On World Social Media Day, Indians Quit TikTok

Sunday, 20 September 2020


On World Social Media Day, Indians Quit TikTok

Sidharth Bedi Varma and Megha Pandey | June 30, 2020 18:44 hrs

As the Indian Government banned 59 Chinese mobile-based applications on 29th June, amidst the ongoing Indo-China border stand-off, the world celebrates “Social Media Day” on 30th June which highlights the ways in which social media has changed the world. 

Although “World Social Media Day” has been around only for a handful of years, social media has clearly made an irreversible impact – something that paragraphs after paragraphs too would not be able to express.  

As the Government of India blocked 59 of these Chinese Apps including TikTok, UC Browser, WeChat, Shareit and CamScanner citing reasons that “they engage in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” the banning of one particular app from this list seems to have struck a chord with Indians.

Banning TikTok

What is TikTok and why is it so popular? So how does banning TikTok get so much heat? 
Well, for starters, TikTok is a “video-sharing social networking” service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based internet technology company founded in 2012. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. ByteDance first launched Douyin for the China market in September 2016. Later, TikTok was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in most markets outside of China. It allows users to create and share 15-second videos, on any topic. 

How it Rose to Popularity in India

The reason why TikTok really took off among the youth in India has to do with the aesthetics of the app. Unlike Instagram, you are not putting your best foot forward and TikTok thrives on authenticity. One doesn’t have to pose at a fancy restaurant or put on your best clothes to make their videos work. Most popular content creators are regularly seen in their homes or the roadside in their towns and villages. There are no demands on dressing up or looking glamorous. (*Sources)

The biggest factor, however, is that TikTok allows users to shoot, edit and add music and effects within the app itself. A large number of Indians who do not have access to gadgets like a camera, gimbal or editing softwares, turn to the app because it was a one stop solution. 

For the first time, people from rural India got into the content creation space and were at par with big “mainstream/urban” content creators. Were these “new influencers” out to change the game? Another key driving factor in TikTok app’s popularity is the fact that despite being a global app, it has a strong focus on localised content. The app often runs local contests and challenges and captures on local trends through the use of localised hashtags. 

Why TikTok was hated?

“Cringe” content as it is popularly termed was what drove the pro and anti TikTok audience divide. With its raw approach, TikTok started seeing a lot of unpolished and copied content. 

“Although creators were getting extremely creative with the various filters and editing options available on the app, TikTok also had a lot of unfiltered content. Everyone felt like they could become the “next big thing” using TikTok and this led to a digital power struggle, an audience divide between Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Facebook and TikTok. A lot of TikTok artists also grew their following by the virtue of downloading and posting content created by creators on other platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook,” said the media head of a digital agency to G Plus.  

TikTok’s controversies 

The app has sparked several discussions over the past few years. Two of the most recent and notable ones were the TikTok vs YouTube which throws light on the ongoing rivalry between the content creators of two of the most popular online platforms. The TikTok vs YouTube spark rose to its pinnacle when CarryMinati decided roast popular TikTok influencer Amir Siddiqui which ended with YouTube deleting the video as it came down to a violation of their content creation guidelines and was perceived as borderline bullying, harassment and to many others as homophobia.

The other involved BJP MP from Sultanpur and an animal activist, Maneka Gandhi who took to Twitter to slam the Head of TikTok for refusing to delete videos depicting animal cruelty and handing over details of such video creators to the concerned authorities.

Slamming the Chinese video sharing social media service for asking her NGO to appeal to people against posting such violent content, Maneka Gandhi wrote, “We as an NGO will certainly not take part in this message on TikTok since you have no intention of following Government of India orders.” (Sources)

Bollywood on Tiktok

While India has the highest number of TikTok downloads, the video creating app also has Bollywood stars creating content on it. Some of the names from India are: 

•    Shahid Kapoor
•    Madhuri Dixit Nene
•    Deepika Padukone
•    Shilpa Shetty
•    Jacqueline Fernandes
•    Tiger Shroff
•    Riteish Deshmukh 
•    Bharti Singh

What happens now?

With TikTok sending a “termination of services notice” to its existing Indian users and removing the app from Google PlayStore and Apple App Store, the decision has sparked a massive outrage among the content creators. The move was surprising and will have huge impact on Chinese firms, many of which count India as their biggest market. The banning of these apps would also hurt the livelihood of several Indians who directly or indirectly work for them. (TechCrunch).

India is currently experiencing an anti-China sentiment as over 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a military clash in the Himalayas earlier this month. With “Boycott China” becoming a major trend, the government of India seems to have timed this move with a lot of agenda in mind – emotional and political alike.

(*Source: SocialSamosa, Forbes, India Today, InfluencerMarketingHub, TechCrunch) 

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