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TikTok is scary good. It's digital crack (twitter.com/karpathy)
310 points by mfiguiere 3 days ago | flag | hide | past | favorite | 425 comments

I'm not sure how I got sucked into Tiktok but I was quickly hooked. There's something so refreshingly playful, authentic, and raw about so much Tiktok content compared to Instagram. Instagram (explore/discovery) is generally pretty people with pretty things in pretty places. That was fun for a while but it's just not that interesting after a while. I don't need to see more pretty pictures of women doing yoga. I don't need to see more pretty mountain bikes I can't afford. I don't need to see anymore drone shots of Milford Sound in New Zealand. Tiktok, on the other hand, is playful, diverse, and interesting (at least my feed is). Once you start liking content, the feed completely changes from teenage lip sync videos or other teenager-oriented content into such a nice variety of content. I legitimately laugh my ass off or smile happily at so much of it. Other content teaches me about food, gardening, dancing, DIY, media theory, hiking alone, gender bending, etc. etc. The list goes on. Some of the videos delight me and others inform me.

Instagram, by contrast, just feels so bland now.

I agree with this. Their ranker is really good and has improved dramatically the more I watch and like. And it's not even fully garbage content, a good amount of it is interesting, useful, inspirational and educational. A rabbit hole of really excellent videos from a professional dog trainer caused me a detour of 20 minutes and pushed me over the edge to create the original tweet. So one side of me is not even mad, but the other side of me is like wait where did 2 hours go? And do I really want this?

I always wonder what Bytedance is doing differently compared with other social recommendation tools (aka why does no one rave about Twitter's suggested follows).

My sneaking suspicion is product management designed a product that is literally perfect for a recommendation engine.

It really does seem like a lot of the magic here is simply the format. The video lengths are a perfect balance between short enough to be addictive, and long enough to enable content more varied and interesting than just short gags.

Instagram and Facebook get bland real quick. Youtube/Netflix videos are often too long to be really addictive - "just one more" isn't as persuasive if "one more" takes 10 min+. With shorter skits like Key & Peele on Youtube you do get a stronger sense of that addictiveness. Twitter is mostly text and much less expressive, and even influencers treat it mostly as a communication/announcement platform, not a content platform.

Vine was hugely popular when it was shut down by Twitter, and I think it'll go down in history as one of the largest corporate mistakes every made. They were so close on the format - they just needed to allow slightly longer videos (which they did with Twitter message lengths around they same time they shut down Vine!!!).

I'm sure Bytedance's secret recommendation sauce is good, but I think much of their success is simply thanks to them being the first competent executor of the next major social media content format.

> Vine was hugely popular when it was shut down by Twitter, and I think it'll go down in history as one of the largest corporate mistakes every made. They were so close on the format - they just needed to allow slightly longer videos (which they did with Twitter message lengths around they same time they shut down Vine!!!).

Vine's top creators "unionized" and started demanding to be paid a cut. Vine had to be destroyed to defend the principle of not paying social media contributors.

That's somewhat ironic since TikTok pays certain content creators, although apparently not well.


Worth the full watch on video media money. But tldw; TikTok splits a pot of money over the views each video gets. The pot doesn't grow with the revenue they make or total views, so it's pretty exploitative.

I found the opposite. I took a look at TikTok, but the videos are too short to get into anything interesting. There's lot of interesting stuff on YouTube, however. Some of them could be shortened somewhat, but not down to a few minutes.

TikTok has recently introduced 10-minute long videos. Although, I have yet to come across a video that is >3 minutes, or a creator that uses that length of video.

What about Instagram Reels? Is that bland too?

The content creators aren’t there. Most of the good stuff is ripped directly from Tiktok.

Also their recommendations aren’t as good but that could just be a side effect of the above.

Other platforms only look for similar content to what you've already seen. They don't take novelty into account.

If you like one picture of a dog on Instagram it'll just show you more dogs and you get bored. Watch a few YouTube videos about one topic and the algorithm gets fixated on it.

YouTube is so bad now that if you use it to listen to music the autoplay gets into an infinite loop of songs that sound near identical, it's torture if you don't already know what you want to see/hear.

In short the usual algorithms are tailored to find similar content only, rather than finding novel content several degrees of separation away from what the user has expressed interest in.

It also seems very easy to take recommendation into your own hands on TikTok with long press -> “not interested”, which is very accessible. Once I started to get quite a bit of political / cultural war crap in my feed; I “not interested” a few of them, the feed improved markedly almost immediately. With YouTube I guess you can sort of influence your recommendations by digging into your watch history and deleting a bunch of stuff, but it’s tedious and ineffective. “Not interested” on YouTube front page seems useless, I still get pushed the same repetitive stuff, maybe from another set of channels.

TikTok and HN (to a lesser degree) are the only places that don’t force feed me racial culture war stuff.

"Don't recommend channel" is very effective for me to ignore creators I just don't care about or content I'm at moment not interested in.

> with long press -> “not interested”, which is very accessible

First time I heard about it. If it's hidden behind an undiscoverable gesture/tap, it's not accessible.

IIRC it’s among the first things they onboard you about. It’s also in the share menu, you should have seen it if you ever tried to download or share a video, or create a duet, or something. Long press is just an easy way to bring it up. Given the percentage of people commenting on TikTok threads who’ve never used it, “first time I heard about it” doesn’t mean much.

YouTube recommendations used to be quite good for a brief amount of time when google brain originally took over it I think? Now it’s a mess but it’s clearly due to exec meddling. like their absolutely product destroying migration towards videos 8 minutes or longer; most original content is now fully shit because they are filling it up with garbage to pad the time and release in a cadence. All stupid rules imposed by YouTube, which just takes creativity out of people.

It’s also possible any recommendation system can only stay pure for a few years until everyone from both sides is gaming them so badly for money it just cannot work anymore.

I was trying to show a friend some features of a keyboard I just bought that I’m pretty excited about. It’s still in the mail, so we pull up YouTube on the nearest screen and type in the name of the board. The first and most popular video that came up was 14 minutes long, but looked high quality. As we skim through it, we realize that it’s mostly this guy speaking ad nauseam about himself with very few significant shots of the keyboard. We had to go back to search and go all the way to the long tail keyword-wise to find a video that gave us what we wanted. Yeah, YouTube search isn’t what it used to be, and my experience tracks with your suggestion that it’s executive meddling.

If that’s what YouTube wants to be now, that’s fine. My question is now where do I go to find what YouTube used to be (TikTok, maybe)? It’s ironic too, because it’s like they don’t realize that as a millennial I was drawn to YouTube because it _wasn’t_ TV.

On the other hand, if I ever fall alseep in front of YouTube with the autoplay on, I will more often than not wake up in front of either Tom Scott's unedited video about sending garlic bread to space[1] or Micheal from Vsauce reciting primes for 3 hours[2] (which tends to result in some pretty interesting dreams tho)

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKAblynZYhI

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHEaYbDWyQE

But if the videos are longer then people stay on the site for longer! It must mean that they like it more.

Or, you know, your platform makes me watch ten minutes to find something that would take 30 seconds otherwise, so fuck your platform.

Same reason why I am absolutely terrified of playing any instrumental music on Spotify. I let one track run till the end and my next 2-3 discover weeklies will be filled only by instrumental music.

i used to instinctively turn on private mode every time i opened the spotify app (on desktop at least, since it was easy enough to get at)

with youtube i usually open a video in a incognito tab anytime im watching something random, otherwise it takes weeks of clicking "not interested" just to get rid of some recommendations. sad times

i basically ignore all the recommendations ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I have the same experience with vocal music on YouTube Music, funnily enough. I greatly prefer instrumental music but you listen to one vocal album and suddenly all they recommend is singing.

You can use this behavior to your advantage though. I have my browsers set up to delete cookies when they are closed and from the surface this works for Youtube recommendations. If I open the site I only get very generic popular/pushed content.

