I don't use TikTok neither I'm by any means interesting in diving deep in yet another social media rabbit hole but boy! am I interested on their impacts on society and the future? If you're using any social media, for sure you've came across this new trend on TikTok where people act like NPCs. An NPC, or non-playable character, is a term commonly used in video games to refer to characters that are controlled by the game's artificial intelligence rather than the player. These characters serve various roles, such as advancing the game's plot, providing information, or adding depth and context to the game world. So, you may have guessed what's this trend. If not let me explain to you.
The NPC trend on TikTok involves users imitating non-playable characters from video games by livestreaming and uttering nonsensical and repetitive phrases in response to gifts sent by viewers. This trend was popularized by Montreal-based content creator PinkyDoll (@pinkydollreal). Despite its bizarre nature, the trend has been growing on TikTok, with viewers flocking to NPC livestreams to send gifts, and content creators can earn money from the stickers they receive during their livestreams. PinkyDoll, for example, revealed that she earns at least $7,000 when streaming for an average of six hours per day, significantly more than what she used to make on TikTok before. Many content creators have joined the trend, mimicking PinkyDoll and even dressing up as in-game NPCs or famous movie characters to offer a unique experience to their audience. Now the question is, what such trends do to your brain, social skills and the future of our society.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a popular social media platform known for its short-form videos, often featuring creative and entertaining content. Originally known as Douyin in China (source), it was launched in September 2016 by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, a company that has attracted legislative, regulatory, and media attention in several countries over data privacy, security, surveillance, and censorship concerns (source). The main goal of this app at the beginning was to allow users to create and share short-form videos with background music. In 2017, ByteDance launched TikTok for international markets, and it quickly gained popularity, especially among younger users. By 2018, TikTok had become one of the most downloaded apps globally. The platform's unique algorithm, which showcased content tailored to each user's interests, played a significant role in its success. However, it has also faced challenges related to data privacy concerns and scrutiny from governments over content moderation. Despite these challenges, TikTok has remained a dominant force in the social media landscape, captivating users with its engaging and entertaining short videos.
TikTok Trends and Consumer Behavior Targeting
Trends on TikTok can spread rapidly, with users from all around the world participating in challenges, dances, memes, and other viral content. Some of the most popular trends on TikTok include dance challenges, lip-syncing to audio clips, cooking videos, life hacks, and various comedic sketches. The platform was particularly popular among younger audiences and had a significant influence on internet culture. TikTok's short videos are typically between 15 to 60 seconds in length, making them quick and easy to consume. Users can create and upload their own videos or view content shared by other users. The app is designed to be highly engaging and user-friendly, with several key features: For You Page (FYP), Video Creation, Music and Sound, Hashtags and Challenges, Interaction, Discover Page, and Live Streaming.
TikTok employs sophisticated psychology (source) and user behavior targeting (source) strategies to optimize user engagement and retention. By leveraging algorithms that analyze user interactions, content preferences, and viewing habits, TikTok's "For You Page" is tailored to each individual, presenting them with highly relevant and engaging content. The platform's addictive design, short video format, and autoplay feature keep users scrolling and watching for extended periods (source). Moreover, TikTok encourages social validation (source) through likes, comments, and shares, tapping into users' desire for recognition and acceptance within the community. This combination of personalized content, addictive design, and social validation drives user behavior, fostering increased time spent on the app and ultimately contributing to its immense popularity and user loyalty.
The TikTok video created by @glam_with_dee
TikTok NPC and eGirls
As mentioned earlier, the "NPC streaming" trend on TikTok is about creators imitate non-playable characters from video games by performing nonsensical actions and dialogue for entertainment. The trend involves a transactional approach to engagement, where viewers purchase virtual gifts for streamers, driving their reactions and gestures in response. The article also delves into the parallels between livestreaming and webcam work, highlighting the connection between NPC streaming and the marketplaces of intimacy seen in gamer culture and online sex work. It emphasizes the economic ties between online fame and adult content, and the challenges faced by creators in navigating societal perceptions and hostilities towards intimacy-related content.
