As loathe as I am to admit it, I’m an entrepreneur.
And as such, there are certain games I need to play.
It took me a long time to come to terms with this. I’m an enneagram 4 with a Sagittarius stellium in my 4th House. I’ve got my Moon on my Ascendant. Authenticity is the only language I speak. I’m not a drop-shipper or a car salesman. My business revolves around encouraging people to embrace their unique individuality and celebrate their journey.
But when you work for yourself, you also need to be your own marketer.
Every business guru and their mother–and a handful of well-meaning entrepreneurial friends–has been talking up TikTok for years. I joined about a year ago, made a couple short-form spell tutorial videos, and then quickly panicked when I realized the app permissions were creepy as hell. No one gets access to my clipboard, thank you very much. I deleted the app, lost my account details, and had no problem finding other ways to waste my time.
I poured my time and attention into writing, building up my email list, pushing out content in virtual magazines and digital publications. I’m a writer, first and foremost, and my true love is the written word. But as I’ve leaned into my own personal transformation I’ve seen the value of other media–the storytelling capacity of video, the connectivity of sound. And as I stretched towards sharing more and more of myself in the name of growth, I began to wonder whether TikTok might play a role.
But before I took the plunge, I decided to ask Instagram.
I assumed everyone had heard about the spyware built into the app by now and hoped someone would be able to direct me to an article wherein every security issue was fixed while I wasn’t looking. But when I asked whether TikTok was still creepy, no one really seemed to care.
Instead of hearing about data safety, I got a lot of messages about the algorithm.
“Yeah it’s kind of creepy how well it knows you, but it’s fun.”
“Is it creepy to know what you like?”
“It’s no worse than Instagram ads.”
Almost defiantly I download the app. If it was really all that entertaining, there must be some golden nuggets hidden inside. But before I even input my name it served me a man reenacting an old Cheech and Chong video asking me to swipe for more. I tried to hit a button. Another video played, this time an angry woman with a heavy accent telling her adult child off in mixed languages. I felt my eyes narrowing in confusion. “Discover” was just as perplexing–ten second videos of girls in sweatpants working on their walk, dramatic cuts of outfit changes, teenagers lip-syncing to biology lectures. What black hole had I tossed myself head first into?
I ran back to Instagram. Surely I just didn’t know who to follow–but asking for recommendations only led me right back to the algorithm.
“Give it time. Once it gets to know you it’s great.”
The thing is I don’t want an app to know me.
I don’t want it to learn my stats and preferences, to digest my demographics and serve me specialized content in a taste-fueled echo chamber cafeteria.
Because I know that means that I am the main course.
My mind, my opinions, my self-esteem–and most importantly my wallet–are the real product the algorithm delivers.
In Google Play reviews people air their grievances about the flagrant misuse of bots to bolster accounts and shut down others. It’s a veritable playbook of programming tricks. TikTok isn’t a tool for creators or community–it’s a meatgrinder of quick consumption served both ways.
I won’t pretend my righteous rage wasn’t somewhat self-serving. There was no way my content would translate for this format and if audiences wanted quick-changes and prat falls, well, they weren’t going to tolerate my tea rituals and moon gazing… But in a parasitic system it’s hard to tell where preference ends and programming begins.
I wanted to explore TikTok to open a window into my life–one lived with passion and authenticity in small magical moments. Like this blog has cataloged some of the most transformational experiences of my recent life, like my podcast delves into themes that arise along the way, I wanted TikTok to express another side of journey I’m embarking on.
I refuse to accept the death of authenticity.
I do not welcome our New Robot Overlords, especially at the expense of genuine human creativity. In an age of accelerating technology and programmed preferences, I crave human connection more than ever–and I know so many others do too.
That’s why I keep sharing my experiences. With each post, each video, each podcast I feel my voice rising, growing steadier. And I hear you stirring. Some of you have sent me incredible messages sharing your own struggles and triumphs with stunning vulnerability. I deeply value each and every response.
Please, stay human.
Hold on to your unpredictability, your imperfection, your innately animal nature.
Don’t let them tame you.
Don’t eat from the algorithm, don’t let their categories pen you in.
Share bravely, connect deeply, and remember what you are: a divine spirit having a uniquely human experience.
Not a robot.