In addition to pursuing mental healthcare and wishing they could afford a house, there’s something else more than a quarter of young American adults now do: get their news from TikTok. The social media giant has recently seen a steady rise in news-related traffic, bucking the trend of its peers.
In a climate of widespread misinformation and subsequent mistrust for social media platforms as news sources, many users are slowly tuning out of their usual doomscroll. However, there’s one platform where things are slingshotting in the other direction. TikTok has seen massive growth as a trusted news platform in the past three years.
TikTok Enters the News Arena
According to recent Pew Research data, 26% of US adults under 30 regularly get news on TikTok, more than any other age bracket.
The site is rapidly moving to join or potentially outpace its social media competitors as a primary news source for typical Americans.
The platform has been gaining a wider audience, and it has also been growing as a news source with existing users. The Pew data holds that 33% of TikTok users now regularly consume news on the site, showing a rapid 11-point climb over the last three years.
This increase is particularly remarkable during a period when almost all other major social media platforms: including Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube all saw a decline in this metric.
Of the platforms studied, Instagram and Twitch were the only others to grow as news sources among their users. In the three-year period from 2020 to 2022, they grew by 1% and 2%, respectively. By comparison, the double-digit expansion of TikTok’s news-consuming user base speaks to a larger story.
How TikTok is Gaining Attention and Trust
There is no single cause at the heart of TikTok’s rapid rise as a news source, although a few critical factors undoubtedly play a role.
Of course, looking at any trend among social media platforms in the last three years, one cannot reasonably ignore TikTok’s overall growth. Since early 2020, the site has roughly tripled its active users. More established competitors like Facebook and Twitter are unlikely to see that much expansion at this stage in their lifecycle.
More people are consuming news from TikTok because more people are consuming content from TikTok. However, there’s more to it than that. The Pew data shows more than a gross gain in the number of people getting news from TikTok; it also highlights a higher percentage of the site’s users treating it as a regular source.
This latter trend could signify the latest social media giant taking share from its more mature competitors.
The decline in news consumption on platforms like Facebook and Twitter could signify the growing mistrust for news on the sites. After several years of various interests targeting these platforms to sway public opinion, trust for the sites as news sources continues to erode.
Bite-Sized News in a World That Never Stops
To non-users, TikTok may come off as a platform for entertaining teenagers with short attention spans. But, impressions notwithstanding, TikTok could be a critical part of a more significant shift in how we share and receive information. It is a culture and communication epicenter for a world that’s growing and changing at a breakneck pace.
Consider some of the more innocuous sides of the social media platform, where rapid-fire micro-trends often explode into popularity and disappear entirely within days.
Is this the next progression of an endless-feed-fueled, dopamine-addicted generation, or is it a reflection of the world they inhabit? In a world where markets rise and fall with the tides, and the latest political bombshell is always around the next corner, platforms like TikTok may offer a solution, not a cause, of short attention spans.
The interconnectedness of the information age has brought many excellent things, but it has also brought the resting anxiety of a constantly moving world. Young Americans may find their solution to this problem in platforms like TikTok. They may turn to news sources that give them what they need to know when it happens and keeps them moving.
A New Era, or a Reflection of the Moment?
TikTok may not be the definitive future of news, but it is at the center of a continually changing media landscape. Just as Facebook and Twitter began ripping market share from traditional news networks over ten years ago, TikTok now appears to be doing the same to its more established peers.
Young people are flocking to TikTok as one of their primary news sources. In the years ahead, we may see a continuation of this trend as more new users join the platform and existing users gradually move away from sources they no longer trust.