So after I watch that instrumental music video, there will be a mass recommendation for other instrumental music. And that's nice, because I apparently was in a mood for that. And the next day, I open my browser again and they are all gone! I can dive into the music for the mood of that moment right away.

YT seems to have made some change to dump regular trending stuff into recommendations.

I really miss the option to tell it that I just really don’t want to see sports.

Huh... I guess I never really noticed, but you're right. I used to listen to entire genres on YouTube and let the recommendation engine pick the next video. I discovered some cool songs that way.

Now, maybe I'll type in a song title, listen to the song, and the next video is a live performance of the same song... Followed by a lyric video of the same song.

It's interesting that these companies go into these different product directions, while i assume they're both looking at similar metrics, and optimizing for the same outcome: engagement and number of users.

Somehow YouTube is seeing more engagement by showing more of the same, and TikTok is seeing even more engagement from showing fresh content.

Maybe the risk of an upward trend in outcomes, that blurs the fact that you could see even better trends by done things differently.

For me, YouTube is literally the same - I get the same videos thrown into my feed in repeat. Apparently this converts well for YT and the result is that my feed is maybe 10% genuine discovery. The rest is shit.

YouTube also does this weird thing for me where, for example, I watch a couple of videos of an android related YouTube channel about new phones, and then it’ll recommend me videos from 2008 about phones being released then. Lol

this is Hill climbing, right? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hill_climbing

Yes. How do you deal with hill climbing in product management? How do you know that a 10% improvement in outcomes is bad, and a different approach could have given you 50% or 100%? More experimentation, more 'how might we'? Google is known for trying different approaches (many shades of blue for a link), but somehow none of their experiments indicated fresh content is important? Or is it just a matter of product management 'playing it safe' at Google, where they know 10% outcome improvement is good enough to keep their job?

My guess is limited time frames within some standard A/B testing protocol. Give people very similar content over a 1-2 week period, and they'll watch more of it. Give people very similar content over a 6 month period, and they'll get bored and leave. If your testing protocol doesn't look for long term effects, you'll never see the longer effect in any of your tests.

I've been a long-term subscriber to Google Play Music, now YouTube Music, and the change introduced and reinforced what you say. Each time I open the app it's to meet the same recommendations and automatic playlists; barely anything new. About time I got serious about transferring to Spotify.

Reddit made a change recently (in the last week or so) along these lines, to start injecting new subreddits in to your feed. They've picked up on this too.

Reddit is getting / is pretty good in my opinion

Focusing on content rather than a social network.

Most videos you see on tiktok are probably not people you are following, while most on Instagram probably are

They test content on a small circle of users, if metrics are good they keep expanding


More data beats better algorithms, and Tiktok gets a lot of signals about what you might like based on how long you watch, how many times you watch, what you like, what you comment on, if you go to the profile page of a video you just watched, if you share, etc. Multiply that by all the videos you can see in a single hour, and Tiktok learns more about you than YouTube has in the past 5 years of use.

Absolutely not - I was using youtube for 10 years and every year my feed gets worse. Now the original content creators are dissapearing from my newsfeed and uts fetting invaded eith short clips of family guy. Its also will show me same clip again and again. It shows clips from creators i disliked. New uploads of creators i follow sometimes arent on my feed - its a shitshow. Half of comments are trolls and bots.

Here to say my experience is the exact opposite. My YouTube experience and recommendations have consistently improved over the last decade, and I find so much wonderful, informative stuff there.

TikTok, on the other hand, is a giant waste of my time. I have yet to find a single video I've liked from that platform; very little useful information there.

> family guy

Holy crap literally this happened to me few days ago

I made the mistake of watching a couple, what will happen next :)

I interviewed with them last year, and literally everyone I spoke to was brilliant. I think a lot of their magic is in hiring great people and having a very flat org chart. They get out of people’s way, and let them do cool shit.

Nothing makes me more depressed than thinking about the amount of human ingenuity dedicated to making teens spend as much time as possible consuming "digital crack".

Definitely don't think about all the ingenuity that's wasted on making you click or buy something then.

Potato potato.

Are they an American or Chinese company?

Chinese ! So maybe less focused on absolute numbers in terms of profit and able to be more focused on the product ? Even saying that feels so wrong, right, like US companies really cant enjoy building anything anymore ?

Chinese, but they're building recommendations teams in Mountain View and Seattle.

You’ve to remember that they have an (ancient == valuable ) source of customer data. They started off as a news aggregator and must have had a decade of customer data to utilise while showing these videos. I remember reading in the book (the attention factory) how fanatical the leadership is towards investing in ML talent

> I always wonder what Bytedance is doing differently compared with other social recommendation tools (aka why does no one rave about Twitter's suggested follows).

The thing is, the engine creates the content. Not quite as efficiently as a human producer saying "I want a 30 second video about X", but through the feedback loop of what gets promoted.

Twitter is run by libertarians who prioritise free speech, and therefore what Twitter produces is more and more intense political argument. Once the Tahrir square revolution and the color revolutions happened, that's what the place is locked into.

Instagram created the "influencer": young hyper conventionally attractive women photographed in beautiful locations, advertising products like energy drinks on their own account rather than a traditional modelling agency structure.

Youtube created the "let's play" and the "thirty to 120 minute political rabbithole" and the "shocked face thumbnail" genres.

Tiktok's secret weapon - and I'm not familiar with how it works in detail, but the effects are very clear - is a video editing tool, a content creation system, that is accessible for ordinary people. The evidence of this is that much of the "reels" content on Instagram's Tiktok clone has Tiktok watermarks on it.

I watched my nephew create a training montage for a toy. He takes in some video sequences, adds some music and gets something far more compelling and does so quickly. We just don't have a good natural understanding about what turns raw content into a good video. Tools like this help massively with that.

> Twitter is run by libertarians who prioritise free speech...

Oh wow, I wasn't expecting such a big laugh this early in the morning... thank you!

I haven't tried it, but my understanding from reading the experiences that it is about content not the creators.

Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook all about creators and social "connections" or follows to these. So you get the good with all the ugly and horrible. Want insights, art or jokes. Get the horrible political opinions and signalling too... And then see all the fights.

The massive data vacuum is probably part of it.

But that’s not at all unique to TikTok. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, etc. have massive amounts of data to play with as well. What else does TikTok have that these other platforms do not?

From what I've seen from Chinese tech companies, I've always noticed they tend to go one step even further in ignoring privacy. You think FB is bad, wait until you realize what Baidu, Tencent, etc do without even blinking. Probably because what the Chinese government demands of them, the only ones that stay standing are the ones willing to do that. And if your willing to do that, what is doing something similar when your not forced to?

Tictok have agreed to a $92 million settlement for lack of notification to users about data collection. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/tiktok-owner-agrees-9...

Perhaps they added a way to measure relationships between content, and expand the recommendation to several degrees of separation between related content.

No other social network lets users send a “dislike signal.

I think the important distinction in 'do I really want this' becomes whether I chose to do that activity, or if I kind of just got sucker punched into it.

I think there is nothing wrong with saying 'I am going to spend X time on social media and get entertainment out of it'. It is very different when you go to do one specific thing, and spend the next 2 hours in a complete daze in rabbit holes.

About a year and a half ago, I acknowledged how negatively some reflexive social media habits impacted my life and managed to extricate myself from them. A year or two before that realization I installed TikTok to see what the fuss was about, checked out the stream for a few minutes, looked up at the clock to realize it had actually been about two hours, and immeditealy uninstalled the app.

Astonishingly good attention and interest manipulation. Terrifyingly good, in fact. I don't moralize about getting lost in trash entertainment, but there's a significant swath of the population for which this format combined with these design patterns is a big problem.

Somewhere in the 80s some concerned parents in Jordache jeans just got kicked out of their mall's little town square facade where they were trying to hand out political pamphlets. And they went, "Oh, so that is the thing."

So... what's the thing here with TikTok? I mean it cannot just be that it's a personally-tailored time suck. What's missing? Is it pro-unionization rabbit holes?

