ON GETTING CARRIED AWAY BY THE TIKTOK ALGORITHM
Keywords:TikTok, ethnography, digital culture, algorithms, well-being
AbstractIn this paper I respond to debates on the addictive and distractive quality associated with algorithmic environments like the popular short-video app TikTok. TikTok has frequently been discussed for its addictive nature. Many commentators and critics rendering the app as emblematic for the ways in which digital media as such distract their users from more meaningful and profound experiences. Contrasting such commentary, I draw on a one and half year long ethnographic investigation of TikTok. Doing so, I outline how young adult users of the app appropriated the TikTok algorithm's addictive quality in their search for distraction and escape in everyday life and during the pandemic. Teasing out similarities with prior media forms, like soap operas or magazines, offering similar sites of escape in daily life, I discuss how the sense of getting carried away on TikTok was constructed by users in interaction with the app's algorithm. Finally, I will conclude by arguing that independence, in the context of algorithms and their emotional consequences, comes to matter not in absolute but relative terms. While for my participants ‘mindless scrolling’ through TikTok induced pleasure, the same practice, on other platforms, like Instagram, induced boredom. These subtle differences within the landscape of ‘addictive media’ are often overlooked within debates and the question how they come into being require more attention.
How to Cite
Schellewald, A. (2021). ON GETTING CARRIED AWAY BY THE TIKTOK ALGORITHM. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12039