The Lumberjack student newspaper
Graphic by Valen Lambert

Delete your TikTok


by Valen Lambert

Originally printed April 12, 2023

When our government recently proposed a ban on TikTok because of national security risks, I was probably one of the few that delighted in the news. While the government is worried about national security, I think the app’s biggest threat is to culture and dare I say, our souls. I might sound like a pretentious asshole, but I think TikTok is melting the brains of the youth and you need to delete it right now and go touch some fucking grass. 

When I first transferred here from the old-school beach town of Morro Bay, where flip phones still circulated amongst my unplugged community of surfers, farmers, and creatives, I was blown away by the distinct “TikTok culture” that I realized dominates the humor, interests and identities of my peers. All of a sudden I kept hearing people saying the same jokes, the same words, while wearing the same outfits accompanied by the same refrain: “I saw it on TikTok!”

Don’t get me wrong, trends are a natural part of our social fabric, but there’s something about the way that TikTok baby-feeds content to its users and digs their personalities into a hole at frightening speeds that freaks me out. It homogenizes people into select subcultures based on their algorithm. Instead of going out into the world and discovering themselves through their own exploration of literature, media, art and fashion, TikTok informs your personality for you. 

The algorithm puts you in a box. Conformity just got a whole lot faster and easier with TikTok spiraling users into cogs in the culture machine. It leaves little to no room for users to explore themselves naturally without the consistent influence of the internet. The app is a culture factory, and everyone is willingly surrendering to the mind-numbing work of consuming and popping out trends that this app is banking off of. Everyone’s also hoping to bank off their own image.

All of a sudden everyone has a chance to be famous. The Hollywood virus is infecting young folks all around the world with the idea that with some good looks, a little charm and some trendiness, they’ll make a big break and one of their videos will go viral. They take to their front-cameras and hope that they can capitalize on their image (while simultaneously bagging on capitalism). The app promotes radical self expression, but leads creators to monetize on their individuality and become caricatures of themselves. They’re abandoning memes and becoming them.

I don’t have a TikTok, but I have an Instagram, which is unfortunately the same damn thing at this point. I get suggested so many dumb reels of people making faces into the camera with some regurgitated words to go along with some trending song and it’s all just one big jack-off party. I lose thousands of brain cells anytime I see one.  

Look, I like posting selfies too. I like feeling hot and confident and sharing that with the world and not giving AF. I’m in no way trying to belittle people for feeling themselves. But I believe there is a threshold, because it can’t possibly be good for your mental health to be chronically online and have your whole life and image revolving around your digital presence. If this sounds like you, I urge you to unplug, even if just for a bit. There is so much meaningless content getting pumped into our heads that has no benefit to your well-being whatsoever, and believe it or not, all that dog-shit is taking up valuable space in your head where you could be daydreaming, thinking about poems, flowers, or frogs, or better yet, absolutely fucking nothing.  

I want to make it clear that I’m not targeting anyone specifically, and that being chronically online doesn’t make you a robot. It’s a crazy time to be alive, and social media has become so irreversibly ingrained that it’s hard to disconnect from it if you grew up with it. This generation also faces so much anxiety about the impending doom of our future, I don’t blame us for being chronically online. I mainly hate this stupid app because I know that in every person there is unfathomable depth and complexity that is being suppressed by mainlining content straight to their identity. 

We create ourselves every day. Our lives, our identities, are art projects that we create through connecting and making associations with the world around us. That is hard to do when you only see the world in ways that other people told you you should see. It’s like watching Bob Ross and only being really good at making Bob Ross paintings. Delete your TikTok and go paint the world with yourself.

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