TikTok has become dominant in the world of social media. What does that mean?

Over the past few years, TikTok has become an incredibly dominant part of popular culture — so dominant that New York Magazine writer John Herrman crowned the platform the most popular. king of social media.

He joined the Texas Standard to talk about how TikTok rose to prominence so quickly, how it changed the culture and privacy issues. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been slightly edited for clarity:

So you did: you declared TikTok to be the “king of social media”, it seems.

Well, it wasn’t really mine. TikTok has been growing very fast for quite a long time now. It’s easy to lose track of time these days, but 2019 has truly seen a big breakthrough. And now you hear about it everywhere. Even if you don’t use it, you know people who do. And more and more you hear about it from politicians in critical media coverage and just from people you talk to about what’s wrong with the world or maybe what’s right.

Let me ask you, you talk about how TikTok reached inevitable status. I think a lot of people are kind of proud that they avoided some of the silly sidebars that TikTok serves up. What do you mean by “essential”?

I don’t really mean this the way you might have described Facebook as unmissable years ago – which means you started missing things your friends or family were doing, or maybe you just don’t. couldn’t interact with local businesses. TikTok is a bit more like Twitter in that a lot of people have never used Twitter and never will. But it’s been impossible not to think about Twitter, especially over the past five or six years. This is at the heart of politics. In business, it’s like this invisible network that explains a lot about how media works and how entertainment works, how sports work. And TikTok is doing something similar in a bit more subtle way, but I don’t think I’m less influential. His influence is everywhere.

Well, maybe there’s the catch: TikTok here is Chinese-owned, whereas, you know, some of these other platforms, US-based. What is the significance of this distinction?

How do people actually use it? No way. The biggest difference between TikTok and previous platforms is that instead of relying on your friends to basically provide you with things to watch, it relies on its secret algorithm system to recommend things it thinks you might want to watch or share. yourself. And it’s a subtle difference, but it’s part of what made TikTok so popular. Politically, and in terms of the privacy and security of our data, ownership really matters. It’s a different kind of animal. This is the first time in the United States that the big new social media thing hasn’t come from here.

You call the pre-TikTok era of social media a “true full-spectrum privacy disaster.” And given the way you talk about TikTok right now, how much has this platform changed the dynamics of full-spectrum privacy? And do you think it’s even possible to be a successful social media platform talking about the business model etc. without mining user data?

I’ve been covering social media for over a decade now and was really blown away and a little disturbed when TikTok popped up because we were in the midst of a real backlash against services like Facebook and people like Mark Zuckerberg , which, you know, have incredible amounts of power because they run these services that know a lot about us. Then there’s TikTok, which uses a lot of the same tricks and things that we’ve decided are maybe, you know, undesirable. And it adds that extra factor of, you know, being owned and run by a company that seems to be materially beholden to the Chinese government. It’s kind of like what other countries have been through with Facebook, where the thing comes in that really changes your politics, changes the social life of your whole country.

We’re out of time, but I have to ask a personal question. Are you a TikTok user?

I am a TikTok prowler. I guess the word would be I don’t post. You know, it was the first platform that made me feel old and there’s a bit of pride in that.

Do you have children?

Yes, too young to use TikTok.

Ah, they are too young.

When they are old enough to understand how to use a phone or whatever they use, hopefully we will have moved on to something different.

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