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TikTok and Mental Health: Discussing the Platform and Its Potential Ban

By Kellie Ramdeen


4/3/24



A couple of weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed a bill known as the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. This act will move on to the Senate for voting, and if passed, could result in app stores being prohibited from featuring the TikTok app in their stores. It is uncertain whether or not the Senate will pass the bill, and a significant roadblock will be the fact that TikTok users, who make up a large percentage of the American voting population, are passionately against the ban. 


National Security Threat vs Community and Creativity 


The US government is focused on the concern that the app is a security threat, implying that the Chinese government is using data from TikTok to spy on American users. This recent bill is not the first time TikTok has been under scrutiny or faced a potential ban. 


Like any form of social media, TikTok has some negative aspects, such as people comparing themselves to friends and influencers, cancel culture and the fears surrounding it, and an addictive quality in the form of dopamine hits while scrolling. Despite some of these less-than-favorable qualities, TikTok is a unique platform in that it gained traction around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While people around the world were isolating and quarantining, they were also posting and scrolling on TikTok.


Uplifting Content Creators 


Everyone uses TikTok for various purposes, such as escaping reality, staying informed on current events and hot topics, or even finding community in some shape or form. Personally, I use the app to stay informed and find community. For example, I follow  @crutches_and_spice (also known as Imani Barbarin), an activist who often uses her platform to speak on social justice issues, particularly relating to people who have disabilities. Additionally, @kierabreaugh tends to use her platform to speak on intersectional issues that women of color and queer women face. Of course, my For You Page also features the occasional Pedro Pascal edit, but for the most part, TikTok has been a way for me to support people who use their platforms to share personal experiences and advocate. 


My friend Mika (or Meeks) is a TikTok creator whose account name is @myklamb. Mika has been creating content for TikTok for the past couple of years. According to Mika, 


“I started making TikToks because I know there are many people who can’t relate to a lot of fitness creators because they don't struggle the same way. A lot of them start off slim and bulk to get their body, but overweight & obese people make up the majority of the population in real life. It’s hard to be a plus size person wanting to better their health when all of their For You Page shows people whose beginning pictures are most people’s goals.” 


Mika also uses her platform to speak on hormonal issues and their impact on overall health. Watching her TikTok content has helped me develop the confidence to go to the gym regularly and prioritize my health and wellness. 


Mika says she is worried about the ban because “I create relatable, comfy, and realistic content, which is what is lacking on the platform. It’s a safe space for me and everyone alike. I would hate to be forced to switch to a platform like Instagram, especially since people are meaner on that platform. They never push out my content anyway, not even the pity 300 TikTok guarantees. I find the ban to be racist and a part of a control aspect, especially since there have been more data breaches from American-owned companies than companies owned by other countries… It’s embarrassing—an excuse.”


TikTok has facilitated countless discussions about mental health, systemic injustice, racism, and even ongoing international conflicts. These conversations can help people stay informed and feel less alone in their views and experiences. 


Navigating the Potential Ban 


Even if the ban on TikTok passes the Senate and becomes law, I do not doubt that its users will find another space to stay connected and foster creativity. TikTok has allowed many normal, everyday people to develop platforms, raise their voices, and even increase their incomes. It has also fostered creativity and community by giving people space to experiment with self-expression and connect with like-minded others. 


A potential ban would be a significant obstacle and disruption for so many people. Anyone who is worried about this issue and would like to do something can contact their senators prior to the vote or post their opinions on various platforms. Our voices matter, and we all deserve to be heard. However, whether through other social media platforms or virtual and local community efforts, I encourage us all to continue to prioritize finding spaces to create, connect with others, and feel joy. 




Sources








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