Beware of TikTok Video Tips

There are very few areas of life in which thoughtful and sound advice can be given in 60 exciting seconds. If you’re browsing TikTok and think you’ve found actionable advice on cooking, personal finance, fitness, or whatever … take heed because you probably haven’t.

Our very own Claire Lower has already cataloged one of the classic forms of this genre – the fake culinary fake. TikToker jokingly makes a video tutorial on recipes with notoriously absurd methods. If you’re not interested in a joke, you might see this and think it really works to make a steak in a toaster . (Is not.)

But it’s not just food videos that follow this format. Bloomberg offers some nice math video examples here that aren’t really financial advice, but are presented in this format. For example: write off everything from a credit card, pay with another card and continue for the rest of your life, never paying with real money.

You could say I wouldn’t have fallen for them. But does this mean that you would believe the advice on TikTok if it was a little less absurd, a little less humorous? You could.

We don’t always turn on the critical thinking part of our brain when we are faced with funny and interesting things. If I were to show you TikTok as part of a quiz to spot misinformation, you would doubt what you heard. But if it’s just something that you see when watching dance videos, you can give it the same credibility as, say, something a friend said at a party.

Even in cases where there is some truth, the main idea may be wrong.

Remember TikTok, where a woman soaked strawberries in salt water and found little worms crawling out of them? She said that all strawberries have these worms, as they are the larvae of a fly that multiplies in strawberry fields before the berries reach the store, and that you must remove them using her technique. All of this is pretty easy to believe when combined with a visually wiggling image.

There’s some truth to the video – she certainly seemed to have a fruit fly larva in her berries, but there are far more deceptions. The entomologists we spoke to said that all reports of taking home were incorrect or misleading . These worms are not found in all strawberries; you can not soak berries in salt water; and keeping them in the fridge, which TikTok-er didn’t mention, is a way to keep them from mistakes.

Fitness TikTok is rife with similar mixed messages too. If a young woman has a round butt (or makes her look that way), she may give advice on building buttocks that seems like it should be true. But after watching a few of these videos, they are rubbish . Sure, they do showcase some of the exercises you’ll feel in your glutes, but you’re not going to drastically reshape your glutes by doing 20 clamshell reps instead of 10, or sprinting on a treadmill instead of lifting weights, to name a few. a few more mundane statements. Bad information isn’t always surprising, impressive, or too good to be true. This is often just a boring waste of time.

But regardless of the subject – whether it’s training ideas or conspiracies about the coronavirus – the strength and weakness of the TikTok format is that it removes all context. Where does this information come from? Is the person giving the advice an expert or a swindler? Scrolling through silly videos can be fun, but you should still think through this stuff in the same way your parents should question the OAN stories that appear on their Facebook feeds.


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