Image Credit: Anatoliy Sizov
For the most part, the only toxicity I have experienced on TikTok is that I can easily spend an ungodly amount of hours straight scrolling through the For You Page.
However, I have recently come across a more dangerous side to the platform than simple procrastination. This being the spread of homophobia across the app, mostly taking place in the dreaded comment sections.
Just last week I watched a video of a woman in the US discussing the issues the notion of a “straight pride” brings up. I clicked on the comments, hoping to see support for a message I thought was so simple and widely recognised in this modern age. Alas, I was wrong.
In place of the presumed messages of support, the content I saw was the opposite: dozens of clearly hateful and homophobic responses, to which I will not repeat so to not give the disgusting views held more readership. This is only one example of many incidences of this behaviour I have encountered.
Usually, I am rather thick-skinned when it comes to homophobia, having grown up in a not-so-liberal school where individuals where not afraid to explicitly express their homophobic views towards me, however, on an app that I believed to be a platform for my generation, the blatant, seemingly new, wave of homophobia is shocking, and quite frankly, terrifying.
When I look at the comments of a Daily Mail article, I expect to see the usual hate and ignorance there. However, this is not something I would imagine existing on TikTok – a platform which is predominantly used by our liberal and forward-thinking generation.
This is what scares me. I accept that older generations will never learn, that the comments underneath The Daily Mail will remain toxic and hateful until its eventual removal from the press (fingers crossed that we aren’t waiting too long for that). But that world is separate to mine –that is the discourse of an older generation being left in the dirt. TikTok, on the other hand, should be a safe place for the new generation, and as such, a place where hatred is rare. Instead, I fear such hatred is becoming a new, and certainly unwanted, trend.
The common feeling amongst most younger people is that of hope for the future – a time when the liberal views of our generation begin to makeup the dominant belief system. This is something I had strongly, and perhaps ignorantly, believed in. However, my recent experiences on social media have begun to disprove this belief. How can there be hope for a better future when our platforms in the present are becoming so hateful?
As I said before, I am thick-skinned, but this new trend of homophobia has begun to make me feel uncomfortable on a platform I have previously felt secure on. I almost feel as though the infamous algorithm is beginning to push this homophobia towards me, as if the app itself is wanting me to see it. This is what is perhaps most dangerous about this new homophobia; the fact that we are powerless to stop it from coming up on our For You pages. Unlike other platforms where you can simply unfollow toxicity, TikTok’s algorithm does not allow you to do so. This has resulted in my For You page being infected somewhat, where in between the jokes and cat videos I love, hides a more dangerous threat to the LGBTQ community. I fear that this growing homophobia is becoming a trend. A trend which may lead others, particularly younger viewers, to see this as normal behaviour. This can’t be allowed to happen.
I, and the rest of the LGBTQ community, should not be made to feel uncomfortable or targeted on a platform that is for our generation. Whilst there are positive messages on the app, the growing homophobic trend cannot be left unchecked. If we don’t act against it, we risk allowing homophobia to creep into our popular culture, and eventually, our belief systems. This cannot happen if we are to hope for a more equal and accepting future.
I implore anyone reading this to act against this blatant hate. If you see hateful comments or content, report it. It takes less than a minute but the outcomes could have a lasting effect. The direction this trend is going in encapsulates a dangerous feeling of them versus us, where in cis heterosexual individuals will equate LGBTQ rights to anti-straight propaganda. This is not the case. A strive for equality of sexualities does not diminish the rights of those who do not come under the LGBTQ umbrella term, and to make this a trend on social media is damaging to our movement, but equally, to our hopes for an equal future.
This divided feeling does nothing but take us back in time to a darker, more hateful age. TikTok is built on sharing and collaboration, not division and hate.
This piece is something I wish I didn’t have to write, and I hope that in the future I can write again with a more positive view of the platform, and as such, a more positive view for the future of our generation. Please do not make homophobia the newest social media trend, please stick to the less toxic Charli D’amelio dances instead.