TikTok and its toxicities | Inquirer Opinion

TikTok and its toxicities

/ 05:05 AM December 27, 2023

Kathmandu — TikTok has become ubiquitous, with its effect extending beyond the realm of digital spaces. It has reshaped video sharing, with diverse users creating content, unlike the traditional approach which was limited to media producers.

In Nepal, religious purposes don’t just drive temple visits but also the zeal to create content for TikTok during Shrawan (the festival dedicated to Lord Shiva), which highlights this app’s influence on our decision-making and social life. Other public places, from restaurants to cinemas and academic premises, have become ideal venues as well for content creators and self-publishing consumers.

TikTok (DouYin in Chinese) has become one of the most successful Chinese social media applications used globally. Musical.ly was founded by Zhang Yiming in September 2016, but Beijing Bytedance Technology acquired the application in November 2017, and renamed it TikTok. Since then, TikTok has seen widespread distribution, attracting young users to engage, view, create, and comment on lip-synched videos.

The third-largest social network, TikTok was seen to have 834.3 million monthly users worldwide in 2023. The audience size in Nepal alone is 1,349,830.


TikTok’s use is limited only by its users’ creativity, which can be both positive and negative. According to TikTok community guidelines, its mission is to unlock human imagination, enabling creative expression and providing entertainment and enrichment by welcoming people worldwide. This, as they discover diverse ideas, creators, and products, and connect with others in the community. But TikTok’s use has expanded beyond its stated intention, driven by individuals of all age groups who obsess over it and use it to gratify themselves.

Consequently, TikTok has been used to expand one’s social network, express oneself creatively, feel competent, and seek fame or power. Another factor behind its popularity is the psychological state known as fear of missing out, with the app giving its users the feeling of being included in current trends. However, such motivation can have undesirable results. Sociopsychological studies conducted in this field suggest that people use this media to peek into other people’s lives and access their private details.

Despite being a global phenomenon, TikTok is characterized by its failure to protect user data and ensure privacy, which has led to lawsuits in several countries. It must also confront such challenges as handling hate speech, inappropriate content, threats, and harassment, and deal with cyberbullying, misinformation, plagiarism, and conspiracy theories. Further, users misuse TikTok to threaten others over what may be minor inconveniences. People with little journalistic training also poke around others’ personal issues and expose them, ostensibly for justice’s sake. Worse, viewers perceive the app as a source of amusement even if issues of ethics and morality are involved.

To gain viewers and become viral, TikTok creators would do anything and everything—from filming people without their consent to capturing serious accidents on video before extending help, as seen in the recent case of the violence in Manipur. TikTok users have blurred the line between humanity and content-seeking obsession, and have resorted to taking and releasing online videos of people quarreling or harming animals, the misery of terminally ill patients, and children being sexualized through lewd dances or outfits.


TikTok’s popularity has ignited anxiety and fear about its misuse and the extent to which people can become regressive. The present discourse displayed by TikTok represents “techno panic,” a moral panic that centers on fears associated with specific contemporary technology or activity instead of content. Such panic points out the consequences of social media that trigger people’s perceived vulnerability and fears that seem to be getting worse.

At the same time, recent research suggests that TikTok can be a useful channel to inform viewers about health and safety, share official or government information, stir healthy political discussions, promote tourism, online sales and educational content, and appeal for assistance to charitable causes.


Despite its rampant creation of improper content, it is not too late to leverage TikTok to foster civility. First, its users must seriously comply with the community guidelines it has provided. Violators must be reported by other users who find their content harmful or irrelevant. Sharing feedback is important. Second, social media administrators must be vigilant in monitoring offensive TikTok content and must be quick to take relevant action to remove ill-suited videos from public view. Finally, it is up to TikTok users themselves to comprehend the app’s original purpose for society’s well-being, and to use it accordingly. The Kathmandu Post/Asia News Network


Sakhie Pant studied master’s in sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, and master’s in international development studies at Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands.


Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is a member of the Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 media titles in the region.

TAGS: internet, social media, TikTok, TikTok influencers

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.