This trend is a sub-trend to an umbrella category called "e-girl". E-girl is a term used to describe a specific internet subculture, particularly popular on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and gaming communities. The term "e-girl" is a combination of "electronic" or "internet" and "girl." E-girls are typically young women who adopt a specific aesthetic and style characterized by colorful hair, heavy makeup (often featuring winged eyeliner and blush under the eyes), alternative fashion choices, such as oversized clothes, chokers, and platform shoes, and sometimes accessories like facial piercings. The e-girl aesthetic often incorporates elements of anime or video game culture, with references to popular characters and styles. In addition to their unique appearance, e-girls are known for their active presence on social media, where they share content like selfies, dance videos, and creative short-form videos. They may also engage in online gaming communities and livestreaming platforms.
In the article "Live play, live sex: The parallel labors of video game live streaming and webcam modeling", Ruberg focus on webcam modeling and video game live streaming. This article is related to the concept of "e-girls" in the context of online self-broadcasting. E-girls, as mentioned earlier, are young women who often engage in online self-broadcasting, particularly on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, where they share content like selfies, dance videos, and creative short-form videos. This subculture exhibits overlaps with the activities discussed in the article, as both webcam modeling and video game live streaming involve forms of self-broadcasting on digital platforms. Moreover, the article discusses the labor involved in webcam modeling and live streaming, highlighting the similarities and challenges faced by individuals in both fields. Similarly, e-girls, while often pursuing their passions and creativity, may also encounter the laborious aspects of building an online presence, creating and curating content, engaging with their audience, and managing the social dynamics within their respective communities.
General Social and Psychological Impacts (Critical View)
The widespread use of TikTok has given rise to various social and psychological impacts on both the current and future generations. While many believe that TikTok can provide entertainment, creative expression, and a sense of community, it's crucial to recognize and address the potential negative social and psychological impacts it may have on current and future generations. Encouraging responsible social media use, digital literacy education, and open communication with young users are essential steps towards mitigating these challenges.
A critical view reveals some concerning aspects:
Social Comparison and Self-Esteem: TikTok's emphasis on showcasing polished and curated content can lad to social comparison among users. Constant exposure to idealized body images and lifestyles may contribute to lower self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy, especially among impressionable young users.
Addictive Nature and Excessive Screen Time: The addictive design of TikTok, with its endless scrolling and short video format, can result in excessive screen time. This can negatively impact users' daily routines, sleep patterns, and overall well-being, leading to potential physical and mental health issues.
Validation and Self-Worth: The pursuit of likes, comments, and followers on TikTok can create a sense of validation and self-worth tied to social media metrics. This may foster a dependency on external approval, affecting users' self-esteem and mental health if they don't receive the desired recognition.
Cyberbullying and Online Harassment: As with any social media platform, TikTok is not immune to cyberbullying and online harassment. Negative comments and trolling can have severe psychological consequences for victims, causing anxiety, depression, and even self-harm in extreme cases.
Privacy Concerns and Data Collection: TikTok's data collection practices have raised privacy concerns, especially for younger users who might not fully comprehend the implications of sharing personal information online. The potential misuse of data could lead to identity theft or targeted advertising, further impacting the well-being of users.
Dumbing Down of Content and Attention Span: TikTok's short video format may encourage the "dumbing down" of content, prioritizing quick entertainment over substantive and educational material. Additionally, the constant exposure to short-form content might contribute to a shortened attention span, affecting the ability to focus on more complex tasks and activities.
Impact on Relationships and Social Interaction: Excessive use of TikTok might lead to reduced face-to-face social interactions, impacting the development of meaningful relationships and communication skills among young users.
Potential Detachment from Reality: The curated and idealized content on TikTok may create unrealistic expectations and perceptions of the world, leading to a disconnection from reality and an inability to differentiate between online fantasy and real-life challenges.While many believe that TikTok can provide entertainment, creative expression, and a sense of community, it's crucial to recognize and address the potential negative social and psychological impacts it may have on current and future generations. Encouraging responsible social media use, digital literacy education, and open communication with young users are essential steps towards mitigating these challenges.
