TikTok has made a big comeback after the ban on its use was lifted. With 4 crore views in India in the first quarter of 2019, the app is a sensation among teenagers
The biggest trending hashtags in Tamil Nadu and across India remain #MyTikTokStory, #TikTokPolaroid, #ThousandsOfMe, #OrangeFace, #CricketLover, and #FireHand. Of these, #CricketLover is the most viewed with over 140 crore views and features videos on people practising cricket, imitating famous cricketers, trolling IPL and funny cricket videos.
Equally popular are the features that allow users to lip sync or dance to pre-recorded songs and create videos of them. The app essentially allows users to create 15-second videos documenting every minute of their day. The tagline “live the moment” has caught the imagination of youngsters who feel compelled to capture every special moment of their day. The app also allows users to select music of their choice and add it to their video.
Several Bollywood stars like Tiger Shroff, Disha Patani and Shraddha Kapoor are on TikTok but their videos are mostly promotional in nature. Not many famous Tamil personalities are on TikTok, although TikTok stars have been known to get offers to act in Tamil soaps and movies. For example, Gayathri Shan (14 lakh followers) a TikTok user has been cast in an upcoming Malayalam movie. Another popular user is Pragathy Joy, who is famous for her videos on actor Vadivelu's comic dialogues, and has nearly 5 lakh followers.
Users of the platform can spend real money in the app to purchase virtual coins which they can give as virtual gifts to other creators. The app receives funding from various high profile investors just for its massive user base. It also earns by running campaigns and in-app advertisements for big companies. Users with a huge following get paid by advertisers to advertise their product in their videos.
With the lifting of the ban by the Madras High Court on April 30, the Chinese video app is going all out to win back valuable ground that was lost by the ban imposed on April 3, 2019. ByteDance, the company that owns the TikTok app is running promo offers to win new followers. For example, under the #ShareAndWin promotion, users are asked to share a TikTok promotional poster on any social media platform between May 1 and 16. Three users will be picked everyday for a cash incentive of Rs one lakh. The app has already recorded 4 crore views in the first quarter in 2019. The company has also recently announced an investment of $ 1 billion in the Indian market in the coming years.
The ban was the result of a number of fatal incidents in India, caused while creating content for TikTok. A college student was killed and two others grievously injured after their motorcycle rammed into a truck while they attempted to create a video in Tamil Nadu.
In another incident, a youngster from Chennai took his own life after he was trolled for a video he had posted of himself in female attire. In Delhi, a youngster was shot dead by his friend while the two were making a video for TikTok. The app has faced flak globally for inadequate safeguards against explicit material, leaving children vulnerable to bullying by predators, and inappropriate content.
Although the app did have some features to safeguard privacy even earlier, it was easy for young children to open accounts and access the app. TikTok has now introduced a device management feature to prevent accounts from being hacked and new notification features. It has features for restricting strangers from sending messages and has the option to set an account to private mode, where videos will not be visible to the public. It also features a safety quiz to educate users about safety features.
Arguing its case in court, ByteDance had said that it had put in place measures to curb the use of the platform by children, including an age gate that only permits teenagers and above to access the platform. It also assured the court that nearly 60 lakh videos were removed for inappropriate content. While lifting the interim ban the court said that if “negative and inappropriate or obscene materials” are not filtered by TikTok, it would amount to contempt of court. But it does not define what may be construed as negative, inappropriate or obscene, leaving it open for interpretation. Chennai based Psychologist Dr Latha Girish says, “Kids crave attention and if people appreciate their videos, it becomes an addiction and obsession for them. They want to post more and more videos to get more appreciation from their followers. This affects their mental health. They try to behave more like adults, they get depressed easily, they isolate themselves from everyone and interact only with their phones.”
TikTok user Abarna Sundarraman who has nearly 5 lakh followers says, “Only a small number of users post inappropriate content. Instead of banning the app entirely, they could have just banned those accounts. TikTok is a huge platform to showcase our acting talents. Many TikTok users have been offered roles in major Tamil TV soaps.”
Ahmed Meeran, MBA student at IIM Kashipur and former TikTok user says, “TikTok has become a platform filled with hatred. I had nearly 1.3 lakh followers in TikTok but I quit it because I did not like what the app was becoming. It has become a platform where people are posting inappropriate videos and stalk people.”
In just a little under three years, TikTok has taken the world of social media by storm and ByteDance is currently valued at $75 billion (more than Rs 5 lakh crore) following a new round of investments. According to Sensor Tower estimates, the app has crossed the one billion (100 crores) mark for worldwide installs on App Store and Google Play. Twenty-five per cent of TikTok’s downloads to date have come from India, an estimated total of nearly 25 crores.
Even as the right or wrong debate rages on, TikTok has caught the attention of Facebook, which is rumoured to be developing its own version, called Lasso and that of Apple CEO, Tim Cook, who visited the company's headquarters in Beijing in October 2018. Meanwhile, TikTok keeps ticking – fireworks display or time bomb, only time will tell.
TikTok tales bring trouble too
TikTok has become the meeting point for those who irresponsibly upload their private life and those who revel in taking a peek into others’ private lives.
Parents are finding it hard to handle their teenage children who are constantly on their mobile phones sacrificing food, water and sleep. Call it addiction or madness, TikTok has enslaved a generation, now.
TikTok has more than 12 crore Indian subscribers. Of all the mobile apps, TikTok enjoys more subscriber base, and teenagers are addicted to the app. TikTok has a 40 per cent user base in schools and colleges. The app allows them to showcase their acting and singing talents. For most of them, films form the base as they dubsmash dialogues or songs and upload them on TikTok. The practice of expressing through dubsmash is the result of watching film based programmes on television. Even a 10-year-old has many followers on TikTok.
Some of the leading Tiktokers have mind boggling numbers of followers: Choco D Boy (6.40 lakh followers) and Hazelshiny20 (11 lakh). Fakru123 (17 lakh) who posts in Malayalam language, has also huge followers from Tamil Nadu. They are being invited as chief guests and honoured at college functions.
It would have done no harm had the practice of uploading videos stopped with this. But in the name of dubsmash, these TikTokers have gone overboard with some of their videos bordering on vulgarity. This has resulted in opposition to the app.
Some of their sensuous expressions like pouting and rolling eyeballs have come in for sharp criticism. Such videos are instrumental for their ever burgeoning subscriber base. Impressed by one of the videos posted by a young man from Kadaimadai Village near Palakodu in Dharmapuri district, a girl from Vasudevanallur in Tirunelveli district, ran away to be with him without informing her parents. It became a police case and the police rescued and handed the girl over to the parents, as she was a minor.
What young girls are doing out of interest is landing them in trouble and is resulting in disintegration of families. A group singing video of burqa-clad girls posted by one of the girls, resulted in an abusive attack by a man from the same religious faith. Now, it has cast a shadow on her married life. Neither the expression nor the content of the video was obscene, but she has been belittled and run down, all due to a TikTok post.
Advocate Muthukumar who filed a case on TIkTok in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court says that the ban was imperative as 400 people had killed themselves in the country, all due to the app.
TikTok is not all that bad too, as a video on how residents of an area joined hands to clean up their place earned appreciation and there is every chance that the act will be followed by others, says J Chezhiyan, an IT expert. Also, youngsters never fail to troll erring politicians. TikTok has become the platform for many to raise questions with no fear on issues that even major newspapers and satellite channels may avoid.