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Insight: College introduced me to Advice-Tok

Growing up without TikTok brought me a new perspective on the dangers of an endless feed of life advice and taught me to think before I scroll

The Echo-tik-tok-life-advice-insight.jpeg

"But if advice accounts are neither good nor bad, how do we decide what advice to take, and how seriously to take it?"

TikTok is banned in India, so for the first 18 years of my life, I had no access to it. When I started college in the U.S., I assumed the app was just for unproductive scrolling — all slime videos and fit checks.

But I have recently made a new discovery: the app is also dishing out life-altering advice.

Advice pages on TikTok certainly seem to have good intentions on the surface. They often provide a platform for discussing issues that young adults and teenagers face regularly, such as friendships, relationships and everything in between.

Since so many people are eager to share their opinions and experiences and so many people are looking for community online, advice accounts on TikTok and Instagram have thousands of followers each

Here's my hot take: there might be more to this life-changing advice than you think. 

I've noticed that advice online often veers into the extreme. In the places where my peers try to find tips on navigating young adulthood, they are often met with opinions that are baseless and controversial. 

I'm not saying everything they say on the internet is a lie. But the way that TikTok packages advice in short videos with eye-catching captions often leaves little space for critical thinking. 

People tend to take this advice seriously, and that’s where the problem begins.

Often, these accounts use buzzwords like "psychological hack," "red flag" or "toxic" while saying that their statements are backed by research. This advice is often given by people claiming to be qualified to give advice (doctors, psychologists) without any proof of qualification. 

Often relevant and full of emotional appeal, these videos are perfectly created to be interesting to scroll through – but that doesn't mean they're reliable. 

@advivce Reply to @chxrls_melio lots of ppl have been asking #hyurfhgrivbr #fyp ♬ original sound - Advice✔️

For example, one side of TikTok that shocks me is the "alpha male" influencers who tell men to not be emotionally expressive, which glaringly dismisses the progress of men's mental health research and advocacy. 

I thought these opinions were confined to the app, but I've started to notice echoes of this advice in my real life, in conversations and in my peers' attitudes.

But even lighthearted advice can have negative consequences, such as setting unrealistic dating expectations and rushing viewers to conclusions. 

The curators of these accounts don’t take responsibility for where their advice lands you. This content can send a viewer into a spiral of thought, making you analyze the "psychological" reasons why you locked eyes with your crush once in the dining hall where you both eat every night.

But I am not here to tell you that these accounts are out to get you — I have had some positive experiences with advice accounts. Internship and interview advice videos helped me get a better-looking resume and feel more confident about going into interviews. 

But if advice accounts are neither good nor bad, how do we decide what advice to take, and how seriously to take it? 

I found the answer in my political science textbook: think critically, even during your late-night scrolling. 

Regardless of where the advice comes from, I have realized that it is imperative to think about it for yourself. Only you have the context clues and gut feeling to decide what to do about the eye contact between you and your crush. 

Edited by Sophia Braccio, Sadie Buggle and Grace Copperthite.

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