This setup has a natural outcome: As soon as content about some specific thing—or some specific person—trends, more content of that type will be produced. TikTok doesn’t want you to comment on someone else’s video. It wants you to make your own version of the same thing. Then your version might worm its way into the algorithmically generated “For You” feeds of other users and find its own success. The fact that TikTok pushes every single video out into these feeds, at least for a test run, means that any user, no matter how obscure, can audition for virality.
That leads to problem No. 2: Once a TikTok video starts to get attention, there are no checks on its spread. This may seem true of all kinds of viral content on any social platform, but there are subtle differences. A viral tweet or Facebook post rarely gains its reach without assistance: Tweets may blow up only after they’ve been retweeted by accounts with big followings, or by tight-knit clusters of accounts (such as those belonging to MAGA Twitter or K-pop fans); Facebook posts may not catch fire until they’ve been shared download video tiktok tanpa wm to big pages or in super-active groups. On TikTok, you don’t need a middleman. You just need to perform well in front of the test audience you’re granted by default. As a result, whenever a potential villain starts to surface, a pile-on can form even faster than it might on other platforms.
Read: The myth of the ‘first TikTok war’
If anyone can make a viral hit at any time, the opposite is also true: Even a TikTok star with lots of followers can make a total flop. The platform’s legendary fickleness—and the aura of mystery around its “For You” filtering—creates a third problem. Sitting out a site-wide meme can be costly, so any event that the algorithm seems to be championing becomes too good to miss. The algorithm’s mystery leads users to create “folk theories” about it, Spiro, from the University of Washington, told me. They guess at which colors it likes, which times of day it’s most interested in new videos, and how many seconds it wants a clip to be. Users sense that they are “doing battle with this algorithm, and it’s sort of anthropomorphized,” Spiro said. This battle may feel winnable only when a trend appears. Andrew Downing, a 27-year-old social-media strategist based in New York, told me he felt this way about West Elm Caleb. “I knew that I was hopping on it at the right time,” he told me. “I’ve seen so many trends. So I know when it’s too late. I know when it’s too early.” His Caleb video got about 129,000 views, compared with his normal numbers of less than 1,000.