Is there any good to TikTok?

Peyton Dripps, Senior Writer

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, TikTok has consumed adolescent and adult lives across the globe. The free app contains short videos of just about anything you’d want: people sharing advice and life stories, funny moments, tutorials on anything from fixing cars to making a five-star meal and much more. Although this app has benefitted many people and generated awareness towards national issues such as BLM and violence against Asian communities, it appears it has also contributed to a great decline in mental health and heightened the eating disorder rate, specifically amongst young people. Many young adults and even children have become addicted to TikTok, spending hours each day scrolling through the app.  While addiction in any form is harmful, specifically to young minds, I believe the negatives of TikTok are heavily countered by the positives. For each of those young people that happen to succumb to the “perfect” image that social media presents, many more are exposed to mental health resources for the first time, a content creator who has lived and shared a similar experience or someone who can be a role model to help them with existing conflicts in their lives.

In an amazing example, earlier this month, a young girl in Kentucky was rescued when a man on a motorcycle saw the girl perform a hand signal that he had learned on TikTok. The hand signal, being a non-verbal cue to domestic abuse, was performed by the young woman which ultimately saved her life.  The signal, consisting of tucking the thumb into the open palm, and then folding the hand over the thumb, circulated on TikTok last year. Creators with many followers on the app used their platform to teach their fans this signal if they were ever in need of help. The Canadian Women’s Foundation first shared this non-verbal signal in April 2020 and according to NPR.org, “created it as a way for victims of abuse to discreetly ask for help on a video call, as COVID-19 lockdowns forced many people to stay indoors and led to a surge in domestic violence.” Last week authorities in Kentucky received a call from the motorist that he had witnessed a young female use this non-verbal signal from the car window. The motorist followed the vehicle after he recognized the symbol and alerted authorities of his location. 

When the police pulled over the driver, it was discovered that the young woman had been reported missing two days prior. NPR.org concluded that, “According to investigators, the passenger said she and the driver had traveled through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, where the man had relatives. When the man’s family realized his female passenger was underage, the pair left Ohio, and the female passenger began trying to get the attention of other drivers.” With the growth of TikTok, people across the country and the globe have become aware of societal and ongoing issues that we face each day. The teaching of the domestic abuse hand-signal on TikTok is just one of many. TikTok has also brought missing persons cases to light, such as the Gabby Petito case, and has brought communities together to fight for change and find these missing people. Although TikTok has some negative impacts, it has opened doors for new conversations and discussion of controversial and typically avoided topics on social media. 

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