I'm going to go ahead and guess "pro-unionization rabbit holes." If I'm wrong then the evidence will be me following the link someone gives me of a 2-hour TikTok unionization rabbit hole. I can't lose, internet!

edit: clarification

Your comment is incomprehensible.

I'll take another stab at it.

OP's critique seems to be that TikTok caused engagement with their preferred content for a longer duration than desired. That's not an interesting distinction from what happened back in the day with people going down Wikipedia rabbit holes. "Digital crack" is hyperbole if all it means is spending longer on the topics one already likes.

My question: is the TikTok algo consistently steering users toward/away from categories of content they would have otherwise had an interest in consuming? E.g., are there pro-unionization users who accidentally spend 2 hours watching pro-unionization TikToks? Or is the recommendation engine steering those users to 2 hours of some less contentious category?

You're talking to a transformer language model.

Really? How do you know? I had a look at their other posts and it doesn't seem like it to me.

Are you referring to some in-joke that I am not getting?

I am curious about the "authentic" part. My wife shows me her favourite daily tiktoks and they all seem... Distilled and optimized and high density, well researched or naturally selected and evolved. Their "authenticity" seems almost desperately infused. Like twitter posts, optimized for engagement in 160chars (I find Washington post and random tatoo artist tweets have same medium-indiced optinized feel), after a few of them, all tiktoks seem to have the same feel and optimization. They're uncanny valley of authenticity, influencers and singers and actors and wives struggling so very very hard to seem amiable and authentic and real based on same evolving playbook, and I feel too weirded out after 30s or so to keep watching :O.

Important reminder: don’t talk too much publicly about your (wife’s) TikTok feed, because it says more about you than you’d think.

I’ve seen so many people complain that “tiktok keeps showing them young girls dancing” lol.

This is spot on. One person I know gets pimple popping on a fresh TikTok feed within minutes. I have no idea how the algorithm can converge on that so fast, but its certainly some dark NN magic.

TikTok didn't work for me because of the young dancing girls. Yes, I clicked "like" on some of them, because they ARE cute and put in the effort. Doesn't mean I want to see young dancing girls all the time. TikTok showed me stuff and since I liked it, I clicked like. So TikTok shows me more of the same stuff, and not the other stuff which I might also like.

So I guess you have to be super disciplined to get a nice TikTok feed? Or just try it long enough? Or it only works for women, because they may click less on young dancing girls?

Yeah that's a problem with all of these things. They scrape SO much data, they seem to do SO many nefarious things... and still, if I ever look up a dishwasher (a once every half a decade purchase), amazon and google will forever assume I'm HUGELY into dishwashers. It seems their fancy profiling algorithm is "last in, first out".

Same with youtube - I want to be able to occasionally watch something without it assuming I want that ALL the time, to exclusion of everything else. Yes, I checked out a video on how to change the filter on my laundry machine; yes I needed to fix my snow blower. These things are not my life now! <slap my face emoji>

Basically, I'm stunned how unsophisticated and unhelpful these algorithms are to me as a consumer, though I suppose they are effective to company who wants to drive "Engagement" without caring any further than that.

P.S. And now that I have kids, oh boy are these systems ever confused :D. If I stop to show my kid something on my phone, that's all I'll see for next 3 weeks.

Lol. Assuming you’re not trolling, I’d say yes, you have to be aware that any signal from you (including time spent watching each video) is analyzed by TikTok.

So what? I don't know what you are implying? So you never like videos of young women dancing? You go on TikTok and are very disciplined to only click on videos with CSS hacks or something?

I uninstalled it for two days, so I really don't have a guilty conscience of secretly liking young girls or whatever. It was ultimately just annoying.

I don’t understand, what does this signal about you personally?

That you (consciously or not) like young dancing girls

This might not be a problem, of course, but in other situations might be something you don’t want to make public?

I mean why would you even discuss this openly outside of a scathing criticism that TikTok must be corrupting the young minds of children if the algorithm is starting to pollute your (or your wife’s) feed with young kids emulating highly sexualized dance routines, without you ever training it to do that..

The thing is that you DO train it to do that. Not everyone’s feed is like that. It just depends on what TikTok infers from your usage.

So in a way, saying that TikTok is outrageous is a bit hypocritical: it shows what you seem to like, and surely you calling it outrageous can only be a posture.

How brainwormed do you have to be to think tiktok only uses individualized algorithms?

"This other guy also liked the insert_young_male_interest that you like, and now he uses tiktok every day to jerk off to teen girls with bad parents, why don't you do that too?" is literally how algorithms designed to maximize viewing time work.

It doesn't just show you things you have shown interest in. It shows you content that might cause you to use thr app more than you already do, based on what other users have done. Which is why some algorithm holes are deeper and easier to fall into.

To be fair, assuming he’s a heterosexual male, isn’t it just assumed he would like young dancing girls?

Young meaning really young.

Not really - just mostly Asian, so perhaps to you they look younger than they are.

Lolll read my message above again!

Most of us get exactly zero Asian girls on our TikTok. You just basically told everyone that TikTok detected that you probably have a (maybe subconscious) attraction to Asian girls.

The only revelation here is that you have zero idea how these app algorithms work.

I don't get those young girls (I mean children as you seem to imply) - but replying to your message, I assume some did. Or rather you did, or else how would you know they are "very young girls"?

It seems really off to accuse random people on the internet to be attracted to kids.

What I was saying is that I was shown young women, but it still annoyed me.

As for attraction - that is what TikTok's algorithm started out with, and I liked some of them, because why not? As I said, they are cute and they put in the effort to do some funny stunts or whatever. I didn't dislike them, so why not press "like"? Doesn't mean I want to see those girls all the time. Also yeah, I am a heterosexual male, so young women are attractive to me.

I probably would have liked a lot of cat videos, too, if TikTok had shown them to me. Doesn't mean I want to see cat videos all the time, either, and also not that I am sexually attracted to cats.

I only tried TikTok for maybe two days, so I really think it is a failure of the algorithm, not a reveal of my subconsciousness.

Since everybody was raving about the TikTok algorithm, which is what made me try it out in the first place, I assumed that I wouldn't have to be super careful in "training" the algorithm. Apparently I assumed wrong.

You confused usernames a bit.

Nothing. Crubier is just an absolute clown that doesn't understand Global and Demographic algorithms also exist, and prioritize pushing content that other people have watched for long and consistent periods.

Young dancing girls is exactly how it was advertised to me, a not-so-young adult, when it was still called Musical.ly. I remember being throughly creeped out by how shameless those musical.ly YouTube ads were.

In my case the algorithm decided I should be slowly forwarded into the arms of a pharmacist prescribing a stimulant to help with a bunch of mildly ADHD/ASD quirks in my personality.

I think the thing that makes TikTok successful is that it's so uniquely tuned to whoever owns the account, and that it catches up with your personal interests and preferences very quickly. Your experience on TikTok is probably going to be a lot different to your wife's, at least this has been the case for us.

my fiancée is hopelessly addicted to TikTok and just about everything she shows me from there is wholly devoid of actual authenticity—it's all fake as hell. "cute" moments between couples that were obviously staged and rehearsed instead of being impromptu as implied, young mom's desperately making a big deal out of everything their kids do because she needs Content for the Channel, and more.

I kind of get the feeling that we are passing or have passed some threshold where many, possibly most people can no longer identify Actual Authenticity due to social media overexposure, and I for one find this distressing.

The staged relationship content is just another niche on TikTok. I skip that content almost immediately so it’s rare for the algo to surface any, but it’s popular because enough people really enjoy it. The same type of content is on YouTube and other platforms.

I don’t know, we’ve had staged content presented as reality for a long time(ie almost all “reality” tv) and we seem to be doing ok. The TikTok content you’re describing doesn’t feel terribly different from that.

I agree. Especially with younger people, you can really tell they're pushing their faces to display the right amount of emotion.

