TikTok, I Think Not

Written by Francesca Ionescu

TikTok has quickly become the most popular social media platform in the world, offering a very different interface to other apps that offers the user huge creative freedom. With TikTok you can create videos about pretty much anything in any format, from tutorials, to outfit ideas and funny edits, to the most controversial form of TikTok-POVs. POV stands for Point-Of-View and it is meant to be a more immersive experience for the viewer where they can imagine themselves as part of the story. Not all POV videos are inherently evil, often used to poke fun at everyday relatable experiences, such as ‘POV a drunk girl finds you crying over a boy at a party’.

However, certain creators have been using the POV format in inappropriate ways, that either romanticize or undermine serious topics. Male creators would, for example, make POVs about their daughters (aka the viewer) catching them in indecent situations, and then having an apparently sweet interaction full of innuendos such as saying they were ‘wrestling’ or ‘play-fighting’. This video used the song Dissolve by Absofacto, which made the creator of the song uncomfortable to the point where he asked people to use the sound for anything else so he wouldn’t be associated with the romanticisation of paedophilia. Similarly, some creators would make videos titled ‘POV I walk in the bathroom while you get changed’ that would then show them stare at the camera while either starting to get undressed or pretending to leave while still lingering in the door. One of the worst outcomes of this trend is the blatant racism and antisemitism that has appeared under the disguise of ‘story-telling’. User @grandaddykori posted a video of her crying which she chose to caption  ‘POV- it’s the 1950’s and you see your African American friend being beaten..but you have to act like you don’t care’. The user received massive backlash as people were saying that the caption was unnecessary and disrespectful to black people. 

TikTok is also guilty of what Hindustan Times calls ‘Trauma Porn’. User @seandoylee made a video using the song Locked out of Heaven by Bruno Mars -which is already a questionable choice. He begs to stay in modern times but then is “pulled back” to the past where he is wearing stripes as the captions on screen say ‘Get that Jew’ and ‘To the showers’. Similarly, user @kelvo used the same sound but the past version of him has blood marks on his face as well as being shirtless. While other users claim that they are making these TikToks to ‘educate’, the POV format is very much more of a showcase of acting skills and make-up rather than educating anyone. Twitter user @Mowgli_Lincoln made a thread of these videos while expressing their anger towards the trend, they said ‘TikTok’s roleplaying short clips will always fail to give a good view to the complexity, educate properly, or correctly honour the victims’ which sums up Jewish people’s concerns about the use of the Holocaust in this trend. Creators now need to ask themselves more and more whether their video is acceptable and users need to help clean up how many of these videos are still available.

One of the worst mistakes people who want to see this trend come to an end seem to make is endlessly commenting on the video, as the TikTok algorithm will then show the video to more people as well as keep showing the user similar videos. The best thing one can do is to report the video and whatever comments seem to be encouraging it. Tik Tok has a lot of controversial videos, which due to their interface and algorithm will be harder to avoid than on other apps, but this should not take away from the fun parts of the app. There are people that actually seek to educate about sensitive topics and those people shouldn’t be silenced by those who cannot understand the gravity of what they are talking about.

Image by Sarah Anne Griffiths