About an hour after downloading TikTok, the popular video-sharing app, I experienced a bizarre sensation, one I haven’t felt in a long time while on the internet. The knot in my chest loosened, my head felt injected with helium, and the corners of my mouth crept upward into a smile.Was this … happiness?TikTok — a quirky hybrid of Snapchat, the defunct video app Vine and the TV segment “Carpool Karaoke” — is a refreshing outlier in the social media universe.There are no ads. There’s no news, unless you count learning about viral dance crazes. There are few preening Instagram models hawking weight-loss tea, and a distinct lack of crazy uncles posting Infowars clips.
Instead, TikTok — a Chinese-made app that was known as Musical.ly until ByteDance, the Chinese internet conglomerate, acquired the company in 2017 and merged it with a video app it owned — has a simple premise. Users create short videos set to music, often lip-syncing along, dancing or acting out short skits. The app contains templates and visual effects to spice up the videos. There is also a live-streaming feature that allows users to send virtual “gifts” to their favorite creators, which can be bought with real money. The rest works like any other social app — followers, hashtags, likes and comments.It doesn’t sound like much. But, somehow, it adds up to what might well be the only truly pleasant social network in existence.
I feel comfortable making that call because I go on social networks for a living, and I have spent thousands of hours wading through an unholy slurry of Twitter spammers, Instagram scammers, teenage YouTube fascists and baby boomers whose brains have been turned to pudding by too many Facebook memes.TikTok has none of that. Instead, it’s that rarest of internet creatures: a place where people can let down their guards, act silly with their friends and sample the fruits of human creativity without being barraged by abusive trolls or algorithmically amplified misinformation. It’s a throwback to a time before the commercialization of internet influence, when web culture consisted mainly of harmless weirdos trying to make each other laugh.
“It’s a bit of an escape,” said Billy Mann, a TikTok creator who uses the platform to make comedy videos for his more than 650,000 followers.“It’s a safe haven for people that are seeing the world on fire and being like, ‘I need silliness,’” he said.TikTok’s earnest goofiness has turned off some skeptics. But it’s hard to argue with the numbers. The app recently passed six million users in the United States, according to a report from the market research firm Sensor Tower. As of Friday, it ranked No. 4 among free apps in Apple’s app store, ahead of Snapchat, Netflix and Facebook Messenger. Globally, the app, whose Chinese version is called Douyin, had 500 million monthly active users as of July, making it bigger than Twitter and about half the size of Instagram.
“这有点像逃避，”TikTok创作者比利·曼(Billy Mann)说道，他利用这个平台为超过65万的粉丝制作搞笑视频。“对于那些看到世界水深火热的人来说，这是一个安全的避风港，就好像说，‘我需要愚蠢，’”他说。TikTok的诚恳傻气已经让一些怀疑论者失去兴趣。但数据是很难否认的。根据市场研究公司Sensor Tower的一份报告，该应用的美国用户最近超过了600万。截至周五，它在Apple应用程序商店中排名第四，领先于Snapchat、Netflix和Facebook Messenger。在全球范围内，截至7月份，该应用的中文版抖音拥有5亿每月活跃用户，使其规模超过了Twitter，约为Instagram的一半。
TikTok’s global head of marketing, Stefan Heinrich, said in a statement that the company’s mission was to “capture and present the world’s creativity, knowledge and moments that matter, directly from the mobile phone.”In perhaps the clearest sign that TikTok is on to something, Facebook is trying to kill it. Last month, the company quietly released Lasso, a clunky clone that borrowed many of TikTok’s core features and even tried to siphon off some of its power users. Lasso got off to a slow start, and is now the 687th most downloaded photo and video app in the United States, according to the mobile data company AppAnnie. The executive leading the Lasso team, Brady Voss, left the company shortly after the app was released. (Facebook declined to comment, and Mr. Voss did not respond to a request for comment.)
TikTok的全球市场主管斯特凡·海因里希(Stefan Heinrich)在一份声明中表示，该公司的使命是“直接从手机上捕捉和呈现世界的创意、知识和瞬间”。也许最能说明TikTok大有前途的是，Facebook在试图杀死它。上月，该公司悄然发布了Lasso，一个蹩脚的抄袭版本，借用了TikTok许多核心功能，甚至试图吸走一些有影响力的用户。根据移动数据公司AppAnnie的说法，Lasso起步缓慢，其下载量目前在美国照片和视频类应用中排名第687。应用发布后不久，领导Lasso团队的高管布雷迪·沃斯(Brady Voss)便离开了公司。（Facebook拒绝发表评论，沃斯未回应置评请求。）
Before I go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: If you’re reading this, you are almost certainly too old to feel at home on TikTok. The company declined to provide information about its users, but judging from what’s on the platform, the median TikTok user seems to hover in the midteens. TikTok is full of acne-studded faces, barely concealed tween angst and impenetrable youth-culture references. As far as I can tell, there is no way for adults to use it without feeling as if they are chaperoning a high school dance.
Officially, TikTok users must be 13 or older to join. But the age-verification process is easy to circumvent, and while browsing the platform, I stumbled upon several videos starring people who appeared to be much younger. In its previous incarnation as Musical.ly, TikTok drew fire from some privacy advocates, who accused it of pushing the limits of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a law that prohibits the collection of certain types of information from users younger than 13.
