Whenever Angela Angelova is “bored in the house, bored in the house (bored),” there is one place she knows she can turn to: TikTok.
TikTok is a video-creating social media platform with nearly 800 million users worldwide. Many use it to create 1-minute vlogs, give advice or do dance challenges.
“I think it's a really powerful tool for our generation and millennials,” neuroscience senior Angelova said. “It can really change perception of things and it has an influence.”
U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Aug. 6, claiming ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, collects user data and poses a threat to U.S. national security. ByteDance had 45 days following the order to give partial ownership to a U.S. company, otherwise the app would be removed from app stores.
Experts said security concerns about data sharing cannot be dismissed, but believe an outright ban is an extreme measure, according to Wired.
“I was pretty sad (after the announcement) because I was just like ‘I wish I had more time, I could find so many more new things to explore,’” Angelova said, adding that she isn’t personally concerned about safety or privacy issues with the app.
Then, on Sept. 19, President Trump agreed to let TikTok remain in the U.S. on the condition that ByteDance partners with U.S. companies Walmart and Oracle.
After this weekend’s news, Angelova and other students say they’re glad they can continue to scroll through the app.
Angelova said she benefits from the mental health advice and body positivity videos from therapists or doctors on TikTok.
“It’s nice because these professionals are giving advice for free,” Angelova said. “I feel so much happier and I'm on a new journey with feeling good about myself.”
Business freshman Madison Crosby makes TikTok videos about her life as a UT student. She said creating videos helped her meet new people and feel less lonely during her first weeks at college.
“It's made me feel like (college) is not as big and scary as I thought,” Crosby said. “I was walking around campus and people recognized me (and) stopped me to be like, ‘You’re that girl from TikTok.’”
Crosby said aside from producing vlogs she also enjoys watching them on her “For You” page, a place where TikTok creates a feed of videos based on user viewing patterns.
Computer science senior Owais Raza said he likes TikTok’s recommendation algorithm because anyone has a chance to go viral and have their content shared with users from all over the world.
Raza also posts his own TikToks. One of his most popular videos features him counting all the bricks on Speedway.
“YouTube is so competitive, and Instagram’s algorithms are like a pay-to-play arena, so no one can organically go viral,” Raza said. “(TikTok) is an even playing field, (and) you have a chance of getting exposure.”
As the app gained popularity following COVID-19-related shutdowns, students say they’re glad they have a way to continue to connect.
“There's a lot more unity in our generation because of social media (like) TikTok,” Crosby said. “It's a very efficient way to communicate and get everyone's ideas out there.”