Banning TikTok?

Montana’s ban of TikTok has certainly made the news. The US national security and intelligence apparatus has raised very legitimate concerns about the app gathers data, especially one of the owners of TikTok is the Chinese Communist government. The Communist regimes of the Cold War were at the forefront of surveillance and surpassed the West in developing ways to keep an eye on dissidents. It is not hard to turn those assets into monitoring foreign powers.

The CEO of TikTok has said that it has not turned over US-based data to the Chinese. Despite his statements, it does not mean that this CEO has not given the data to someone else. Someone who can turn around and give it to the PRC. Or someone whom the PRC hasn’t already hacked or has ownership access. I do not trust a single word that this man has to say.

The ACLU and TikTok have begun or has already filed a lawsuit against the state of Montana on First Amendment grounds, probably the “abridging the freedom of speech” clause. However, I don’t think that’s a good reason. The state has not muzzled anyone’s opinions. It just said that an app with dubious software security vulnerability cannot be downloaded in that state. A better cause of action might be interference with business contracts.

I have many reasons why I am in favor of banning TikTok.

TikTok, like all other social media platforms, is just another tool for people to express themselves and sharing knowledge. It is neutral; it can do good and harm. Unfortunately, all the studies about social media usage are discovering more and more negative effects. In fact, it is tilting towards harm.

Some of the content is extremely toxic. You might have seen Dove’s ad about TikTok – how users are posting content that create bad health images. Eating disorders, crash diets, viewing other people’s curated “perfect life” – how is there anything good that come from allowing TikTok to exist?

TikTok is a time waster. Yes, there is a hashtag #TikTokTaughtMe but you have to ask: is what TikTok teaching you really worthwhile? Has TikTok really addressed the real issues of the heart – your origins, your purpose, and your ultimate destiny?

Even as I and many other social scientists raise alarms about the effects of social media, these platforms are too embedded in our social fabric. LinkedIn is the only platform I will use, and I use it the way it is meant to be used: connect to others professionally. I want to show my best work to prospective employers and clients. That is it.

If TikTok is banned in other states, I think that’s a good thing. I think it might even improve people’s mental and emotional health. I have read some studies that just how much social media has rewired the human brain to seek gratification. The more likes on a video, the more it triggers the rewards center of your brain. Anything to give you that high…

BUT, I also noticed the less time spent on social media, the happier I am. The more time I have to read for pleasure, the more time I can spend writing my novels, or working on my plastic models, etc. The more time I can devote to yard work, instead of rotting away on a couch with the phone to my face.

Getting rid of most social media platforms has contributed positively to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. And if banning one of them helps others, so be it.


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