‘I risked my life, please like!’ Mobile app Tik Tok has Hong Kong children craving acceptance – and some are going to dangerous extremes
Doctor specialising in addiction warns it is risky for young people to evaluate themselves by their number of ‘likes’ on social media
It is not new for young people to seek attention. But the experience offered by popular online video platform Tik Tok has children craving acceptance among their peers.
“I risked my life to take this, please like!” one teenager in Hong Kong posted after uploading a video of himself sitting at precarious spots, including, it appears from the video, on the edge of a bridge.
“My dad said he will give me HK$2,000 (US$250), if there are more than 60 likes, please like me,” one girl wrote.
“My arm was burnt. Liking my video means wishing me well,” another girl posted.
Young Hongkongers are also forming “alliances” on the platform, where they promise to give each other reciprocal likes.
Tik Tok, one of the world’s most popular apps, allows users to grab attention through a 15-second video. Lip syncing and finger dancing are among some of the most popular clips.
Others involve more peril. At midnight on Tuesday, a young woman walked onto Whitfield Road in Causeway Bay and videoed herself dancing in front of a bus that was about to pull away. She uploaded it to Douyin, the mainland Chinese version of Tik Tok, sparking a backlash that she had ignored road safety.
In mainland China, a two-year-old girl in Wuhan, Hubei Province, was found to have sustained injuries early this year after her father attempted to recreate a dangerous move he saw in a Tik Tok video.
Hong Kong children expose their identities, thoughts and flesh to millions of strangers on popular iPhone app Tik Tok, Post finds
He dropped the toddler on the ground when he tried to flip her 180 degrees.
Repeated incidents have forced the app manufacturer to put a “do not attempt” disclaimer on clips featuring stunts, according to mainland Chinese reports.
For younger users, the appeal is social acceptance. Most told the Post they found it “relaxing” when asked why they created their videos. One 15-year-old high schoolgirl told the Post she checked the app every 10 minutes because the funny videos helped her relieve stress.
But when they received negative comments, they felt unhappy. “Haters go away” is a line often seen in their bios.
“Compared with Facebook and Instagram, I have more likes here,” a girl in Primary Five, who declined to be named, said. “It makes you feel a sense of accomplishment.”
She posted more than 650 videos attracting 35,400 likes and has more than 2,000 followers.
But Dr Elda Chan Mei-lo, a supervisor at the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals’ Integrated Centre on Addiction Prevention and Treatment, warned it was risky for young people to evaluate themselves by their number of “likes” on social media.
“How many likes you have doesn’t mean how likeable you are,” Chan said, citing a case of a woman in her 20s who suffered from depression after photos and paintings she posted on social media were criticised.
Douyin launched an anti-addiction system in April that reminds users to rest after using the app for more than 1½ hours consecutively if the function is turned on. Tik Tok did not reply when asked whether it would adopt a similar system.
Tik Tok also promoted a young Japanese girl named Hinata as its popular user with 760,000 followers and 8.5 million likes. Her followers surged by more than 100,000 in three days, the Post observed. Her account was followed by many young Hong Kong pupils.