 2.6 minutes, TikTok recommended suicide content. Within 8 minutes, TikTok served content related to eating disorders. Every 39 seconds, TikTok recommended videos about body image and mental health to teens,”according to the study. 

 Girls are not the only victims. This echo chamber phenomenon happens to boys and men as well.

We’ve all heard of the alpha male, cigar-huffing, bigotry-puffing, kickboxer Andrew Tate. The personification of misogyny itself, Tate has equipped many young men with the idea that they are miserable because of feminism. 

An Observer investigation found how the site started to push more content tailored to men on a new account set at 18 years old. Without proactively searching for Tate-related content, the account started to show videos of Tate from a copycat account, talking about “the harsh reality of men” as a result of feminism. The next time the account holders opened the account, they were met with four Tate-related posts from four different accounts.  

Tate sells this idea that puts young men at the center of the world and that everyone is beholden to them. In retrospect, this isn’t a new concept. Men have done this since the dawn of time. The issue is that he is using feminism as the reason for why young impressionable boys can’t attain what they want. This is framed in the politically-charged backdrop of TikTok. Young boys who struggle to see how they fit into the narrative of feminism are more susceptible to idolize someone like Tate. 

How can feminism thrive in this environment? It can’t. Sure, there are feminists on TikTok. But they’re in their own echo chamber. They can’t reach the people who are stuck in other chambers.

We went into the social media boom with enthusiasm because we could watch only what we wanted to and not have to wait for cable TV to air what we were interested in. We focused so much on what “I” wanted to watch, so companies built something so “I” could watch what I wanted.  The best interest of society didn’t matter.  

As I mentioned before, we all have preconceptions. Sometimes they’re good, but sometimes they’re bad. Sometimes, they don’t even exist. The issue is how social media companies and corporations harness these negatives, intentionally or not, to drive hyper aware teens to obsessively engage with socially degrading content for the sake of profit margins. 

TikTok doesn’t care about people. They want the engagement and data that comes with this use to increase their monetized control, through ads, of the public forum. They aid in the deterioration of already messed up societies under the guise of streamlined communication and speedy dissemination of information, whether truthful or not. Not to mention the other millions of items spreading racist, transphobic, classist and homophobic content. 

TikTok is not the only culprit, but they did create the fast-paced content model that other social media companies have adopted to engage their users in the same short-spanned and looped videos that have us charting record hours of screen time

My recommendation is to ditch TikTok and read a book or throw rocks at a train. I ditched TikTok during my second semester of college after feeling  everyone in my age group started to adopt the same personality and catchphrases, hearing the same “oh no” sound and seeing the Charli drink at Dunkin. It made real life boring and repetitive, just like the app. 

If you have younger siblings, delete the app from their phone. If you have kids in the future, don’t hand them an iPad as I’ve witnessed my cousins do with their children. Keep yourself and them away from screens for as long as possible.  

We’ve all joked about how 13-year-olds are looking like adults and how boys have regressed into misogynistic, “grindset,” lone-wolf, sigma males. But it’s far more of a horror film than a comedy show. Happy scrolling!

Noelia Arteaga is a third-year journalism and political science combined major. She can be reached at [email protected].