TikTok’s super power is tailoring the feed to the user, so this uncanny valley stuff is what your wife likes.

It really is wild. You can decide exactly what you want to be shown by how long you spend on a video. You can literally feel the algorithm working alongside you, like you're using river currents while paddling in a kayak. Fucking crazy.

“Naturally selected and evolved”

Wow I never thought of this applied to algorithms and AI. Very profound to think about in this context, of users selecting the best videos with their clicks and evolving the naturally selected videos to out compete the other videos, in the same vein as survival of the fittest.

> Instagram (explore/discovery) is generally pretty people with pretty things in pretty places.

This is kinda baffling to me. I got into Instagram because photography is a hobby of mine and curiosity got the best of me. I follow a few photographers ("actual people", as opposed to aggregators) who only post "normal" photography. Sure, they're "pretty pictures", but I'd say it's not really the kind the general population would think of when mentioning Instagram.

Yet, whenever I go on the "explore" tab, I'm inundated with girls in skin-tight clothes or guys showing off their latest sports cars. The "feed" (home button) does seem to have relevant content, although it's quite repetitive outside the people I follow. And for some reason, I keep getting ads for tiny homes, which aren't even a thing in France, where I live.

Also, only being able to use it on a small-screen phone got old fast. And I'm not interested in hauling around a big-ass phone, I already have a laptop.

I had to spend hours training Instagram not to show me endless pictures of hot shirtless guys when I go to the 'explore' feed. I follow one or two pop singers who sometimes post sexy photos, but for the most part I just follow people that I really know. I'm not sure how my feed ended up so sexualized. My theory is that Instagram notices that I spend longer looking at hot guys when they do appear than I do looking at other kinds of photos. (I am happy to stare at hot guys, but it's not what I'm actually looking for when I go to Instagram.)

Yes, there is a huge disconnect in the Instagram discovery feed for me as well. I follow friends & family, some astronomy, photography, tech accounts but when I browse Explore it’s full of influencers and fit girls in thighs. It got slightly better a few months ago when I think they did something but only introduced 20% of my tastes rather than 0%.

> Instagram, by contrast, just feels so bland now.

On to the next 'hit' then.

The addictiveness of the drug 'Instagram™' has now worn off and has no effect on many long time 'users' of the drug since first introduced in the 2010s. A new 'digital crack cocaine' with a new innovative algorithmic black-box formula has been on the streets called 'TikTok™' amassing over 1B 'users' designed to glue you to your screen as much as possible.

There will be a time where this drug will wear off for another generation and they will find the next addictive hit to scramble and hype over just like they did with Facebook™, and Instagram™.

The only way to really win is to not play the game and to not become a regular 'user', which is what they call people addicted to a particular drug. Interesting that nothing there has changed since the CEOs, VPs, VCs and product managers know that their products are compared to addictive drugs.

Rinse and repeat I guess. But we'll see in a decades time on what the next 'hit' will be.

One of the best times to start a new product or even promote an existing one (in consumer space) is during the infancy of a new social platform. Not only could there be opportunities to build products around TikTok but advertising on TikTok now could be akin to advertising on FB in 2005, cheap and plenty of chances to make good ROI

But u can’t take advantage of those opportunities unless u become an user first and study what works

> The only way to really win is to not play the game and to not become a regular 'user'

Except meanwhile you can't make normal contact with people because everybody is looking at their phone.

It's just entertainment. You could say the same about books or TV. At least Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are social and interactive and encourage people to produce content instead of just consuming passively.

Someone’s who’s read a lot of books is called well read.

Someone who’s watched a bunch of shows is called a binge watcher.

No matter what they’re called, reading specifically requires more active thinking than watching stuff. I wouldn’t say theyre the same.

Someone who read a lot of porn novels wouldn't be called well read, and someone who watch a bunch of college lectures wouldn't be called a binge watcher. What matters is the content, not the form of the content.

It is just that simple content tend to choose easy to digest mediums, there is not much demand for low effort literature today since people just watch movies instead.

I totally agree with you.

Thats why i mentioned reading books also requires more “active” part of the brain rather than passively watching.

I wouldn't call someone "well read" just for reading lots of books. I'd call them a "book worm". "Book worm" still has more positive connotations than "binge watcher" or "couch potato", but "well read" indicates that they read the classics and can talk about them intelligently.

Thanks for clarifying that up, wasn’t aware of book worm vs well read.

My main point really was that reading requires a more active effort than watching which is passive.

Tiktok also has classics, I presume?

One explanation for the difference between tiktok and instagram could be that tiktok doesn’t have a crystallized business model yet and is just focusing on growing its network as much as possible. Presumably it will end up as bad as every other (profitable) social network over time (apart from twitter, which is more like an internet utility).

Good point

Implying twitter isn’t an absolute cesspit

I understand (and mostly agree) with what you're saying, but as someone who watches lots of tiktok each night, there definitely still a(n un)healhty amount of pretending-to-be-authentic-but-actually-isnt content on the app. Or at least on my FYP.

Tiktok definitely does have its own aesthetic and style, with different people leaning into (or out of) it to varying degrees.

I will say - I've never seen a social network that's as queer as my tiktok experience is. It's great. I wish I had this when I was younger.

I agree though with your last point. I get a lot of queer content and it's usually very welcome. Though some niches in that subset that focus on discussion of harassment of queer people are much more anxiety inducing.

It's AI is kind of terrible for society. Sure, it is impressive technically, but WSJ did an article Tiktok's effect on teenagers:



> Other content teaches me about food, gardening, dancing, DIY, media theory, hiking alone, gender bending, etc. etc

I've never used TikTok before, so apologies for the ignorance, but here's a question nevertheless: one of the really nice thing about YouTube is the sort of "long term archival of knowledge" aspect of it.

Meaning: unless Google decides to purge content for reason X or Y, it is (or seems to) be there for ever.

What about TikTok content? Is it here to stay or is it kind of ephemeral?

Also: at the risk of sounding like an old fart, I really dislike using a phone for consuming content (tiny screen, unwieldy interface, no control on the platform, the list is very long) ... is there a non-mobile way to access it? For content that teaches you about stuff, is there a way to bookmark it and refer to it later?

These are good questions and I think it’s nowhere near as rosy as OP described.

AFAIK the content is permanent.

There's a website as well as the app.

You can look through all the videos you've favorited, but it could be hard to find a specific one. If you want to be sure you can quickly find something, you can share it or copy and paste the link. You can also follow its creator.

In Germany Tiktok actively removes content mentioning LGBT issues. I very much worry about how Tiktok is Chinese controlled and they are already abusing it worldwide to remove things that they consider threatening. It's fine while it's still a relatively minor platform, but that will change as it gets market share.

Tiktok claims to have a billion monthly active users now. That puts them #4 in the social/public-user-generated-content category, behind Facebook (2.9B), Youtube (2.2B), Instagram (1.4B), and well ahead of the likes like twitter or reddit. I wouldn't call that a "relatively minor platform".

Then I'll say it has a relatively minor use among the voting-age population. Most users are children.

It seems voting-age adults are in a large majority, with "only" 28% under-18 and therefore 72% over-18 Tiktok users[0].

However, you have more of a point if you look at typical likely-voters instead of all voting-age people.

[0] https://www.businessofapps.com/data/tik-tok-statistics/#TikT...

I remember hearing similar things about Instagram vs. Facebook many years ago.

Could this just be a honeymoon phase before the SEO experts arrive in force to help make content go viral while ByteDance starts testing different monetization strategies by messing with the feed?

It felt like that for a bit but then they (Tiktok) just pushed a release that removed reposts/memes from the main FYP feed. All of a sudden, it became much more interesting again.

But I agree with the overall point that at some point people will learn how to game it.

> Once you start liking content, the feed completely changes from teenage lip sync videos or other teenager-oriented content into such a nice variety of content.