The concept of "social dumbing down" and mass control
To understand my perception on "social dumbing down," I would like to briefly discuss several related concepts and theories in the fields of media studies, sociology, and psychology address the impact of media and technology on society, communication, and cognition.
Information Overload: This concept suggests that the vast amount of information available through media and technology can overwhelm individuals, leading to difficulty in processing and making sense of information. Information overload may result in reduced attention spans, decreased comprehension, and decision-making challenges. (source) TikTok is a platform with a vast amount of content. Users may encounter an overwhelming number of short videos, challenges, and trends, leading to difficulty in processing and making sense of all the information. This can result in reduced attention spans and decreased comprehension, as users quickly scroll through numerous videos without fully absorbing their content.
Filter Bubbles and Echo Chambers: These phenomena refer to the tendency of social media algorithms to show users content that aligns with their existing beliefs and interests. As a result, individuals may be exposed to a narrow range of perspectives, reinforcing their pre-existing views and limiting exposure to diverse viewpoints. (source) TikTok's algorithm shows users content based on their previous interactions and interests. If a user engages with NPC trend videos, they are likely to see more of these videos, reinforcing their existing interest in the trend. This can create a filter bubble, limiting exposure to diverse content and viewpoints beyond the NPC trend, potentially leading to a skewed perception of TikTok's overall content.
Shallow Processing: This idea, rooted in cognitive psychology, posits that the fast-paced and superficial nature of online content consumption may lead to shallow cognitive processing. Users may engage in quick skimming rather than in-depth reading or critical thinking.(source) TikTok videos are short and designed to capture users' attention quickly. The fast-paced nature of the platform may encourage users to engage in shallow cognitive processing, quickly consuming and reacting to content without engaging in in-depth reading or critical thinking about the topics presented in the videos.
Technological Determinism: This theory suggests that technology influences and shapes society, culture, and human behavior. It emphasizes the role of technology in shaping social interactions and information consumption patterns.(source) TikTok, as a social media platform, influences and shapes social interactions and information consumption patterns. The popularity of the NPC trend is partially driven by the platform's design, which encourages short, engaging videos that appeal to users and keep them coming back for more content.
Media Effects Theory: This umbrella term encompasses various theories exploring how media influences individuals and society. Examples include cultivation theory, which examines how media exposure shapes individuals' perceptions of the world, and agenda-setting theory, which explores how media influences public opinion by determining which issues receive the most attention.(source) The popularity of the TikTok NPC trend and other trends on the platform can shape individuals' perceptions and behaviors. Users who frequently engage with the trend may adopt the phrases and behaviors associated with NPC characters in their own videos, influenced by the content they consume on TikTok.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory: This theory, from social psychology, explains how individuals experience discomfort when holding conflicting beliefs or attitudes. Social media exposure to conflicting or contradictory information can contribute to cognitive dissonance and affect decision-making processes.(source) Users exposed to conflicting content on TikTok, such as videos challenging or critiquing the NPC trend, may experience cognitive dissonance if their beliefs about the trend are at odds with the contrary viewpoints presented in other videos. This discomfort may lead to a reassessment of their views or a reinforcement of their existing beliefs.
A Generation Unaware of Mass Mind Control and Manipulation
To conclude this article, I would like to finalize my opinion on such Trends focusing on the concept of "social dumbing down" and theories related to mass mind control (source) and manipulation. In an article named "Mind Control World Control - The Encyclopedia of Mind Control", Jim Keith discusses the concept of mind control and its historical development. The focus is on exploring how mind control has been used and why, as well as its potential implications on society and individuals. The article highlights how mind control has been employed in the context of shaping a New World Order (NWO) agenda, which involves removing national borders and governments to establish a global control system. It touches upon the historical origins of NWO plans and their support from various groups and organizations, including Freemasonry, Illuminati, and others. The author links the NWO project to eugenics and population control, mentioning sterilization practices in several countries, including Sweden and the USA, as means to create the "perfect human." Additionally, the article mentions the connection between mind control research and the Nazis, as some Nazi scientists were transferred to the USA through Operation Paperclip and continued their research on mind control. The CIA also used similar target groups for experimentation as the Nazis did, such as ethnic minorities, refugees, mental patients, prisoners, sexual deviants, drug addicts, and terminally ill individuals.
