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TikTok’s Homogenization of (Western) Culture

TikTok has created a cultural phenomenon in the west, causing culture to converge and become more of the same.

Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

In recent years, TikTok has emerged as a dominant force in the world of social media, captivating millions of users across the globe. With its addictive short videos and rapidly growing user base, TikTok has not only become a place for entertainment but has also had a profound impact on Western culture.

The social media platform has contributed to homogenizing Western culture, blurring regional distinctions, and creating a sense of global cultural convergence. See the following CNN article for further reading on how TikTok has changed, specifically American culture.

One of the defining features of TikTok is the ability to create and participate in viral challenges and trends. These challenges, often characterized by specific dances, memes, or catchphrases, can quickly spread across the platform, transcending geographical boundaries.

As a result, Western culture has experienced a phenomenon where people from different countries engage in the same trends, mimic each other’s actions, and share a collective experience. This has led to a homogenization of cultural expressions, as individuals are influenced by the dominant trends on TikTok, blurring the lines between different Western and distinct cultural identities. Millions of people across the globe can dance along to the same songs, participate in the same trends, and create viral content.

To see an example of a TikTok trend that represents a convergence of culture—”Cottagecore”— where simple living in the countryside is emphasized, see here: Why Is Gen Z So Obsessed With Cottagecore?

The Globalization of Influencer Culture

TikTok influencers have become ubiquitous on western phones in the past decade. Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

TikTok has given rise to a new generation of influencers who amass millions of followers and wield significant cultural influence. These influencers often promote a specific lifestyle, fashion trends, or aesthetic preferences, which can transcend local cultural differences. Consequently, Western cultures that were once distinct and unique are increasingly being influenced by a globalized influencer culture.

This can be seen in the way fashion, beauty standards, and even language are becoming more standardized across different Western countries, eroding the diversity that once defined these cultures. The impact of this influencer culture that TikTok has created can even be seen on other social media platforms such as Instagram, and YouTube, where influencers or hopefuls try to cash in on the virality and its rewards (including monetary) that TikTok produces. For more general background on TikTok (from Medium), see here.

The Impact of Algorithmic Recommendations

TikTok’s algorithmic recommendation system plays a pivotal role in shaping users’ experiences on the platform. By analyzing user preferences and behaviors, the app’s algorithm tailors content to each individual, often leading to an echo chamber effect.

While this customization enhances user engagement, it also limits exposure to diverse cultural perspectives. As a result, users are more likely to be exposed to content that aligns with the dominant cultural trends, further contributing to the homogenization of Western culture.

Transcending Linguistic Barriers

The app’s predominantly visual format and international user base have created an environment where linguistic barriers are overcome. Short videos can be understood and appreciated without relying on language comprehension alone.

This has led to a convergence of cultural expressions, as trends and ideas can easily transcend language differences. Western users from different countries can now engage with each other’s content, leading to the diffusion of cultural influences across borders and the gradual erosion of distinct regional cultural identities.

Impact on Creativity and Originality

While TikTok has undoubtedly democratized content creation, enabling anyone with a smartphone to express themselves creatively, it has also led to the replication and recycling of ideas. The emphasis on viral trends and challenges often results in a formulaic approach to content creation, with users imitating successful videos rather than exploring their unique creative potential. This focus on replicating popular content contributes to the homogenization of Western culture, as individual creativity takes a backseat to the pursuit of virality.

Conclusion

TikTok has undoubtedly had a significant impact on Western culture, fostering a sense of homogeneity by blurring regional distinctions and creating a global cultural convergence. Through viral trends, globalization of influencer culture, algorithmic recommendations, transcending linguistic barriers, and influencing creativity and originality, it has become a powerful force in shaping a more uniform Western cultural landscape.

While this cultural homogenization has its merits in terms of fostering a sense of global unity, it also raises concerns about the loss of regional diversity and the potential commodification of cultural expressions. As the platform continues to grow in popularity and influence, it is crucial to recognize the implications of this homogenization and find ways to preserve and celebrate the richness of regional cultures within the Western context.

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