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Why TikTok Is So Toxic: Quarantine Edition

Eunice Park

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An iPhone showing the TikTok logo on a white screen, while placed on a grey counter.
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Ladies and gentlemen, the “perfect,” “faultless” look does not exist. The “ideal” physical image often portrayed through social media is just another misguided interpretation of what the status quo tries to tell us.

Not only has social media usage been exponentially increasing globally because of quarantine, but a newer and often-frequented platform, TikTok, has definitely taken over as the hottest trend. But how toxic is TikTok, really?

The greatest issue herein lies in the fact that whatever time-consuming media we perceive as “entertainment” or an “escape from reality,” can actually be a poor mental health vehicle.

The most viewed, shared, and popular uploads on TikTok sport extremely fit or thin girls, which is a huge trigger for teens already struggling with low self-esteem, depression, and especially eating disorders while staying cooped up at home. 

It might be time to take a step back and find other means of entertainment. Being stuck at home with a full kitchen within one’s reach can already be toxic enough while trying to combat mental health issues and eating disorders.

But adding hours of watching TikTok videos daily that seem to predominantly portray “flawless” girls and a whole new standard of beauty, could just as well make quarantining that much harder.

Several teenage girls who are also struggling with maintaining mental health during the quarantine were asked a series of questions about TikTok, two of which were sent to all three interviewees and the rest, personalized. Here’s what they have to say about why TikTok is so toxic:

General Q: Do you feel that TikTok is more of a toxicity than entertainment? Why or why not?

Melissa Gormus (19 yrs. old): I think the toxicity of TikTok honestly depends on the types of videos you watch (the For You page adjusts based on what you like). Personally I find it very entertaining, but I could definitely see how it would be toxic for a younger girl watching the more dance-oriented videos.

Caroline Lacy (20 yrs. old): I think whether or not TikTok is toxic varies a lot from person to person, like most algorithm-driven social media. All platforms have toxic content, and if you’re not careful, the algorithm might drive you down a spiral that leads you into it; let’s say you’re on TikTok watching recipe videos, and then you get recommended a “what I eat in a day” video, because the algorithm knows you like videos about food; this might seem innocuous at first, and it’s possible that it will stay that way.

 But then you might eventually be shown a video of this variety that promotes unhealthy eating behaviors […] then, the more you like these videos, the more frequently the algorithm will show them to you, and suddenly your For You page is flooded with content promoting unhealthy behaviors. 

Personally, TikTok has been more entertaining for me, because I seek out positive and entertaining content […] but for younger people who might not have as much experience determining what is good and bad content, it might be easier to slip into a more toxic side of the app.

Mainly what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to generalize about TikTok, in the same way that I wouldn’t generalize about Youtube or Instagram. There is toxic content and entertaining content on all platforms.

Anna Jarboe (18 yrs. old): I do believe that TikTok is much more than just entertainment. The users have done multiple social experiments in which they find that the stereotypical pretty girls and some very attractive guys are the ones who generate the most likes and popularity on the app. 

This has been shown through clothes, and honestly, people’s body shapes. The app mainly revolves around looks. Although the app has definitely evolved, many people have been hooked since quarantine, and it is still primarily dominated by the stereotypical looks of the users.

General Q: How often do you watch TikTok videos?

Melissa: I watch TikTok very often in light of quarantine. Everyday, for sure.

Caroline: I watch TikTok videos for about 10 minutes, once or twice a day.

Anna: I watch TikToks pretty much everyday now, compared to earlier when I judged and despised the odd gen z stereotyped app. I have been using the app as more of an entertainment tool during the quarantine.

Melissa, what kind of impact do you personally feel that TikTok is making towards adolescent girls’ self-esteem and mental health?

Adolescent girls are definitely negatively impacted by TikTok, much like other forms of social media. TikTok may be especially damaging since the girls doing the dances are usually their peers. Constantly seeing a certain body type glorified can easily make adolescents insecure, especially since they are in such a vulnerable period of their lives. 

For example, even the most popular TikTok girl, Charlie D’Amelio, stopped making videos for a period of time because people had been commenting on how much weight she had gained.

Having people talk about your body as a 15 year old girl is incredibly damaging. Although she addressed the issue, comments from strangers will definitely resonate with her for a long time. After she lost weight, people commented on how they could see her ribs. 

This whole scenario represents how TikTok could be more toxic than entertaining. Although the app is harmless in theory, the way people use it to body shame others while flaunting their own ideals could be having a greater impact on people’s mental health than anticipated.

