SYNOPSIS: Dissecting one of the most influential platforms of the contemporary social media landscape, TikTok, Boom. examines the algorithmic, sociopolitical, economic, and cultural influences and impact of the history-making app. This rigorous exploration balances a genuine interest in the TikTok community and its innovative mechanics with a healthy skepticism around the security issues, global political challenges, and racial biases behind the platform. A cast of Gen Z subjects, helmed by influencer Feroza Aziz, remains at its center, making this one of the most needed and empathetic films exploring what it means to be a digital native. [Source: Sundance Institute]
‘Tik Tok, Boom’ presents a central theme among the many issues explored regarding social media platforms. We are not literate about the systems we use. We are not aware of how technologies are impacting our world – every sector of society. We need to be.
Complex and impressive visual and special effects within the footage act as a representation of the finely-tuned algorithm within the Tik Tok app. As the most downloaded app in 2021, Tik Tok surpassed Google as the top domain in the world with the most traffic. This is no surprise. Tik Tok is truly a force of nature in terms of downloads. ‘Tik Tok, Boom’ reveals the extremely addicting nature of the app caused by the algorithm and the very detailed and invasive biometric profiling.
Director, Shalini Kantayya (Coded Bias), explained the motivation in making the film. “What I hope, with films like this, is the public will talk more about these issues and what kinds of governance would make sense to make sure that we can have the benefits of these technologies without having the harms.”
The ‘Tik Tok, Boom’ arc follows three Tik Tok influencers who have a connection, in some way, to the geopolitical issues associated with the app. Deja Foxx, Feroza Aziz, and Spencer X, all have contributed to changes in the app. They discussed how Tik Tok can “connect niche communities” but also has more of an exploration capability than Instagram, for example. On Tik Tok, a person does not have to follow accounts for content to display on their “for you page” which is equivalent to “feed” on Instagram. Tik Tok encourages posting of content, even 20-30 posts per day while Instagram’s algorithm will potentially “shadowban” for more than 1-2 posts per day.
Foxx, Aziz, and Spencer X all make a very large amount of money on Tik Tok but agreed that the pressure to post content comes at a price. They are subjected to harassment, threats, bullying, and hostile comments. They also agreed that Gen Z thinks of privacy as a thing of the past. Notably, all three influencers surmised that Tik Tok is no longer a Gen Z app. There are 70- and 80-year-olds “blowing up” on the app because it is one of innovation and curiosity.
The film explores the role of governmental entities in regulating social media platforms, as well as troubling issues such as racial profiling/biases and security/privacy issues inherent in the app. The film uncovers how Tik Tok gives power to people to shift culture. ‘Tik Tok, Boom’ is a fascinating and insightful narrative at the power and complexity of tech that continues to advance a much-needed conversation.