The two sides of TikTok

 I love TikTok as much as the next Gen Z-er, but that doesn’t mean it’s good

When one is in a tormented state of mind, we often turn to the easy fix — quick stimulation that will produce serotonin in our brain, and help us to feel all warm and fuzzy once again.

But sometimes we fall into a vicious spiral of self-loathing. And sometimes that spiral is aided by social media — trust me, I have been there.

TikTok is a place that’s filled with hate, and it’s easy to get stuck in the wrong place. It’s an app where anyone can reach fame and fortune for dancing, or pretty much any other talent — but also a place where people tear each other down constantly. I mean, just look at the comment sections (which is half the fun, if I’m being honest).

Hugo Bronckart, or @hugoingtohell on TikTok, a second-year Communications student at Concordia, gained popularity over the summer on the platform. He can speak to how the torment that is present on the app impacts his experience on the app as a creator, and as a user.

“A lot of the comments can be really out of pocket sometimes. People will just come for you for the smallest detail,” he said. But in his experience, this is similar to any popular social media platform.

However, there is another side to TikTok — a hidden side — that considers itself as elite (alt TikTok, duh). This is the side that @hugoingtohell finds himself on, this is a side that, in my opinion, is a more acceptable, and generally a nicer, more open minded place to be.

In his own words, his For You page is filled with creators, artists, and queer people. Bronckhart says he feels genuinely accepted within the alt side of Tik Tok.

“I feel like it’s a pretty good app. Obviously, I realize I am still a white male, and I fit into those beauty standards on the app, especially as a skinny white gay guy…”

The main issue with TikTok, in my opinion, are the smoke screens of self-acceptance and body positivity trends. These are disguised to make us feel good, but can largely make people feel unaccomplished. At the end of the day, this app just perpetuates a negative body image for any person, of any age.

For example, the idealization of teenagers —  primarily their body types and lifestyles — is rampant on the app. Most users of the chinese social media platform are in their twenties, but a lot of the influencers on so-called straight TikTok are young, beautiful girls. Bronckart said, “Since there are so many young girls, you can be really sexualized really easily, especially in those trends like the WAP trend. But I don’t really experience it though, I just see it.”

For example, there is an overflowing amount of “what I eat in a day” videos with eating habits that should never be copied. It’s not uncommon for the creators of these videos to eat a single rice cracker with apple butter in the morning, followed by a whopping McDonalds feast at 11 p.m. This tempts us to feel bad about eating full meals, because most of the time we see skinny girls eating much less.

It’s also the new platform where people can get cancelled as fast as they rise, completely disregarding their persona and shutting them out of the inner circles.

“It’s a huge thing that can be toxic,” said Bronckart.

This phenomenon can be great, like when it comes to Harvey Weinstein or another monster. But when we are dealing with a young adult who has yet to fully grow and mature — such as James Charles, a young makeup artist who has cancelled throughout all social media for a personal scandal with Tati Westbrooke, I think it can be extreme.

Don’t get me wrong, there is always entertainment in seeing what others do. For example, duetting is one of the most underrated features of the app. It allows users to create a side-by-side response of a video, allowing them to answer questions directly or to give context or an opinion on a separate video. These are then circulated through the For You page.

“I’ve seen a lot of Indigenous creators calling out people… It gives different perspectives,” said Bronckart.“Duetting stuff, it’s a super good tool because you actually get to educate the person who created the original video, but also other people on the app.”

However, we have to stay constantly aware that we can easily fall onto the laps of trolls, and in TikTok this is facilitated to a next level. All of this to say, take it with a grain of salt.


Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam

Student Life

Today, we practice #SelfCare with TRU LUV

Meet the dynamic duo spearheading unconventional app industries

We scroll through social media and often don’t consider that we’re experiencing a kaleidoscope of emotions simultaneously. “You’re [online] for ten minutes and you already have forty emotions,” said Eve Thomas, a Concordia communications and journalism graduate. “You can be angry, and frightened, and jealous, and hungry all at once.”

“We definitely made [#SelfCare] because we needed it,” said Code (right). Photo courtesy of the interviewees.
Brie Code, former Artificial Intelligence (AI) lead with Ubisoft Montreal and founder of the company TRU LUV, partnered with Thomas to release the company’s first app, #SelfCare. “For me, [the app] is to help people renegotiate their relationships with their phones,” said Thomas.

#SelfCare is a game-type of app where users maintain their avatar’s well-being by carrying out everyday tasks, such as sorting laundry, tending to your plants, and petting the avatar-kitty (which purrs in response). “In this universe, our goal is simply to feel better. There’s no winning, no failure, no score. No difficulty, no ads, no notifications. There is just us and our feelings,” reads the #SelfCare app description. The more tasks you complete, the more your avatar’s mood balances out; there are no penalties for neglecting to play the game, which is what makes the app unique. You can also be guided through breathing exercises, daily Tarot card readings, and even play a simple word jumble or plant-watering game.

Thomas and Code met about three years ago when Thomas, a magazine editor at the time, wanted to profile Code for an article. Code revealed during their interview that she had plans to quit her job to make games for people who don’t like games.

“I was growing increasingly frustrated with what the industry was making,” Code said, referring to “[shooting] and other fighting games.” She also explained that puzzle games can be boring and often leave her feeling more stressed than when she started playing them. Thus, a beautiful partnership blossomed into a transnational collaboration, with four other core members throughout Europe and Africa.

You can also be guided through breathing exercises, daily Tarot card readings, and even play a simple word jumble or plant-watering game. Image courtesy of the interviewees.

Most conventional gaming and social media apps are designed to keep users locked in for as long as possible. As users, we’re either incessantly scrolling, resisting the urge to check our phone or trying a digital detox. “We’re very feast or famine,” said Thomas. We’re not good at moderation, or respectively limiting our social media intake, she explained. Thomas added that, “if you’re on call, which a lot of jobs are now, […] you don’t have the luxury of turning off your phone.” This is a large part of why she and Code made the app the way it is. Both saw the need to renegotiate a way to open up your phone, and maybe click on a different app—one that you exit feeling calm and relaxed.

Both Code and Thomas actively use their app. “We definitely made [#SelfCare] because we needed it,” said Code. “And I’m finding that I’m not using any other of the mobile games I used to turn to when I had a twinge of anxiety.” Thomas also explained to me that, particularly during the game’s beta testing and prototype development, an understandably stressful period, she was used the app as one of her coping mechanisms.

Code and Thomas both spoke of the pushback #SelfCare received from incumbent members of the conventional gaming industry due to their unconventional app structure. “They told us that this would fail,” said Code. “We’ve also been told that […] what we made is too feminine [and] that it’s not worth making products for women because [they] are too unpredictable.” Despite these sexist comments and being largely self-funded, the app is succeeding and has received more than 500 thousand downloads in only six weeks. “The day I read the review that said ‘thank you for this app. I can tell it will change my life,’” said Code, “I knew that all the risk [we’d] taken on committing to this project was worth it.”

You can download TRU LUV #SelfCare in the App Store and Google Play right now! Check out their website:

Feature image courtesy of the interviewees.

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