Jan 2nd, 2023, 09:00 AM

Does your FYP know you too well?

By Chandler Sumpter Gillyard
Image Credit: Unsplash/Eyestetix Studio
My TikTok knows me better than I do.

Dearest reader, if you happen to be someone who is connected to the world through social media (or frankly, just a living human being in the year 2023), it's more than likely that you know of, or for that matter actively use, TikTok.

The social media site began as a lipsyncing music platform called Musical.ly in 2014 before it was bought by the Chinese company Bytedance in 2014, and eventually merged into what we now know as TikTok. From there, the app gained popularity through dance videos, serving as a launching pad for people like Addison Rae and Charli D'Amelio to fame and fortune, and evolving to include a variety of trends, memes, controversy, and more. 

And as if the fame of TikTok wasn't clear enough on the app itself, virtually everything worth watching trickles down through other social media apps like Instagram or Facebook weeks after their debut on TikTok, and forcing everyone to laugh when their parents show them a video they saw a month ago like it's the first time they've seen it.

Image Credits: Unsplash

The secret to the platform lies in its so-called "For You Page," also known as the "FYP." More and more, TikTok's FYP gets intimate with users, learning from the way they interact with different content, and often appearing to know each user better than they do themselves. The app's algorithm learns from each and every interaction you have with it, all in the name of giving you better content to keep you on longer.

For example, you might have noticed that after that one time you left a certain video playing while you washed your hands, you saw nothing but videos like that. That's because the algorithm prioritizes watch time to decide what you like, and to figure out what videos to queue up next for you. But in the normal context, whether the topics surround mental health, hobbies, habits or interests, your FYP learns about you through every interaction. 

In addition to watching time, according to a leaked document reported by the New York Times states " what shows up on your 'For You Page' is determined by likes, comments." Through a combination of similar videos and more diverse "curveballs" your FYP begins it's curation.

"I don’t think it knows me better than I know myself," said Lauren Rosker, a Sophomore at AUP. "It’s a known thing that social media apps track what types of content you interact with so that they can show you more of what would be interesting to you."

But she admitted that while she doesn't believe her FYP knows her better than she does herself, she does think it knows her well, "the videos on my FYP definitely fit a demographic I belong to."

Due to its data collection Tiktok has the ability to know one intimately, their interests and will put you into any number of so-called communities, including ones like BookTok, where book reviews and suggestions, along with library aesthetics, take hold. 


A post shared by TikTok (@tiktok)

Rosker mentioned GymTok being a large percentage of the videos she has, alongside "fashion, 'grwms,' some like makeup, Xmas lists, animals, babies and children, some funny ones, cooking, and recipes," she said. "Every now and then I'll have a really random video pop up like these children who have dance battles in the street but besides that, it's pretty standard." 

So the next time you're scrolling on TikTok and your FYP throws you a curveball, that's the algorithm learning more about you, and it's working as hard as it can to get to know you better and more intimately than you know yourself. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a wonderfully curated FYP date waiting for me.