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The Dark Side Of TikTok

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take….

It’s 5 AM and 17-year-old Karan is rushing to get to his newspaper route on time. The school dropout works four jobs during the day to try and eke out a living. After he’s done delivering newspapers for the day, he washes cars, walks dogs and also works as a restaurant delivery boy.

By the end of the day, Karan is tired. He can barely keep his eyes open while he hangs out with his friends. One of his friends starts to play a popular Bollywood song on his low-end mobile phone. Karan’s face lights up and he starts to sing along. And boy, can he sing. His friends say that he should be a star and Karan too, dreams of the same.

A few months down the line, Karan has saved up enough money to buy himself a phone. He has heard of a new app that lets you share short videos with the whole world. The phone is barely up and running when he downloads the new phenomenon called TikTok. That night he records 12 videos of himself singing songs from Hindi films and uploads them to the app. The next morning, he has hundreds of likes and dozens of comments praising his singing. Karan feels like a king.

What is this TikTok craze?

TikTok, as most already know is a video sharing app, that over the last two years has been downloaded 1.5 billion times globally. A hot favourite with Gen Z, most of its users fall in the 16-24 age group. The app is full of short videos of young people showcasing their creativity and talent. From lip-syncing, to dance moves, and short skits to pet videos, a range of content has found a place on TikTok. And with 500 million active users worldwide, you can be sure that each video receives a considerable number of views.

TikTok is no doubt a ton of fun. The creativity kids are displaying is noteworthy and entertaining. Kids too are having a blast pretending to make music videos, or act out comic scenes. The case of rapper Lil Nas X whose TikTok fame earned him a record deal makes other kids hopeful for a similar fate. He rode that horse all the way to the Grammy’s.

Needless to say, the app can also be addictive for both those who post videos and those who watch them. While on an average a user spends about 52 minutes per day on the app, it’s not uncommon for people to slip down the rabbit hole and lose hours watching videos. The likes and comments on videos come with just enough of a dopamine hit to have you wanting to post more often and gain more followers. But this also brings with it a fair share of distress. Studies have shown that people who constantly needed external validation are more stressed-out than people who don’t.

Hours turn into days and days into weeks

During the day Karan was distracted. He did a shoddy job washing the cars and was late delivering food orders because he kept checking his phone. That night he claimed he was sick to get out of food deliveries. No, Karan was not a bad kid, he was just desperate for something better. He had been told that his videos could be seen by a big-shot music producer and his career as a singer would take off. He wanted so badly to have a life better than the one he had now.

Karan spent the evening making short music videos. He got his friends on board, wore his best clothes, and they tried different locations for his shoots. He stayed up late into the night uploading videos and checking their progress. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, he fell asleep and slept right through his newspaper delivery time. As soon as his eyes opened, he reached for his phone to check TikTok. He was trending! There was no way he could get any work done that day; his future career beckoned to him.

He bought new clothes with his meagre savings. That could be the day one of his videos would make him a star. But no offers came his way. Every day he made new videos and he waited, but nothing happened. Weeks passed and then months. Karan had lost all hope and most of his jobs.

He still walked the dogs because he really liked them. But before long, he was broke, tired and disillusioned like many other young people whose hopes had been dashed the same way. Karan didn’t have a choice; he would have to go back to doing menial jobs. Maybe, over time he would find a way out of this situation, but would it really be worth the price of pinning his hopes on a mobile app?

This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to an actual person is purely coincidental



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