Caroline! Do you think the fact that the most popular TikTok users are the “picture-perfect” or “ideal” girls needs to change?

I think my answer to this ties back to what I was saying in the first question, which is that yes, most popular TikTok creators are skinny and white, and yes, this is also true of most social media platforms in general, not just TikTok. We have a huge problem in our current culture as a whole of glorifying this particular type of aesthetic, which is reflected in the demographics of the top TikTok creators. 

Obviously I think this should change, and that creators of color, LGBTQ backgrounds, and diverse body types should receive more promotion on these platforms and that the circle of most popular creators should reflect the diversity of the people who use the app. 

I think it’s worth saying, though, that I have literally never seen a video from one of the more popular TikTok creators on my For You page. I really think it depends on the algorithm in this case, too. I can understand, though, how younger people might seek out the most popular content on the platform and thus land on the surfeit of skinny white people who occupy the higher echelons.

How do you personally feel that TikTok affects growing teens struggling with mental health during quarantine, especially those with depression or an eating disorder?

I do know that people with mental health issues will often seek out content that reaffirms their worldview, and that, because TikTok is one of the more popular platforms now, a lot of teens are going to be using it to try and find this sort of content.

I have to defend TikTok for a second, however, because, in my experience, it is significantly harder to find explicitly triggering content on TikTok than it is on Tumblr, the platform I spent most of my teen years using. 

It’s actually a lot easier to find ED recovery content than it is to find pro-ED content; whereas on Tumblr you can easily search up “thinspo” and “pro-ana” and get plenty of results. I think TikTok actually does a good job of censoring pro-ana content.

All in all, social media is what you make of it, and if teens are struggling with EDs or depression, they are going to seek out triggering content in any platform they use— I used to look up depression-related content on Pinterest, of all places, so you can really find it anywhere. 

I personally think TikTok is the lesser of many evils among platforms such as Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram […] it’s harder to photoshop your body in a TikTok video than it is in an Instagram photo.

* “ED” is a common abbreviation for “eating disorder.”*“Thinspo” and “pro-ana” are abnormal & toxic content that promotes an eating disordered lifestyle and anorexia.

Hi, Anna. How do you think TikTok redefines beauty, supports stigmas, and misrepresents how girls should look, and do all of these factors personally add on to the stress of being cooped up at home, or the opposite?

TikTok definitely has a way of brainwashing users into thinking there is an ideal body shape. As I mentioned earlier, the app has a lot of popularity focused on accounts that are deemed as attractive and a lot of times, skinny. Obviously, this would shape the way girls and guys will view their own body. 

“Why am I not popular? Oh, the only popular accounts are these people with this type of body, I have to look like that or else no one will like me.” 

These are few of many resulting thoughts people may have while on an app that holds such a high standard with looks, since it technically did start out as a dance app.  The reason this also may be a bigger issue than other apps is that since it’s an app that people dance on, a lot of the times people only believe “skinny” or “toned” people can dance or are the only desirable ones.  

This has obviously been proven wrong multiple times since the app’s culture is easing up a lot more, but there is still a lot of judgment towards bodies.

Could the videos on TikTok be a trigger for teens struggling with eating disorders, depression, or any other low-esteem issue during quarantine?

TikTok has yet to successfully block or stop the use of pro-ana and a lot of other “pro-” self-destructive behaviors. The users who come across these creators can easily get triggered. 

“If this person is doing this, looks perfectly fine, and is getting clout on here for it, what’s so bad about it?” 

Unlike other apps like Instagram, these pro-destructive behaviors are being romanticized, which is truthfully just going to make those with preexisting conditions to think it’s okay or normal, whilst others who haven’t had a single thought about food or certain depressional aspects are going to potentially get ideas from these videos.

This would increase their likelihood of starting a new and unhealthy chapter that they wouldn’t have started in the first place. Of course, it’s not 100% TikTok’s fault, but these accounts and videos that are showcasing behaviors that are not okay and need to be treated are causing a more widespread issue across the world than there could’ve been if they had restricted videos that have been deemed unsafe or triggering. 

It’s clear to see that while TikTok has become a safe place of entertainment for a large portion of our quarantined population, it is also an unsafe and triggering place for another large and often unaddressed portion of it. It is always of utmost importance to make sure that you only watch/stream content that does not discourage you in any way and that those who do feel that way get help. 

There are plenty of other outlets that those who feel negatively impacted by TikTok can turn to during quarantine. Let’s proactively minimize the amount of time we spend on toxic social media platforms and use our voices to bring to light the mental consequences that TikTok can provoke.