I hear some commonality here with how people describe reddit: "Sure, by default it is a cesspool but once you dedicate energy to seeking out the better content, it really is there, hiding deep in the weeds."

Clearly, I'm paraphrasing with added hyperbole to make a point, but I don't find the argument compelling that social media really can add value to our lives as long as we ignore the most visible and popular content within it.

On reddit you need to put in a lot of effort to find the good stuff, usually by stumbling across good subs from outside the site. TikTok is better at serving you the things you like as you passively consume them.

They have good editors that know their audience.

Sure some what you see is supported by "algorithms"; but what you sense ("playful, authentic, and raw" ) is the result of a deliberate editorial policy done by a group of actual humans.

Erm. No.

Imagine all that time spent watching other people do hobbies you would like to have instead be spent actually doing those hobbies. Where would your life be right now and where would it go from there.

Never got into instagram/tiktok and its less appealing every time I hear about it or see too small kids addicted to it. I am rather too busy living real life interacting with real people - that isn't some smug snobbishness, just that online interaction in such a form simply doesn't cut it for me, too bland, too passive, too shallow and life painfully too short for such mistakes.

Tiktok is the anti-Instagram.

It rejects Instagram’s focus on aesthetics and instead appeals to playfulness and authenticity.

Was instagram genuine and organic at first ? it would be interesting to understand why IG became a faux marketing department, or if it quickly became so naturally.

It's nice to see that tiktok doesn't devolve into a soul sucking fake life stream.

It's the Eternal September effect but for self-promotion.

IG was "genuine" when people were fleeing there in droves to escape the parents and grandparents that had turned FB into a PG-rated blandscape of baby and family pics.

At the time, IG was this new thing that seemed to focus on artistic self-expression. This was when IG filters just recoloured your photos, and didn't smooth out wrinkles or add dog ears and tongues.

At some point people realized that you could take photos with product placement, and it was all downhill from there.

It'll happen to TikTok as well.

God.. beyond the sad but obvious pattern. It seems the web is just a incoherent runaway. New "platform" > bubbly phase > distortion for bad incentives (money, fame, else) > rot > abandonment for next "platform".

It was fun to observe that during the myspace days but it's getting annoying.

Huh it's funny. When you put it that way is sounds like all those same arguments people have been making against crypto - except the fallout from the "rot" phase of crypto will have very significant real world consequences.

It's as if people who have been on the internet since those days can easily see what's coming.

Plausible, except I think crypto ending up as yet another asset class might enjoy a longer life because, allegedly, institutions are playing in it now. They can leave too though.

Yet, but it will.

Hey, maybe it will stabilize.. surprises happen :)

Is there a way to remove the overlays? By that I mean the crap above the videos? I really can't use it with those, I'm autistic and it's just too much.

That sucks. Imagine if you worked there and realized that.

That won't last.

Also, TikTok already existed. It was called Vine.

The first Chinese app with some traction and it blows american ones by being delightful and diverse :D

Wait for them to start doing TV shows with some non-Chinese focus.

I think Chinese cultural exports obviously lag behind those of Japan and Korea because the government censors confine their creatives, leaving them less free to create.

The CCP really, really likes video clips of happy people doing cheerful things, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying that content, but really great films and TV shows challenge us, give us fresh new perspectives, and make us see the world a little bit differently. China may be able to compete with some of the more guilty-pleasure sorts of TV content, but it's hard for me to imagine many high quality films that resonate with the human spirit coming out of China any time soon.

I'd love if they proved me wrong.

> I legitimately laugh my ass off

Same here. And then I read all the other comments on this post by people who don't get it, don't think it's funny, isn't getting "good" content, and I start to wonder if I'm lucky?

Except, I haven't really liked or disliked anything on the app. I'm just scrolling, flipping away videos that I don't like, staying on videos I do. Sure, there's a lot of crap, but there are just so many diamonds on there! I can easily laugh my ass off every night, because the format is just perfect for a bunch of quick visual gags.

The duet feature and the re-use song feature enable so much absolute hilarity, because of the repetition humour.

Which is why I watched a TikTok of someone putting a 3D-printed magic wand on top of a sea urchin, set to the sound of someone saying "Avadakadavra" in a really high-pitched voice, and I just fucking lost it. It's brilliant! Brilliant!

Because I trust hacker news (somewhat), I just installed tiktok for the first time.

15 minutes into it I felt it starting to suck time out of my life because the algorithm is repsecting my wishes and (unlike others) seems to recognize that people have more than one interest and that not interested means not interested.

I just removed it again for that very reason.

3 days and it’s algorithm can figure out what you like, unstoppable after that, it just freaking knows you, brilliant app.

You removed it because it was giving you enjoyment?

Is everyone here just determined to make themselves miserable?

I’ve tried it twice now and it just doesn’t click for me. I think the most interesting thing it found for me was a video of a person doing some really excellent welding.

Instagram and HN are really the only social media I regularly use. Instagram because I follow my friends and I enjoy seeing what’s going on in their world and HN because I usually learn something reading it.

Ah, HN in a nutshell:

"I'm having fun on <popular social media>!"


> because of the repetition humour

Like a young child then

I am having difficulty finding TikTok's addictiveness. My job depends on understanding consumer apps, so in the past 1.5 years, I've been trying TikTok anew every 3 months, each day at least trying to spend 10 minutes on it no matter how uninteresting I find the content to be, but end up giving up after 3 to 7 days each time I try. I swipe quickly past uninteresting content, stay on mildly interesting ones, and make sure to click like or add comment on interesting ones, in order to send signals to AI.

I'm not embodying any fake persona, just trying to find what I would find interesting. I just don't get addicting content. I even try searching so that TikTok would get explicit keywords from me.

I subscribe to a bunch of email newsletters and RSS feeds, check Reddit and Twitter daily, and check HackerNews morning and night, and I have no problem finding interesting content every time I open these things (Twitter being least interesting to me out of this list).

I like software engineering, business, product management, marketing, and technology industry generally. I don't believe I am so far from regular consumers: I check out mainstream videos on YouTube like MKBHD and even subscribe to his podcast (This is to show I find content for "mainstream consumers" interesting, though I work in tech and know more about tech things than MKBHD's target audience).

Can someone help? Why is the whole world praising TikTok while I am failing repeatedly?

>I subscribe to a bunch of email newsletters and RSS feeds, check Reddit and Twitter daily, and check HackerNews morning and night, and I have no problem finding interesting content every time I open these things (Twitter being least interesting to me out of this list).

I think we have the same "problem": "content" doesn't engage us, "discussion" does. It's not so much about the exact topic as much as the ability to see other perspectives. All these modern social media platforms are awful for discussion and actively downplay it, despite all the popular ones having some form of commenting features. The closest modern analog would be discord, but discussion is almost as ephemeral as Snapchat once you get even a tiny bit active. small group servers kind of capture the feel, but still isn't meant for longform replies like this one,

Feel free to mention if I missed the mark by a country mile. But I've been thinking about this for a while on why I can browse reddit for hours but can't stand instagram for more than a few minutes (aside from my resistance to give Facebook another account to mine data from). reddit has more discussion than I could ever read (perhaps even too much). Youtube comments are pretty low quality (in both formatting and content) but does the bare minimum needed to post stuff longer than a tweet.

(That said, I've been getting way more into silly cat videos than I ever wanted to, so who knows?)

This is 100% me. If I can't mainline a bunch of people's perspectives within minutes, I'm not interested. Video is waaayyy too slow. Granted, I also have an exception: I watch YouTube regularly, but I have to be doing something with my hands at the same time.

And it's not an attention span thing — I read books. It's about the density of information and the speed with which I can traverse it. I can read as fast as I think, but even 2x speed videos don't get there. So without an additional activity to fill my whole attention space (is there a term for this? ADHD people might have one?) I get bored.

You might be aware, but it's possible to watch YouTube videos at faster speeds by entering certain simple JavaScript snippets into the browser's console. Just in case it helps.

