TikTok is stealing your time, not information


Carlos Heredia

LILY ZUCKERMAN ARGUES THAT it’s unfair for TikTok to be targeted while other social media platforms are alive and well. Both Zuckerman and Congressman Bowman label this xenophobia

Lily Zuckerman, Features Editor

I have to admit that I am guilty of getting sucked into the world of TikTok, but who isn’t these days? To be honest, whenever I open my phone, no matter the motive (e.g texting my mom or checking the time), I always find myself opening TikTok. I end up just scrolling into the algorithm, watching random people do random things. Nonetheless, I can also get distracted by many other things: my dog, my email inbox, music, and many other factors. 

According to the newsroom of TikTok, there were over 150 million active users in the United States in 2020. According to the last U.S. Census in 2020, the United States of America’s population is 331,449,281. That means that nearly half of the United States population uses TikTok. 

Despite the platform’s popularity, the United States Senate launched a bipartisan bill on March 7 that would authorize President Joe Biden to legally ban and regulate foreign made technology, including TikTok. Known as the RESTRICT Act, an acronym for Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology, the bill is aimed to shield citizens from foreign technology that presents a national security hazard. 

Given the recent past, when some Americans referred to the global disease COVID-19 as the “Wuhan Virus” or “Chinese Virus,” blaming China for the creation of the disease, banning TikTok feels like another act of xenophobia against the Chinese. 

Congressman Jamaal Bowman of the 16th district of New York, which includes the Northern Bronx and parts of Westchester County, continues to be a strong advocate for TikTok in congressional hearings. In an exclusive interview with Tower, he defended the platform.  He said, “It’s less about the app and more about the marginalization of TikTok. We need to have a larger conversation about the overall harms and safety insecurities issues that are associated with social media, as opposed to just targeting TikTok.”

As a matter of fact, Bowman is a TikTok user himself. He can be found at “@repbowman”  – with 204.2 thousand followers. He sees TikTok as a valuable way for citizens to exercise their rights to free speech. “If you take that away [TikTok], you take away a space where all of us found our voices and you’re taking away our freedom of speech and communicating on Tik Tok is very different than communicating on the other social media platforms,” Bowman said. 

Bowman believes that the criticism of TikTok stems largely from anti-Chinese bias. “Our country was built on hate, evil, racism and discrimination. It was founded with slavery of Africans still intact. “Unfortunately, bias, discrimination and hate are a part of America’s DNA. It’s something that we have to exorcize out of our system in order for us to really be a great country for everyone,” Bowman said. He continued, “Right now, they [American politicians] are using a lot of fear-mongering to govern, and they’re always talking about all of the bad things that China is doing,” Bowman said.

Unfortunately, bias, discrimination and hate are a part of America’s DNA. It’s something that we have to exorcize out of our system in order for us to really be a great country for everyone,”

— Jamaal Bowman

Among the 150 million TikTok users in the U.S., there are Masters students that use the app to get brand partnerships, create content, discover music, and get clothing recommendations. Since first posting her dancing on TikTok in December of 2021, sophomore Leah Thomas has amassed 48.9k followers and 1.3 million likes on the platform; she can be found “@leahhjanaeofficial.” Thomas has worked with numerous brands to post about items that she gets for free as a brand ambassador. Thomas has discovered the business side of content creation since going viral. She said,“Honestly, I just post during the day because it grows my audience. I feel like if you post a lot you have a higher chance of people coming across your account and growing your follower count. The more you post, the more attention you gain [from accounts], the more opportunities you get.” 

If Thomas had not gone viral on TikTok, she would not have known that she was interested in pursuing a career in business. “I’ve learned how to promote my account and grow my following count. For example, I have learned techniques in reaching out to brands for partnerships,” Thomas said. Thomas has been sent free clothes from brands and gets to keep them if she makes a haul showing what she received. Thomas exhibits how TikTok can be beneficial for users. She is sixteen and has already learned life long lessons. 

The potential banning of TikTok is just another example of the deeply-rooted racism in our country. There’s no doubt that TikTok has been firmly integrated into our society and culture; but that’s more of a reason for it to not be banned. There are better ways to protect your personal data and attention span, but the answer should not be as drastic as banning one social media platform because it is foreign. Instead, there should be laws that apply to all social media platforms with the intent of improving national security.