TikTok’s Scooping Trend Is Social Media At Its Absolute Worst

I spend too much time on TikTok. Some of my colleagues rightfully view it as a zoomer nightmare filled with weird memes held up by a twisted algorithm designed to keep us scrolling more than anything else. They’re totally right, and I have long been sucked into the abyss. There is no escape, until a tarantula video pops up on my feed and I throw my phone across the room again. I’m serious, that’s happened three times now.

One trend has emerged recently that has turned the platform into a grifter’s paradise. In recent months I’ve seen a number of small businesses and independent creators find success through TikTok, building up a massive following and using their talents to reach an audience most of them deserve. That’s awesome, and shows that even if you start from nothing it’s possible to break through the social media noise and make yourself heard.

When scrolling through TikTok you will automatically be recommended livestreams to tune into, and this ranges from creators you already follow to new ones who might align with your current interests and viewing habits. In the year or so I’ve been using the app it’s worked great, but recently the commercialised nature of the platform and how that can be so easily abused has made me want to switch off entirely.

Right now, TikTok is flooded with merchants who are flogging cheap figurines, gems, bracelets, and other novelty items that are clearly being made in a factory somewhere and treated with a much higher value than they actually have. They’re sold in the form of lucky dips into a flowing crystal fountain contraption where viewers can pay to have a host randomly collect a selection of items and package it up for them. It’s treated like they’re winning something, with positive language and fun imagery reinforced by what is clearly a scam filled with fake goods you’d find down the local market. So many are falling for it.

It’s gross, exploitative, and overpriced. These channels are everywhere, which makes me believe a few separate businesses are creating several accounts and operating from the same location to maximise earnings and try to appear natural in their delivery. Since then I’ve seen these fountains joined by similar shops flogging plushies, pride merchandise, and a wide assortment of tat with no rhyme or reason to their existence. TikTok is such a huge, growing platform that it’s natural for dishonest places like this to spring up and take advantage of people willing to spend a few pennies, but to me, it all feels so hollow.

Not even Facebook or Twitter are this egregious in their money-grubbing practices, largely because they rarely give this much power to the user when it comes with communicating with audiences and persuading them to spend money. There’s a draw to having your order fulfilled on screen, providing an extra layer of serotonin as, for a few short moments, you’re the star of the show. You’re paying for things you don’t want in order to enjoy such a privilege, but for some that is more than enough. TikTok has also expanded the features available when live-streaming so certain prompts can take you directly to a curated storefront, all but enabling this sort of behaviour that ends up burying legitimate creators.

TikTok is capable of being a social media platform without equal when it comes to how inventive people can be, and we’ve seen everyone from brands to celebrities migrate to the app in order to take advantage of its cultural presence. With this success inevitably comes bloat that can abuse the algorithm and make it a worst experience for all involved. I’m not mad at the people presenting on camera and operating these shops, I’m mad at those at the top who have seen a weakness to exploit with absolutely no care for the end result. But we’re also buying into the bullshit, so perhaps the audience is equally to blame for all this.

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