TikTok: Interact or Distract?

PV freshman reveals how she uses a social media platform

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Pascack Valley freshman Allison Varghese shares how she uses TikTok, a social media platform, for more than entertainment. Varghese discusses how TikTok has educated her on topics such as school subjects and self defense.

Allison Varghese, Staff Writer

Being a teen who is a part of Gen-Z, the generation who uses the internet and phones to connect more than ever before, I find myself virtually connecting with others to discuss topics ranging from global warming and mental health to who the new Bachelorette winner will be. 

As a 15-year-old high schooler, one application that I use daily to socialize with others online is TikTok. I often use TikTok to educate, entertain, and express myself.

TikTok is a social media platform with more than 800 million active users. While TikTok is also a fun app that can be used by everyone, its target audience – young adults from the ages 16-24 – is 41% of its users, according to oberlo.com.  

A “For You” page is customized for each user’s interests on the app, thus making it especially addicting as users are able to produce and view videos in various categories that cater specifically to their interests, such as dancing, singing, comedy, fandoms, cooking, politics and art, along with many others. 

Although some may think that apps like TikTok are used to procrastinate or waste time, I’ve used TikTok to educate myself and share my thoughts and opinions with other users. TikTok has given me a new way to explore my identity as a teen growing up in this world. 

With all the information that circulates around TikTok, I was able to formulate my first political opinion based on content from the app this year. Although I was not able to vote in this election, I will be eligible next time. Until then, I can continue to educate myself on important topics by watching people’s content on matters like defunding the police, Black Lives Matter, abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and healthcare options. 

In addition to the political content on TikTok, I’ve used the app to learn other important activities such as self-defense. As a young girl living in a scary world, I’ve been drawn to Chelsea Kyann’s page – a professional MMA fighter who teaches her viewers about self-defense mechanisms and how to avoid being a victim to predators. 

Being in high school, taking multiple classes, and balancing other activities can be hard. However, I’ve utilized TikTok as an online 60-second tutor. On Justice Shepard’s page, viewers can learn all different levels of math to help pass their classes. There are plenty of other pages that specialize in tutoring students in other school subjects or even helping students get into the right college for them, like Gohar Khan’s page. 

The stigma around mental health has lessened over the past couple of years. TikTok has created a safe environment for users to express their feelings and get great advice from many professionals, like doctors and licensed therapists. Jazz Thornton, a mental health advocate who wrote a book called “Stop Surviving Start Fighting” and a movie called “Girl on the Bridge,” has given many words of advice and encouragement to the TikTok community. I have learned so many coping skills and have realized that there are plenty of people out there who struggle with mental health. 

TikTok has served me in so many ways, but most importantly it has helped me improve myself on various levels. Identity growth is constantly happening in humans every day. TikTok can have endless benefits when used correctly.

Social media can be a positive or negative experience for anyone, but it’s you, the user, who controls that experience.