Although TikTok is one of the most popular platforms in the world with over 1 billion videos viewed per day, it has developed a reputation of being rather… cringy.
And the truth is, there’s a lot of factors that go into that.
But what exactly is it that makes TikTok so cringe – and why do cringy videos seem to get so popular anyway?
In this article, we’ll cover everything that you need to know!
1. The Untailored Algorithm
The first thing you should know about TikTok is that your feed of suggested videos (referred to as the ‘For You’ page) is completely different than everyone else’s, once you start to use the app.
TikTok’s greatest asset – and what makes it so addicting, is their extremely smart artificial intelligence algorithm that powers your feed.
Every interaction you have on the platform is tracked. The exact contents of each video, along with the exact length of time you view it are all measured and fed back into the algorithm. This means the app can very quickly learn what video topics hold your interest, and which you would probably skip over.
Here’s the problem. When you first download the app, TikTok doesn’t know anything about you. Instead, they begin by showing you a variety of generic videos that were popular with others – people who may hold very different interests than you are.
And unfortunately, some of these videos that TikTok has found to be popular – dancing girls, prank content, lip syncing, random skits – they can all appear pretty cringy on their own.
So, some people take this as their impression of TikTok, then delete the app before the algorithm really learns anything.
In TikTok’s fairness, the app does the job it’s set out to do. After just an hour of use or less, TikTok shows you the content that keeps you hooked – and if you don’t want to see girls dancing or people lip syncing songs, you’ll no longer see it. In fact, most of the cringe as a whole will never be shown to you at all.
That being said, TikTok’s cringe reputation is well deserved, due to different groups that publish on the platform, as well as other aspects of TikTok that end up getting a lot of attention. Let’s look at some of the other factors now.
2. Younger Audience
For better or worse, TikTok is the number one app among people under 30 – and even young teenagers have a large presence on the platform.
While us older folk were able to get through our cringe phases without having anyone to record and publish it on the internet, today’s generation of teenagers are much less fortunate. Though, much of the cringe is posted themselves.
As mentioned earlier, you are unlikely to come across teenagers doing cringy things unless you specifically watch and interact with these types of videos. Out of thousands of videos I’ve surely watched on TikTok in the last year, I can’t recall a single video that would fit the image many people have of TikTok – teenagers lip syncing, dancing or posting about middle / high school drama.
Not one. It’s surely out there, but TikTok knows I don’t care about it and never shows it to me. This is probably the case for 99% of people.
The problem is, TikTok’s younger audience unfortunately does spill into all other area’s of the app.
From immature comments on other people’s videos to silly trends that make you question the sanity of society, the influence of the younger generations does have some affect on other content creators – even if you never come across their videos yourself.
3. Desperation For Views
Speaking of trends, TikTok has a habit of encouraging people to acquire attention by any means necessary – even if it means acting stupid, or dangerous.
Every new TikToker will get a little push on their first videos, giving them that little bit of attention and fame. By the same token, every video will get pushed to at least some people’s feeds, and every video has a chance to go viral. This is psychologically addicting and it is incredibly easy for even the most mundane people to go viral on the app if they just publish the right video at the right time.
This encourages outlandish and attention-grabbing trends that millions of others immediately jump on for their attempt at fame.
Remember, the more crazy something is – even if it invokes negative emotions such as anger or cringiness, the more attention it will grab – and the more it will get shared.
This is why we have people doing things such as pretending they’re vampires, faking mental illness, or posting about unusual sub-cultures that people would normally keep to themselves.
The fact of the matter is, it gets views. And to many people, TikTok has created an environment where they’re driven to acquire attention at any cost – even if it comes at the expense of their dignity.
4. Videos At The Expense Of Others
Unfortunately, the cringe doesn’t stop there.
Personally, one of the things I hate most about TikTok is when it spills over into the real world.
When you come across videos of people treating themselves like they’re the worlds main character (such as doing something bothersome to others in public), it makes you feel bad for all the people around them.
For example, I recently came across a TikTok video on Facebook. In this video it showed someone getting up and standing in a plane aisle, before singing loudly. Nobody around them looked amused.
You may have seen videos online of people stopping traffic, breaking things on purpose, or otherwise disturbing the peace.
Like prank channels of the past, TikTok is also full of people pulling pranks that aren’t funny at all, but simply mean and irritating.
And sadly, these sorts of people can gain a substantial following – further fueling them to continue their behavior.
There is a lot of good happening on TikTok, but it’s overshadowed by people like these – whose videos come at the expense of others.
5. Musical.ly’s Roots
Before TikTok became a thing, the app was originally known as Musical.ly – at least outside of China.
Musical.ly was set up quite similar to how TikTok is now, but was directed towards an even younger crowd – and was primarily used for lip syncing videos.
While TikTok is a platform to share short-form video and has the ability to add music underneath it, Musical.ly’s main focus was the music.
Some of the same users and culture that was prevalent on Musical.ly has transferred over to TikTok, which is still lip syncing is still so prevalent on the platform.
Again, you’re unlikely to run into these videos unless you specifically go looking for them. However, the aspects of Musical.ly that carried over to TikTok help to contribute to TikTok’s cringy reputation.
6. Cringe Videos Are The Ones That Are Shared
Ultimately, it all comes down to this.
Videos that create a large emotional reaction in people are the ones that end up getting shared with others – and posted outside of TikTok.
Sites like YouTube, Twitter and Reddit are full of the best and the worst TikTok has to offer.
Many of the videos you’ve likely enjoyed originated on TikTok first, and then were shared outside the platform (it is trivial to remove TikTok’s branding.)
Likewise, when extremely cringe videos / trends are made public, people are quick to point out that it originated on TikTok first.
The reality is, the overwhelming majority videos you come across (once you start actually using the app for a lengthy period of time) aren’t cringy at all. It’s just the ones that are extremely cringy are the ones that actually get shared outside of the app.
Ultimately, TikTok’s greatest asset is the fact that it gives you what you look for.
99% of your feed will not contain any cringy videos, unless you specifically interact with, watch and share the cringe videos you come across. With over 1 billion views on TikTok per day, the app is certainly capable of filtering cringy videos out if you don’t want to see them.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting popular on millions of other people’s feeds.
I hope that you’ve found this article interesting. If you have any other questions about TikTok, please ask them using the comment form below.
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister