How TikTok Traps Their Users in Comment Sections


Have you ever been lost in the comment sections of social media platforms? In the last decade or so, the world has witnessed a rise in many different types of apps, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few. One app that has increasingly gained popularity is a video-sharing app called TikTok. However, users on the app today can have a hard time avoiding the comment sections of the posted videos. 

Tiktok reached over two billion downloads worldwide, after being launched in September of 2016, with an estimated 850 million monthly users as of September 2020. The appeal of the app is to share videos that can be up to sixty seconds long, and there are many genres these videos can fall into. They can simply be a funny moment you caught on camera, a PSA, a dancing video, and everything in between. Since there are so many genres, it tends to draw in a large variety of people with different interests.

When a user sets up their account, they are asked to select some categories they’re interested in, which immediately starts their own algorithm that will only get more and more tailored based on what they like and save. This is the app’s way of keeping you engaged so that they can make money off your views of ads on the app. However, this also gives it the power to change your perception and thoughts based on what videos it decides to show you. 

“We want to psychologically figure out how to manipulate you as fast as possible,” stated Chamath Palihapitiya, the former VP of Growth at Facebook. In this way, Tiktok is ahead of its game by asking users to select their interests before they’ve even seen the inside of the app. 

This, in conjunction with the sheer volume of people on the app, causes endless clashing between the users’ morals and opinions. The app is so successful in figuring out what to show people, that it has divided itself into different “sides” of the app. When a video overlaps between divisions, the comment section is filled with conflict. 

When users have a negative experience with what they see, whether it be a political difference or moral, they linger on the video, often reading the comment section. The app also has a feature where when you go into the comment section, the video will play in the background allowing you to both read and listen. Subsequently, the users will be shown more videos like these and will be tempted to read the comments to find people who agree and disagree with them. 

Comments are also limited to 150 words, which doesn’t allow much room for people to explain their thoughts. This leads to users leaving petty or insensitive messages, as they lack the room to have full conversations with people. This adds to the negative emotion people feel when reading comments on controversial videos. 

TikTok is a captivating app, and is very successful in keeping it’s users engaged. It is a master in the world of social media, as the different divisions of the app often collide with each other, grabbing the user’s attention. Since Tiktok has a variety of user’s and a well-developed algorithm, the platform is like a black hole for finding comment sections you just can’t stay away from.