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How to Support the Black Lives Matter Movement in the Long Run

Anna Leikvold

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A black women with brown curly hair, face mask and black jacket on, standing at a BLM protest holding a sign that says "listen learn."
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The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, prompted outrage across the nation and world. The fight to end police brutality is far from over, and the most important thing to do is to not let this movement lose momentum. The end goal is to never have another man, woman, or child of color brutalized or killed by the police. 

As a white person, I understand my privileged position, and hope only to share my personal goals to support the movement, and hope to help others do the same. Here are 7 things you can personally do to support the Black Lives Matter movement in the long run and bring us one step closer to achieving that goal. 

1. Support black-owned businesses in your area and around the world. 

Do some research into your area or shop online with these companies to help them grow. This is one of the many ways to empower non-white communities and help create lasting impacts. Shift away from large chains as much as you can. Here is a list of 75 black-owned businesses with incredible products you can start supporting now. 

2. Educate yourself

Especially for white people. Continue to learn and understand this movement. Listen to podcasts, read books and articles, and watch movies. Most importantly, listen to the messages of black people around you and work to understand. Educating yourself about these issues is a lifelong commitment. Understand that you will never fully understand, but do your absolute best.

Know that the more you learn, the better of an ally you can be for everyone around you. “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander or “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo are some great books to start or continue with self-education. If you want to see a movie to self-educate, “13th” and “Just Mercy” are two of the many great options.  Educate yourself so you can better inform people around you. 

A sign on a black background that reads LIBERATE NEW YORK CITY, ABOLISH THE POLICE, #ShutDownCityHallNYC
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3. Use your social media presence.

Keep using your social media platform to spread important messages and create your own messages. Share information with friends and family members, and turn skeptics into allies. For white people especially, work hard to make other white people in your communities understand this massive problem. Understand the privilege you have in this movement and use it to have hard conversations. Don’t post your normal content. It is really important to keep social media as a platform for change. It is a simple thing to do that makes a big difference. 

4. Think local.

Local politics are crucial in changing policing systems. This means putting pressure on city council members, mayors, judges, and other representatives to make a difference. This isn’t as difficult as you may think. You can easily locate contact information for elected officials in your area, and send letters and emails demanding justice and change in the system. This also means staying more informed about local legislation and elections. Protest when necessary and make your voice heard. These elected officials are there to represent your wishes in government, so demand that they do so. Know the names of your city and state representatives and hold them accountable. 

5. Make recurring donations.

While many people have donated to organizations recently, it is crucial that these organizations continue receiving financial assistance from those who can afford it. A great way to do this is to commit to a recurring monthly donation. This amount can be small, but consistency is what will keep the organizations strong throughout this long fight. Do a lot of research about where you are donating so you feel confident in the organization you are supporting. 

An African American woman holding a sign that reads, "Tired of making a banner."
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6. Vote in all upcoming elections. 

This goes without saying for most, but we need policy changes both federally and locally, and it is so important to vote for officials and policies you believe in. Stay informed and up to date always. There is no room to be ignorant about politics now. 

7. For White People: Remember your privilege. 

It is very common for movements such as this one to die out because people go back to their day-to-day lives. In this case, white people have the privilege of not having to fear police brutality every single day, and it becomes easy to forget about the violent status quo. Acknowledge that privilege as much as you can and come to resent it. Talk about it and be an ally. Remember this isn’t your fight, but you can help every step of the way if you listen, learn, and understand your place in it all. 

We must imagine a better future for it to ever be possible. In a time of chaos and fear for many, it is important to not become overwhelmed to the extent that we fail to continue fighting for what is right. Take these 7 steps, and some of your own, to continue to support Black Lives Matter in the long run. 

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10 Best Podcasts By College Dropouts That Will Inspire You

Anna Anderson

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A close-up of a young brown-haired lady wearing a black coat and large headphones around her neck.
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College isn’t the right path for everyone, and people don’t need it to succeed in life. If you are thinking about dropping out of college or already have, you can still do great things. This list of podcasts addresses dropping out of college and the steps a person can take to achieve their dreams.

Podcast #1 Successful dropout

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Kylon interviews entrepreneurs who dropped out of college to pursue their careers, and they tell their stories of success. He also gives advice on how to deal with dropping out of college, from convincing parents to beliefs dropouts should adopt. 

Length: The podcasts range from 10 min to an hour

Format: Interview Podcast

Reviews: 5/5 out of 59 ratings

Recommended for: Anyone looking to be inspired by the work of many diverse college dropouts.

