TikTok Experiment Notes

A screencap of my TikTok profile in the browser.

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My younger sibling encouraged me to get a TikTok account in July and three months in, it’s been a thought-provoking experience. My (loosely defined) goals are to share videos of tea, accompanied by the occasional plant or book video, but only for as long as it’s fun for me. Also, to make the occasional Québec political joke that goes mini-viral. (I might have a future as very particular kind of political humorist?)

Here are a few observations I’ve got so far, as a very casual TikTok user:

  • I hate the algorithm. My favourite content is the content I’ve sought out or that friends have gone out of their way to share with me. I have found that instead of “training the algorithm” I just generally avoid my “For You” page. This seems to be exactly not what the app wants me to do, which I find really funny. Ooops? 😅
  • The ads are so invasive. TikTok (not unlike Instagram and YouTube) seems to have placed me in the box of “wants to get pregnant, lose weight, control PMS, and mostly just lose weight.” It’s triggering, misgendering, disingenuous, and seemingly unavoidable, as blocking ad accounts on TikTok seems impossible. (Or at least, I haven’t figured out how to do it.)
  • Some experts maintain that the amount of misinformation on TikTok and Twitter is roughly equal. Since I’ve been on Twitter since 2009, I’m probably better at spotting misinformation on there, so it’s less frustrating overall. The more I’m on the app, the more I wonder if it can be really difficult to untangle TikTok misinformation because it’s so entwined in all that “relatable content” (I’m looking at you, neurodivergent or “somatic” TikTok niches).
  • Early on in my TikTok experiment, I told myself that I would not make reaction videos explicitly disagreeing with or calling out misinformation, especially, for example, when there’s blatant transphobia or ableism. There have definitely been moments where I’ve seen incredibly …misinformed… videos go by, but at that point the trick is to let them go by and put the phone down, preferably somewhere where I'll forget it exists. I’ve got stress levels to manage, and nothing gets me so distractedly off-kilter as “oh no, someone is wrong on the Internet and I need to tell them about it!”
The XCKD stick-figure comic of someone indignantly yelling: "Someone is wrong on the internet!
  • I cross-post the 'better' videos from TikTok over to the 'gram. Posted on Instagram, they tend to have a lot more views than my photos/stories, or even those same clips over on TikTok. (I will say that the quality of the engagement continues to be terrible on Instagram, there are too many much older straight men I immediately have to block.)

Below are just a few of the TikTok accounts I really appreciate that make the experience almost worth it:

  • Alexandra @lalinguiste_, a feminist sociolinguist who is pro-inclusive-writing
  • Kitti @caffinatedkitti, the villainess life coach — completely impeccable vibes and lifehacks for discomposing men who bully others in public spaces
  • Eddie @eddiejude7, a kickass conflict mediator and confrontation coach
  • Florence @floralashes, I mean, Florence is just awesome and their work was just featured on John Oliver’s latest tv show, please go show them all the love
  • Juliet @julietlearns, old friend of mine who is a Brooklyn-based mom and life coach to parents trying to survive the apocalypse
  • @geographytriviakid, an account that encourages me to cheerfully confront my own ignorance about the world on a daily basis
  • Morgane @trashbaroness, painter, creator, and wearer of giant fluffy gowns
  • Nathan @schizophrenicreads, a non-fiction book reviewer who has good taste — his recs are far more USA-centric than I would prefer, but I still really appreciate his account
  • Pat @pat.em.son.ukelele, for kick-ass ukulele covers by my friend Pat
  • Reina @teasakao, a Montréal-based matcha tea account by a Japanese ceremonial tea master
  • Roxane @roxanefutur, a super-polished, thoughtful creator making videos about social networks and the future of social networks
  • Simon @simondormtl, a UQAT Montréal video games prof whose videos make me think about videogames
  • Vee @veeinthewoods, PUPPIES

And, well, those are my notes on my first few months of TikTok. Stuff to chew on as I keep using the app, but (hopefully) on my terms as much as I can get away with.

Gersande La Flèche

Gersande La Flèche they/them/their

By day I am an independent language worker, writing coach & English-French translator. When not working, I can be found drinking lots of tea and scribbling away in one of my notebooks.
MTL // Tiohtià:ke