Tik Tok


Leonard Zwelling


I don’t know if you are one of the 170 million Americans (that’s half of us) that uses Tik Tok, the short video app. I have viewed it on occasion and find it silly. I am sure that I use it improperly, but I am told it has algorithms that gather data on your interests and show you more videos it thinks will be to your liking. If you look at Tik Toks about dogs, it will send you more dog videos. Obviously, if it can gather data, it can spy on the users.

As Peggy Noonan points out in The Wall Street Journal on March 16, Tik Tok has managed to do something no one thought was possible. It united the Democrats and the Republicans in the House in opposing its continued use in America because Tik Tok’s parent company is ByteDance, a firm connected to the Chinese Communist Party. Knowledgeable people claim that the app is a vehicle to gather data on Americans that can be used for propaganda by our foreign adversaries and can even be used to manipulate the way people vote. Congress has given ByteDance 6 months to sell Tik Tok and both Nancy Pelosi and Elise Stefanik voted for the bill. If the Senate passes it, the President says he will sign it. Who thought those people could agree on anything?

Perhaps Facebook is next.

Spoiler warning. I am about to write things that will disclose my age. Old!

I do not understand the very concept of “social media.” Tik Tok, X, Instagram and the like I guess are meant to allow people to communicate more easily, but it seems that they do the exact opposite. These apps allow people to spew out anything that comes into their heads for the world to read. This is very different than the former major means of communication—the written or spoken word, both of which were used with a great deal of thought and a ton of editing, when they were used by the most skilled purveyors of language. Social media has leveled the playing field. Anyone can say anything and think someone else might care. I don’t get it.

If people want to use Facebook to announce and show a picture of the latest meal they had a Chinese restaurant, I guess there’s no harm in that. If they use a communications tool that allows our enemies to spy on us, that’s bad. As far as X (formerly Twitter) is concerned, I have readers that urge me to use it so that I can get the unvarnished truth about politics through people’s posts. How is the opinion of one person the unvarnished truth about anything? I have to work hard to try to get at the truth. I use newspapers, electronic media, and the occasional blog by an expert to get at the truth, never being certain that I am really there.

Would reading a post from a QAnon adherent be better? I doubt it.

I am glad that Congress is trying to assert some control over social media when it is being weaponized by those would harm us. Tik Tok today, Facebook tomorrow.

I have an idea. Read a book.

I told you I would sound old.

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