Podcast #2 Typical Misfit

An animated picture of a dark haired young man with a beard and wearing a beige shirt in front of a Mexican restaurant.

Dillon Alexander is a college dropout who became a standup comedian. He talks about various topics through his podcast including stories of his relationships, politics, and life philosophies.

Length: The podcasts range from 20 min to 90 min, but the majority are around half an hour. 

Format: solo/monologue

Reviews: 5/5 out of 12 ratings

Recommended for: Anyone looking to laugh and do some soul searching.

Podcast #3 The Knight’s Tale

Some "Old English" style text saying, "The Knight's Tale" with a knight in front of it drinking coffee and a mic icon next to it in a dark red and grey background.

Robert Woods dropped out of college, but with the right attitude, he found success. In the podcast, he interviews entrepreneurs and gives inspirational advice to those considering dropping out of college.

Length: The podcasts range from 1 min to 40 min, most clocking in at under 10 min. 

Format: Monologue and interview

Reviews: 5/5 out of 6 ratings

Recommended for: Those who want short but rich content.

Podcast #4 Shawn B Speaks Truth

A buzzed hair man wearing a black T shirt sitting next to a dark-haired woman wearing a multi-colored tanktop in a studio room.

Shawn B talks about his struggles with poverty, dropping out of college, and his experiences. He also talks about Detroit, the city where he grew up.

Length: 8 min to 30 min

Format: Monologue/Solo and Interview

Reviews: 4.8/5 out of 4 ratings

Recommended for: Someone who wants to hear about an in-depth life story and the ideas that rose from it.

Podcast #5 The College Dropout Podcast

Some fancy black and red text saying "The College Dropout" with a small graduation hat on top  in a grey background.

The podcast aims to motivate and guide college dropouts. The host interviews entrepreneurs and shares positive life philosophies.

Length: 4 min to 45 min, widely varied

Format: Solo/monologue and Interview

Reviews: 5/5 out of 1 review

Recommended for: People who want to hear some fresh advice about their career path.

Podcast #6 The Tai Lopez Show

White text saying "The Tai Lopez Show" in a black background with a man wearing glasses and a formal uniform in front of an orange car.

Tai Lopez dropped out of college and became an entrepreneur. In his podcasts, he interviews the top entrepreneurs and suggests the best life lesson books for his listeners to read.

Length: 3 min to 2 hours, wide ranging with most episodes over 30 min

Format: Solo/monologue and Interview

Reviews: 4.3/5 out of 7.2 k ratings

Recommended for: Someone looking to read and listen to a greater breadth in terms of the interviewees’ careers.

Podcast #7 Knowledge Without College

Circular white text saying "Knowledge Without College" in a black and red background.

Patrick Butler dropped out of college and became an entrepreneur. He encourages all kinds of learning through his interviews, the subjects being of many diverse fields.

Length: 10 min to 90 min, many of the podcasts around an hour

Format: Interview

Reviews: 4.9/5 out of 15 ratings

Recommended for: A series of interviews with greater breadth in terms of the interviewees careers.

Podcast #8 Digital Gandhi

Yellow and white text saying "Digital Ghandi Radio" in a yellow and white background.

Onkar K Khullar or Digital Gandhi encourages listeners who don’t want to live conventional lives. He shares his crazy life stories, including dropping out of college 3 times, and takes his listeners on an adventure. 

Length: 1 min to 15 min

Format: Monologue/solo

Reviews: N/A

Recommended for: Those who want to be in awe.

Podcast #9 Schoolboy and the Dropout

A stick figure guy running and jumping off a black cliff with text saying "Schoolboy and the Dropout".

Two friends from college come together in this podcast, one who dropped out and the other who graduated. Together they talk about college and fitness. 

Length: about an hour long

Format: Conversational/co-hosted

Reviews: 5/5 out of 3 ratings

Recommended for: Someone who wants to hear about two perspectives and contrasting stories.

Podcast #10 The 38

A huge white bus with lots of other colors in front of a building with very small fine print saying 38 Geary on top.

Nikolas Harter hosts the podcast, inspired by the bus that runs past his home. He talks about why the college dropout rate is so high in community colleges and about his life in general. 

Length: 30 seconds to an hour, most over 20 min

Format: Solo/Monologue

Reviews: N/A

Recommended for: Someone who wants to hear another’s life stories.

After listening to the podcasts above, you should feel inspired to go forth and pursue your passions. A wide range of people have done great things without a college education. The podcasts show that dropping out of college doesn’t limit a person’s success and anyone can move forward without it. 