This is very insightful. I didn't think of it from this angle, but I think you hit it on the nail that I find discussions among people, not unidirectional presentations from a tiktoker, interesting.

Thanks for helping me see this!

Wait. Isn’t “discussion” just another form of “content”? How is it really different?

I thought you might be referring to “other people thoughts” outside your bubble? Which could hint to why you don’t like Instagram (they try to keep you in one thought bubble) compared to HN/Reddit.

PS: I’m actually interested in both, content and discussion. Which is bad because you get addicted to all kind of platforms!

Discussion is "content" but in very strong context to some other "content". Feed's next video doesn't broaden that context, it creates a new one. Reply on HN/lobsters/reddit/even 4chan of all places isn't like that.

Discussion feeds off ideas raised in previous posts; whereas the content on Instagram is more stand alone.

>Wait. Isn’t “discussion” just another form of “content”? How is it really different?

yes, which is partially why I used quotes. I don't know a precise term for what I'm describing. "content" in this context tends to focus more on the creator while "discussion" tends to focus more on the topic. They certainly aren't mutually exclusive. I feel an example of the difference is two scenario with a youtube video.

- someone with many subscribers publishing a youtube video on their channel and the resulting comments (people who likely have some personal investment in the creator) skewing towards discussion of the creator's thoughts and ability

- that same video being posted on reddit, with a degree of separation meaning that the discussion usually skews towards the topic, with little mention of the creator specifically.

The both have some mixing of discussion and content, but they have a different flavor to them. modern social media skews even further towards focusing on the creator, even in resulting discussion. Which is fine but perhaps not satifying to a "discussion focused" user who simply wants to figure out the recipe required or the work needed to perform a feat and hoping to hear multiple other voices of people who have tried/made similar things.

>I thought you might be referring to “other people thoughts” outside your bubble? Which could hint to why you don’t like Instagram

well that part varies immensely. Some people do want to try and consider multiple viewpoints, some merely want the "truth" and will inevitably muck through a lot of noise to try and find that. And others still do just want to hear their own viewpoints echoed.

It's a spectrum and I can't pretend that I fit neatly into any of the kinds of categories above. Depends on my mood and the topic. Some topics I have no stakes nor thoughts in and I just wanna see what the conversation is, while others I am pretty set in and I do just inevitably think to myself "does anyone actually know what they are talking about?"

But I think that's on a separate axis on the reason other social media don't engage me. It's not like I want a bunch of people downplaying or contradicting the creator to create "discussion". That's a lose-lose for everyone. But the nature of Instagram means it won't be easy to say, look at a cosplaying longboarder and

- see if other people also cosplay longboard

- read other people's experiences on their own attempts at cosplay longboarding

- get more context on if cosplaying longboarding is some rising trend sweeping a nation

That sorts of info is what personally sends me down the rabbit hole that somehow ends with me knowing way too much trivia on a topic I never even thought of hours later. Otherwise, it's more of a matter of "neat, that's really creative and I never woulda thought of that" and then move on with my day.

that would also explain why (as someone asked in a different subthread) twitter's recommended posts don't get the sort of engagement tiktok does. on twitter you're there to see discussions among people you follow, and pushing random recommendations into the stream just adds noise and clutter.

When I was using TikTok, it was the first truly openminded social media platform I found. Stuff I was watching on it:

- A girl coder who showed people how she operated her light airplane, flying between different little Midwest cities where she lived.

- A free diver (living in Hawaii?) who could stay underwater for several minutes at a time (and film fun chill videos while at it).

- Good relationship advice from progressive-thinking folks who weren't out to make a political point, or shame one party or another.

- Nifty yoga tricks from someone in SoCal.

- Longboarding cosplayers from Asia (yes, they would dress up... and longboard...).

It was also the first social media platform where I saw plenty of positive representation of folks from different backgrounds – including the country my parents came from. Far, far cry from what I read in the US media, by contrast. Compared to the awful divisive stuff I saw on FB, I thought to myself, it's really odd that the US tried to shut this down. Call it addictive, but it didn't leave me feeling soul-damaged.

How do you find these? I've given up on the app multiple times. Never got beyond being shown teenagers doing teenage things.

Maybe it is a regional problem? Your name sounds German, I'm in Germany and also get a lot of teenagers, and a lot of dressed up people doing staged "funny" things.

I've never seen any interesting tech content, or insightful political content (beyond hot takes on current news), or interesing hobbies and DIY projects (instead I get a lot of people from Asia doing bricklaying or welding).

Maybe we are in the wrong bucket?

(Or maybe it is a scam, and they hired a ton of people to manually pick addictive videos for selected "influcencers", and the silent masses get random videos to please the masses? :-D)

TikTok is vastly different between regions, even when you set a preferred language.

I'm American and live in Germany, and have tested it in both. In Germany, I get tons of those low-quality videos where they copy/paste something from Youtube and it looks "fried".

> I don't believe I am so far from regular consumers

> I subscribe to a bunch of... RSS feeds

Does not compute

I'll add

> I like software engineering, business, product management, marketing, and technology industry generally

Liking the "technology industry generally" is closest to mainstream interests, but even then, people like that their new phone is thinner or their new Xbox has better graphics. Regular consumers aren't too worried about ARM vs Intel, MS dropping support for old PCs, or any use of blockchains beyond asset speculation.

I was living in Germany when I started using it and I told myself that it would help with learning the language, since I was being served german language content (oddly it seemed to think I was in Austria). It was a bit dull at first but I guess somehow, I kept using it enough. I'm not a dancer or super into dance but I did get hooked by some of the dancing stuff. Slowly but surely, I now get almost no dance content and it's all explainer/politics/philosophy/cycling/etc. I definitely used the 'not interested in this' feature a lot to train it.

Interesting. So you weren't interested in dance, but you got interested through TikTok? Reminds me of how Pinterest's value prop includes exploration and inspiration (as opposed to searching for what you know you are looking for).

No. Some of the dance content hooked them but they used not interested to get rid of it.

Ah, thanks for correcting my understanding.

I have no trouble finding thoughtful and educational content on TikTok. Digital design is an example of a tech industry-relevant category that is a good fit for TikTok, I regularly find high quality videos there. Since you mentioned MKBHD, there’s of course a world of PC building, laptop/phone/gadget review, etc. over there, which I don’t care much about. The nice thing about TikTok is that the videos are as long as they need to be and no longer, and brevity is rewarded, unlike on YouTube where every other two minute video is artificially stretched to ten minutes.

Is it because you’re outside of TikTok? You maintain a mental model of the app and its algorithm. The app is in your lab, not the other way around. A like or a share is a calculated action that occurs simultaneously in your mental model and in the app.

Thinking like that kills immersion for me. For example, I was playing Mass Effect 2 on my Framework (with Wine) yesterday and caught myself thinking about whether any significant internal state would change from the conversation Shepard was having. I shut down that line of thought and dove back into the story.

I sometimes wonder if I'm not enjoying TV and movies to the fullest because I get distracted by thinking about where I've seen the actors before, the production process, or how they were able to achieve a particular effect.

I can relate, but depending on your perspective, maybe even worse because I find the recommendations off-putting. I don't understand what's happening that people like. I can't think of another word: It's just off-putting. Discordant. Dissonant.

It's like being a atheist, raised in an atheist house, in a country full of atheists and then going to church for the first time.

I think it is like licorice, some say they love it but I can't imagine why anyone would want to eat it as the taste is so overwhelming and horrible.

Yeah, some people are monsters. Like those that include black licorice in bags of jelly beans or jubejubes.

I think of Tik Tok as being like Pringles - as in, once you pop, you can't stop. Something about being able to easily flip to the next thing, combined with TikTok's excellent recommendation engine, makes for a very addictive experience - for me, at least.

If you're not enjoying it, despite using the product as intended, then I'd just guess you and it aren't a good fit. That doesn't seem to be any huge mystery - all products and services have fans and people who aren't interested.

