You’re casually browsing on your TikTok feed until you realize you’ve already spent minutes, or even hours, watching videos on the popular platform. Are you curious how TikTok was able to put you on a hook? We may finally have an answer.

Way before TikTok, you’ve probably already heard of the word “algorithm” thanks to platforms like Facebook and YouTube. What you might not realize is, it’s a really significant component that pushes you to spend more time on a particular platform.

So the question is, how does TikTok’s algorithm actually work? Thanks to the recent report from The New York Times, we have the answer on how do video algorithms work varies in different platforms. In fact, how they operate is purposely kept a secret. So much so that platforms wish no one will ever find it out.

Thankfully, the NYT was able to obtain an internal TikTok document called “TikTok Algo 101” that gives a layman’s look at how their algorithm works. The said document came from an anonymous employee and has been confirmed by a TikTok spokeswoman to ensure its legitimacy.

What is TikTok algorithm and how does it work?

Generally speaking, TikTok’s algorithm works just like everyone else. It tries to know what you like, gives you more of it, then will show you different content to mix things up so you don’t get bored.

But on a closer look, TikTok’s algorithm appears to work under four objectives: user value, long-term user value, creator value, and platform value.

This means that the longer you use TikTok, the bigger the chance to make money from advertising, which is essentially the goal of both TikTok and its content creators. It also shows in the platform’s move to allow longer videos. From the 15-second limit, some creators are now publishing up to three-minute videos.


The algorithm’s performance is shown on the platform’s For You feed. TikTok doesn’t just show you random content. The videos you’re seeing were curated based on your interest. Also considered are their video length, level of monetization, and creator quality — these are the reasons why you’re hooked and were able to spend a bunch of time scrolling to the feed without even noticing it.

Why am I seeing unhealthy and/or problematic videos on TikTok?

There’s no denying that unhealthy and problematic videos are rampant on TikTok. In fact, this is the main reason why an employee leaked the internal document to the NYT. It’s said that the insider was “disturbed by the app’s push toward ‘sad’ content that could induce self-harm.”

As said earlier, the main goal of TikTok is to keep users hooked and keep them coming back for more. This means showing content that a user may have an interest in, and sometimes those interests can be quite dark.

Why is TikTok so addicting?

TikTok’s algorithm is so powerful that, even though you’re already aware that they’re pulling you in, it’s really hard to completely break free.

At the end of the day, TikTok was created to make money, and they make money by building and keeping an audience, and they’ll do everything to grow them.

That said, this latest report gives us an interesting look at home some of the biggest social media companies in the world operate.

Source: NYT

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