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How to Improve Your Chances of Landing a Remote Job Amidst Coronavirus Unemployment

Katherine Feinstein

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An animated man with no face and a white beard wearing a blue shirt reading a red book on a blue background with a bunch of academic emoticons surrounding him.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the everyday lives of people around the world, including many college students whose summer internships are being halted as a result of the shutdown. However, applying to remote jobs, making connections on LinkedIn, learning new skills, and utilizing internet resources could be the key to still having hope in securing an internship this summer.

Boost your resume with a part-time remote position.

In the wake of this economic downturn and halting of operations, many companies have shortened or moved their summer programs online; a large number of smaller companies have even canceled their internship programs altogether.

Unfortunately, when business is being compromised, interns and internship programs aren’t the top priority for companies. Despite this, many companies are actually creating more unpaid, remote intern positions, since they need fresh minds and extra hands to help their businesses succeed in this difficult economic climate.

Though most college students may still be on the hunt for paid summer internships, an unpaid remote job is the perfect opportunity to help you fill the time during quarantine and get a step closer to finding something you’re passionate about. Depending on what field of work you’re looking for, a remote position can be a great resume-booster, learning experience, and opportunity to try something new.

The new normal might be a bitter pill to swallow for those still hoping for a paid internship; however, if financially doable, marketing yourself as a remote employee who is willing to put in the effort without the pay could eventually lead you to a full-time, paid position in the future.

Nine groups of animated people, each with a variation of colors ,and with arrows connecting to one laptop in the middle.
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Make an extra effort to reach out and connect with potential employers on LinkedIn.

For many college students, LinkedIn is no foreign website. It’s pretty easy to search for employers who are looking for students in your major, or jobs that have titles that appeal to you. However, what many people don’t do is reach out and make connections.

During a time when everyone feels alone and overwhelmed, it’s even more important to seal your online job application with a genuine message to someone who works where you’ve applied. 

Showing employers that you care and have done your research is barely demonstrated by just turning in a resume and cover letter.

In addition to these things, you should also go to the company’s LinkedIn page and see which of their employees are alumni of your school, or have jobs in a similar area of interest as you. Once you’ve pinpointed someone, briefly but genuinely message them asking to schedule a call to talk about their position at said company.

Even if they never respond or the call ends up not being useful—which it probably will be—at the very least you have made sure that someone at the company has seen your name before they read your resume.

Choose a new skill to learn from the list of things common employers look for in your field.

Another way to market yourself during a time when acquiring employment is more difficult is to update your skillset. Now is the perfect time to learn a new skill or strengthen old ones! If you’re not sure what to start with, think of your dream job or a sector of jobs you would love to have.

You can also study the list of things employers look for or see as a plus when hiring, such as proficiency in online programming, outlets like Microsoft Office applications, coding, website-building, or anything else you often see on job applications that deter you from applying.

Even just teaching yourself one computer program or skill makes you a stronger candidate. Not only that, but it’s a great talking point and strength to bring up during an interview as well.

Employers want employees who are hands-on and take initiative, so using this time to teach yourself something new can only help you.

A woman with dark hair with a button-up shirt, working on a MAC laptop.
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Try out different online occupational resources.

Aside from LinkedIn, there are tons of internet resources to help you narrow down what jobs you want and keep you up to date on what’s out there.

Handshake is a great resource for students. The website is similar to LinkedIn, but it is specifically targeted at employers looking to hire college students.

Indeed is also a good option for doing a more pointed job search, as it allows you to do specific searches for jobs in your area and with specific titles that you’re looking for. Unlike LinkedIn, Indeed is not ideal for networking and is really just used for a narrowed job search.

CareerBuilder is perhaps the perfect combination of the two, as it has thorough job search options and networking capabilities, as well as the added bonuses of career advice and a resource center equipped with alerts and articles to keep you informed.

Finally, for students looking for a part-time project or a remote opportunity to help boost their resume during quarantine, Upwork is the perfect resource. Upwork is an online marketplace created to connect freelance workers with employers looking to assign temporary projects and gigs.

Freelancers can search for projects based on categories such as web design or writing, as well as create profiles to market their skills and attract employers looking for their expertise. 

While in-person job fairs and networking events are temporarily suspended, using these online resources could help match you with the best-fit job for you.

Get out there (metaphorically) and persevere!

College students are home from school and the future is up in the air, but online resources, remote jobs, the time to learn a new skill, and making meaningful connections with employers on networking websites like LinkedIn could help secure an opportunity for later.

Though losing a summer internship or having your current job suspended or even canceled are devastating obstacles, the main strategy to keep in mind is that persistence is key.

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