I think it’s the perfect pavlov machine. I honestly wonder how it affects behavior.


I found it very stressful because I couldn't get rid of the annoying stuff. Swiping it away would just bring up something new that was also annoying.

Same feeling - I consume a ton online and keep trying tiktok but I'm consistently bored - just feels like the pop music equivalent of everything else.

Just out of curiosity what are you using to read RSS feeds

I use a Telegram bot.. I create a channel for each RSS feed (or a bunch of related feeds) and then add the bot to it and use some /commands, and the bot will send posts to it. I can invite other people to the channel too, and Telegram even lets you add a little chat to discuss each submission separately

The bot is @rss2tg_bot, if you don't want channels you can just begin a private chat with it and send a rss url. Or add it to a group and then it sends new posts to the group.

There should be an equivalent to Godwin's law for HN and RSS readers <3

I'd be more interested about what people subscribe to.

I’ve been interested as well for quite some time. I don’t know how to find websites. That old style of browsing was before my time.

Not to mention, who still actually maintains RSS feeds? To be fair idk if it’s really necessary.

I actually subscribe to YouTube feeds so that I don't have to ever log in. It's really nice.

But on top of that, just small websites that provide RSS. I change it up here and there.

In your experience, is RSS reliable enough to replace Reddit and Facebook as a news feed?

Yeah, I mean if you wanted, you can include reddit (and hacker news) in your RSS feed, so no need for replacement. That said, the entire point of RSS is to curate your own experience so just linking it to reddit (or hackernews) sorta defeats the purpose. I guess its nice to have both in one place.

As for Facebook, I haven't used it since 2008 when it became clear it was a cruddy company led by a misanthrope so I can't speak to that.

HN RSS does that for me very well.

I still keep Facebook to check on what are my friends been up to recently. But lately it only has part of that content.

Perhaps it is time for friend feed aggregator.

Feeder on Android, but nothing yet on PC, because all RSS feeds has ugly, old school UI.

I use feedbro on firefox and it's okay


I'm addicted to youtube and check HN everyday!! Not much else! And even youtube I like tot have it in the background while reading something.

you're rich :)
steve76 [banned] 3 days ago [dead] | | | [–]

Looks like we are in the middle of an astroturf campaign. Didn't Jack Ma get kidnapped? Probably setting that up because everyone is starving, because "the world needs a dictator!" Pathetic.

The launch is always nice because it's being pumped up. Everyone else did this a decade ago. Now they're dumping it for other stuff. Once they get old and have to monetize it will suck like everything else.

I'm tired of talking. I'm tired of convincing. These people are going to get me killed and my life is alarmingly more and more in their hands. I'm just going to start buffaloing people.

"If people have the right to be tempted - and that's what free will is all about - the market is going to respond by supplying as much temptation as can be sold." - Eliezer Yudkowsky, LessWrong, "Superstimuli and the Collapse of Western Civilization, March 2007


More and more I fear this is our generation's 'smoking'

Both things use chemical reactions in the brain to create an addiction. The only difference is that smoking is regulated.

I do not think they are the same. People addicted to social media can be locked in a room for a week, without social media, and show no adverse withdrawal symptoms. If you try the same to people addicted to drugs, they might die.

They’re also not the same thing because one is named “drugs” and the other is named “TikTok”

But putting pointless distinctions aside, an addiction is an addiction. Gambling addicts won’t die if you lock them in a room for a week (with food and water…), but they’ll go back gambling once you let them out.

Same with TikTok and other social media. They’re creating real addictions in people with real consequences. I’m not an expert scientist doctor man, but afaik addictions are bad.

Huh? I do believe they'd act the same as nicotine addicts; that is, irritable, bored, unfocused, antsy

Literally anything you do creates a "chemical reaction in the brain". That's how brains work.

It’s worse

Smoking can't be harnessed to control people, social media can be.

Also, smoking is socially neutral at worst, arguably even positive. You don’t stop seeing your mates because you really want to stay at home chain smoking. In fact, you probably smoke with your mates.

On the other hand, the constant drip feed of dopamine from social media sites does make people care less about real social interactions.

How and what is LessWrong doing? I haven't heard much about it in years. In a way, it's not a good fit in the 'post-truth' era.

From themselves, via about and a link there "A Brief History of LessWrong" https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/S69ogAGXcc9EQjpcZ/a-brief-hi...

> In 2015-2016 the site underwent a steady decline of activity leading some to declare the site dead. In 2017, a team led by Oliver Habryka took over the administration and development of the site, relaunching it on an entirely new codebase later that year.

> The new project, dubbed LessWrong 2.0, was the first time LessWrong had a full-time dedicated development team behind it instead of only volunteer hours. Site activity recovered from the 2015-2016 decline and has remained at steady levels since the launch.

> The team behind LessWrong 2.0 has ambitions not limited to maintaining the original LessWrong community blog and forum. The LessWrong 2.0 team conceives of itself more broadly as an organization attempting to build community, culture, and technology which will drive intellectual progress on the world’s most pressing problems.

I'd be curious about their funding

Thank you! That page addresses the question only in the one quoted sentence, "In 2015-2016 the site underwent a steady decline of activity leading some to declare the site dead.". This page, which I found via the link in the parent, says much more:


I suspect it's connected to the political rejection of post-modernism (in its actual meaning, not the politically loaded meaning) and with it the Enlightement ideas of reason/rationality (replaced by 'winners' - brazenness and aggression), fact (replaced by 'post-truth'), intellect, universal rights and humanitarianism (replaced by nationalism and reactionaryism), and through those things the power and obligation of humans to better their world and themselves. That rejection was widely normalized, I suspect, in the election of 2016, IME. A problem with talking about these things is a factual basis.

Yeah, that's wrong: the market is quite obviously limited by the ability to produce temptation, not consumer's finite ability to buy it.

As in: before TikTok, there was lots of TikTop-Temptation to be sold. Demand didn't change, supply did.

I think that's what the article is saying. The market will continue to innovate to provide greater temptations because that's a competitive and profitable strategy even though it will have some downsides.

And you don't need AI for this. There are lots of media outlets with entertainment news that at best, lack nuance, but most often just spread misinformation in an echo chamber they built.

I've tried it a few times. Even ran an account for a project I do.

I don't know. Maybe I'm not the right personality for this stuff but I found it annoying and taxing.

Open it up and you get these obnoxious videos and then have to press a button to make them go away. The user-base and interaction is worthless and toxic. Lots of people love it so maybe I'm just too old.

Perhaps they've "cracked some psychological secret" but I believe it's more likely they've replicated whatever makes pop music and television work for a lot of people. I have the same kind of distaste for those I have for tiktok.

But good for them. Entertainment is important antidote to stress. Glad people like it

I'm with you. I assumed it's because I'm older than the target demographic, but maybe it's just because I'm not a 'fun' person - don't sing or dance or party.

My wife loved it to death, and I just found it incredibly annoying and overbearing even just hearing my wife play with it.

Haha please don't use your affinity to TikTok as a measuring stick for how 'fun' you are! Everyone is fun in their own ways, I'm sure you are a hoot.

It'll learn. Just pulled up my tiktok account and what I got was:

- A dude from Bermuda making food from the early 1900s: @bdylanhollis

- A delivery guy who meets new dogs on his routes and befriends them: @christhedogguy

- A woman who scratches her ass... donkey: @fortheloveofass

- A dude who owns a septic company telling about his day: @wellandsepticlife

- Random animal facts: @mndiaye_97

- Typesetting and printing: @sachistorymuseum

You see the generic dancing crap and memes at first, but the system will learn pretty quickly.

You ever get the CCP validating content like a guy teaching Mandarin in a fun way?

So teaching Mandarin is validating the CCP? God forbid you take a tiny step outside your own culture and pick up the basics of a different language.