In the context of TikTok trends, the concept of "Mind Control and Dumbing Down Society" can be related to the influence and impact of popular trends on the platform. TikTok's algorithm is designed to show users content that aligns with their interests and preferences, creating a personalized feed that can potentially contribute to information overload and filter bubbles. How?
TikTok's endless stream of short videos can lead to information overload for users. With a vast amount of content available, users may find it challenging to process and make sense of all the information presented to them. The rapid consumption of various trends and challenges might result in reduced attention spans and decreased comprehension.
TikTok's algorithm tends to show users content that matches their existing interests and beliefs, creating filter bubbles and echo chambers. Users may be exposed to a limited range of perspectives, reinforcing their pre-existing views and limiting their exposure to diverse viewpoints. This phenomenon can contribute to the polarization of opinions and hinder open-mindedness.
TikTok's format, with short and snappy videos, encourages quick skimming rather than in-depth reading or critical thinking. Users might engage in superficial processing of the content, leading to shallow cognitive engagement with the topics presented in the videos.
TikTok, as a technology platform, influences and shapes the behavior of its users. The algorithmic recommendations and addictive nature of the app can dictate how users interact with the content, shaping their social interactions and information consumption patterns.
TikTok's influence on individuals and society falls under the umbrella of media effects theories. The platform's content can shape users' perceptions of various topics and issues, affecting their worldview and opinions.
In the context of TikTok trends, these factors highlight the potential power of the platform in shaping the way users think, perceive, and behave. As the article "NPC in real life" explains the trends on TikTok can be even worse including users creating videos that involve harassing, embarrassing, or frightening people in public. Such trends on TikTok including the current NPC trend reflects a cultural myopia in general. Cultural myopia (source) refers to a narrow or limited perspective and understanding of other cultures, often leading to a lack of awareness, empathy, or appreciation for cultural differences. It is a form of ethnocentrism, where individuals or groups believe that their own cultural norms, values, and beliefs are superior to those of other cultures.
You may ask, how a simple stupid trend such as NPC TikTok Trend can be harmful? Well, think about it this way. The majority of users of this platform are young, possibly even generation Alpha (the demographic cohort succeeding Generation Z). According to Statista, as of April 2023, it was found that 21 percent of TikTok's global audience were women between the ages of 18 and 24 years, while male users of the same age made up approximately 17.5 percent of the platform's audience. Based on SproutSocial statistic, in fact, 25 percent of TikTok users are age 10 to 19, capturing a segment of Gen Alpha. Now, to answer your question imagine this portion of users, special gen alpha, viewing others as NPCs. How it works is that the creators of these videos let the viewers dehumanizing them, treating them as insignificant and thoughtless entities, similar to characters in a video game that lack true agency or emotions. This dehumanization allows the viewers to justify their actions, as they perceive their targets as unimportant and inconsequential, just like background characters in a game.
Distribution of TikTok users worldwide as of April 2023, by age and gender
This trend promotes selfish behavior. A behavior that is cultivating by capitalism for decades. This selfish behavior is happening when viewers seeing themselves as the protagonists and the character as mere NPCs, and this encourage the viewers to prioritize their own amusement or desires without considering the feelings or experiences of the people they are watching. It reinforces a self-centered mindset where others' well-being and emotions are of little importance compared to their own entertainment or self-gratification.
So, I tried to show how virtual interactions, such as video games and social media, can influence real-life behavior and perceptions, leading to a lack of empathy and a disregard for the impact of one's actions on others. Meanwhile, I gave you something to think that why there are waves after waves of such trends, or apps after another are being created to dumb down the society more and more by reducing the attention span, emotional response and thought process. I encourage you to recognize the harmful nature of this trend and the importance of fostering empathy and understanding towards others, both online and in real life. Let me know how you feel about such trends and in general social media and their connection with mass mind control.