正式层面上，TikTok用户必须年满13岁或以上才能加入。但年龄验证程序很容易避过，而在浏览该平台时，我偶然能看到不少视频的主角年纪根本到不了13岁。在其前身Musical.ly中，TikTok曾招致一些隐私倡导者的攻击，后者指责其正在挑战《儿童网络隐私保护法》(Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act)的极限，该法律禁止采集13岁以下用户的某些类型的信息。
“It’s clearly a really popular, cool site, but you also have the issue of kids being significantly too young for it,” said James P. Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that reviews tech products for families. “It’s not that the content on TikTok isn’t O.K. for your 15-year-old. It’s what happens to your 6- or 7-year-old.”While using TikTok, I never saw examples of bullying or harassment. (Both of which are prohibited by TikTok’s community guidelines, as is sexually explicit content.) There are, however, a decent number of videos featuring teenage girls dancing suggestively — which, if you are a 31-year-old newspaper columnist and not a 16-year-old boy, is fairly unsettling.
“这显然是一个人气很高、很酷的网站，但使用它的一些孩子年纪实在太小了，”常识媒体(Common Sense Media)总干事詹姆斯·P·斯泰耶尔(James P. Steyer)说，这是一家对面向家庭的科技产品进行核查的非营利组织。他表示，“关键不在于TikTok上的内容对你家15岁的孩子不合适，而是它会对你家6、7岁的孩子造成的影响。”在使用TikTok时，我从未见到过霸凌或骚扰的案例。（这两类都在TikTok社区指南的禁止之列，性露骨内容同样被禁。）然而，也有相当数量的视频主角是表演挑逗性舞蹈的少女，对此，如果你是31岁的报纸专栏作家而非16岁的男孩，这的确是让人相当担心的。
A TikTok spokeswoman said in a statement that promoting safety and positivity on the platform is “our top priority.” She added, “we periodically add to and adjust our protective measures, policies and moderation efforts to support the well-being of our users.”Last year, after two other apps owned by ByteDance were criticized by Chinese officials for promoting objectionable content, the company’s chief executive, Zhang Yiming, said that it would increase the ranks of its content moderation team to 10,000 moderators, from 6,000. The TikTok spokeswoman declined to say how many of those moderators work for TikTok, or whether content standards for American users differ from those for users in China, where famously strict censorship laws apply.
Free-speech advocates might bristle at TikTok’s Chinese ownership, and privacy hawks have raised questions about how the company handles users’ personal data. But perhaps because it is more heavily moderated than other networks, TikTok mostly feels safe and wholesome. Julia Alexander, a fellow TikTok convert at The Verge, called it “a rare social app that isn’t infested with hateful rhetoric.”
言论自由倡导者可能会对TikTok的中国属性感到愤怒，隐私鹰派人士也已就公司如何处理用户个人数据提出了质疑。但或许因为它比其他网络审核更为严格，TikTok大多是时候仍感觉是安全健康的。TikTok从科技媒体The Verge挖角的朱莉娅·亚历山大(Julia Alexander)称其为“一款未被仇恨言论侵扰的罕见社交应用。”
One popular genre of TikTok video is the “challenge,” a kind of video skit that is acted out en masse. One challenge, #eatonthebeat, encouraged users to make videos of themselves chomping down on food to the beat of a song.Another challenge, #chooseyourcharacter, encouraged users to mimic a video game’s character selection screen.Then there are the running jokes attached to specific songs — like “Good Girls Bad Guys,” a song by the band Falling in Reverse, which is used for a genre of video in which a user appears first in nerdy, unattractive clothes, and then cuts abruptly to a made-over version of himself in sunglasses, leather jackets or other bad-boy attire.
TikTok的一类热门视频是“挑战”，某种大家一起来玩的视频小品。一项挑战名为“跟着节奏吃”（#eatonthebeat），让用户录制自己跟着乐曲节拍大嚼食物的视频。另一项挑战为“选择你的角色”（#chooseyourcharacter），要求用户模仿电子游戏中的角色选择界面。此外，还有和一些具体歌曲相关的嬉闹，如Falling in Reverse乐队的《好女孩，坏男孩》(Good Girls Bad Guys)被用于一种类型的视频，玩家先是穿着土气、难看的衣服亮相，然后突然变出一个他本人的全新靓丽形象，穿戴墨镜、皮夹克或其他坏男孩服饰。
Despite TikTok’s teens-only vibe, some adults have started to trickle on. Jimmy Fallon, the late-night TV host, recently joined the site and started posting his own challenges. The comedian Amy Schumer recently made a TikTok video, and prominent YouTubers like Jake Paul have tested the waters.
尽管TikTok有着少年专属的气质，一些成年人也慢慢在参与进来。深夜电视主持人吉米·法伦(Jimmy Fallon)近日加入该网站，开始发布他自己的挑战视频。喜剧演员艾米·舒默(Amy Schumer)最近制作了一个TikTok视频，而杰克·保罗(Jake Paul)这样的YouTube名人也已试水。
Is TikTok a Facebook killer? No, probably not. For all the variety in its videos, it is still a fairly limited app, with a more narrow appeal than more populist social platforms.But by purposely limiting its features, by resisting the temptation to monetize its users aggressively and by keeping trolls and bullies off its platform, TikTok has done something truly impressive — it has built a social network that is genuinely fun to use.