The comedy here is that if I only mentioned the mandarin teachers randomly showing up on the feed, someone would have mentioned the CCP involvement, when the reality is that I'm aware and don't care, so I tried to acknowledge the people that would care, but consensus has already shifted to defending the dopamine stream of TikTok

That's rich

>The user-base and interaction is worthless and toxic

I argue that's most modern "social" media, not necessarily a unique point of tiktok. They want the creator to be the focus, not the community surrounding them. Comments are encouraged to keep short enough to keep engagement but not take that attention away, so you'll inevitably just get some shallow encouragement as "top comments".

That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not trying to be what HN is.

> I found it annoying and taxing.

You've managed to find the word I've been looking for to describe why I don't like TikTok. It feels taxing. It makes my head spin and after a couple minutes I feel exhausted. Maybe my brain's just too slow and sensitive.

yea, it's incredibly annoying, and "cringe". the feed just doesn't give me anything interesting, or satisfying. i never felt good about using it, during or after. it's just not for me. i also hate that synthesized lady voice

> it's more likely they've replicated whatever makes pop music and television work for a lot of people.

This seems to be a good explanation. TV commercials have figured out some of these tricks, like using a louder volume than the TV show itself, or using a song that's a cover of a more famous, older song.

I find it irritating, but it probably works because older viewers recognize the song and pay attention, while younger viewers mentally attach the cover version to the product being sold.

Maybe it's because I haven't used it, but a lot of the language around TikTok feels exceptional in ways that aren't justified: Twitter has (tens of?) millions of "terminally online" users, but we don't compare it to "digital crack."

This isn't to say that TikTok isn't addictive; it clearly is. But I think there are strong recency (it's the New Thing) and exoticism (it's a weird Chinese app) biases in how we talk about it compared to other addictive social media (e.g., saying that users are "obsessed with" $FACEBOOK_PROPERTY instead of describing them as digital addicts.)

The primary difference between TikTok and other social media platforms is about a decade. For example, Development of a Facebook Addiction Scale - 2012. In other words, mostly recency. Another major difference is age group; these days platforms like Twitter will skew much older than TikTok, and "the youth are being corrupted" is really a timeless story.

Maybe, but TikTok is an order of magnitude above other social media apps when it comes to learning what you like. It’s both scary and extremely impressive.

Twitter on the other hand seems to promote monoculture, and tends to push you towards what everyone else likes. It essentially pushes whatever is popular. Some of the most interesting content and users on Twitter are shadow banned, either intentionally or through poor auto moderation.

TikTok on the other hand doesn’t care what other people like, and given it’s Chinese ownership, has no political skin in the game. So you tend to see much more diverse views.

>> TikTok on the other hand doesn’t care what other people like

Yes, it absolutely does. Nonviolent social activism, LGBTQ content, and anything judged to be "subversive" is downranked/shadowbanned.

Oh that’s interesting. An entire platforms that hinges on not trying to social-engineer its users, and being successful.

I’ve also heard that TikTok wasn’t showing the same contents inside China than abroad. It would be flattering the dopamine receptors worldwide, while flattering nationalist values inside China. Is it true? It could easily be that the engine is personalized enough that it does behave a bit differently.

I've heard that too, but I've never been able to verify it. If you find any sources on it, please pass them along.

I first heard about this on JRE and subsequent articles based on JRE.

However, China did pass "Recommendation Algorithm Regulations"[0]. Not sure if enforced.

ByteDance does operate a separate Chinese app specifically for kids[1], which is enforcing the recent anti-gaming regulation (no nighttime access, 40 minutes per day only).

The app also enforces that all kids use their real name, and they stated the following about content[2]:

  In the youth mode, we have also prepared wonderful content for you, such as novel and interesting science experiments, exhibitions in museums and galleries, beautiful scenery all over the country, historical knowledge explanations, etc. I hope these contents can arouse children's interest in a certain field, and they will learn and gain something while watching the video.

[0]: https://www.china-briefing.com/news/china-passes-sweeping-re...

[1]: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-20/bytedance...

[2]: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/zp43DhzwanDApoPCIgCvJQ

Banning LGBT content is definitely social-engineering its users.

Thinking takes effort, the goal is to make you keep watching videos and to do that the videos need to take no effort. So it makes perfect sense to downrank anything that makes you think.

They stopped doing this in 2020. Now you can easily find very popular subversive content

Yeah? Can you post about Tienamman Square?

It seems like it[1], as long as you can spell Tiananmen correctly.

[1]: https://www.tiktok.com/tag/tiananmensquare

tik tok is free of a lot of the expectations that twitter and facebook and instagram have to contend with. no one really gets upset if they think tik tok has it's fingers on the scale with regards to what you get to see. people using twitter, facebook and insta get EXTREMELY upset if they even suspect they are missing out on content or getting content "put in their face". look how much outrage erupts every time twitter defaults everyone to the algorithmic timeline

Certainly. I had a friend (and TikTok user) describe it as the "Monsters Inc. effect": TikTok is showing that you really can win engagement with honey instead of vinegar, at least in the context of all other social media providing constant negativity.

Twitter is an outrage platform. We would all be better off without it. I genuinely believe it’s a disservice to society.

Yes. There are very few things I’m certain of, but I’m certain Twitter is a net negative on society. I view Jack as one of the most dangerous humans of the last decade.

It's also full of pornography.. It's the worst thing Thiel got instead of the flying cars he had been promised.

Not my experience of twitter. I follow a few people who provide a stream of high quality insights about 99% of the time. It has materially helped my career for example.

I don’t use it as entertainment, I never tweet anything myself, I don’t read the replies to tweets and I have retweets turned off for almost all of the people I follow. If someone strays into tweeting about politics, culture wars, woke/antiwokeness then I cull them from my follow list.

That makes sense, because you are aggressively tailoring your experience to make sure you only see what you want. No retweets mean you don't get distracted from your main focus, blocking any slightly controversial topics mean you don't expose yourself to the most ornery users. But that isn't how 99+% of users who tweet use twitter.

It's like a discord server where you set "slow mode" to 5 minutes, remove reactions to comments, and require a 500 character limit to any message. That's one way to try and turn a normally chaotic, real time chat program into a sane platform for longform discussion, but few users would describe discord that was just because one niche server retrofitted it.

> Maybe, but TikTok is an order of magnitude above other social media apps when it comes to learning what you like.

I suspect that is because TikTok has different goals compared to other social media companies. Their aim (right now) is to serve you better and/or more relevant content. Whereas other social media companies’ goals are to serve you ads and what do they know about you will not be as apparent to you. I would argue Facebook probably knows even more about you, more than just preferences, but social connections etc from its subsidiaries such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

I don't believe all those kids using TikTok have the faintest clue it's "a weird Chinese app".

Not even to mention, in what world is TikTok "a weird Chinese app". It's just an improved and iterated upon version of Vine.

I wonder if there's a way Vine could have iterated and TikTok never caught on in the US. Was Vine just before its time, and that alone doomed it?

From what I can gleam, Vine simply had no way to monetize itself (something Twitter struggles with to this day, despite being the top 3 largest platforms), while Snapchat and Instagram could capitalize on that much more quickly as they implemented vine like features into their services.

And that just spelled the death toll. Why would a creator stay on one platform when the other is paying them? Consumers bemoan the constant bombardment of ads and now data tracking, but those are the costs of business if the user isn't directly paying a subscription (something services like Patreon and Onlyfans would take advantadge off around this same time that Vine was struggling. So Vine had potentially more than one way out). And if you don't/can't, some other billion dollar coporation will happily sell their soul for the trillionth time to outcompete.

These things live and die by the recommendation engine. Only fun I remember having with Vine was when someone would compile top 10 vines and put them on YouTube…

Twitter just doesn't know how to integrate products.

Even if they do, they do not care. The user only cares about what the app can do for them.

I wasn't talking about the kids using TikTok. Most of the discourse I've seen online about TikTok's addictiveness (and origin) has been by young-to-middle-aged adults.

Maybe people are using different language to describe it for a reason? Try it and develop your own informed opinion.

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