We’ve Got It Wrong on TikTok

|March 30, 2024
Tik Tok logo crossed out with ban sign over flag of USA

I’m completely unqualified to write about social media.

I have no smartphone. I’ve never used an app and don’t know how they work.

I don’t use Facebook, Instagram or X. I don’t text and can’t even retrieve messages on my 10-year-old flip phone.

So why should I weigh in on the controversy surrounding TikTok?

Because the height of citizen disempowerment is when the only real option for solving a problem is action by the federal government.

When decent folks look to the government for answers, they’ve gone down a path that leads to fewer freedoms, less liberty and more tyranny. Or at least more interference in their daily lives.

I recently watched Sen. Rand Paul argue with Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade. They kept yelling over each other. Paul kept calling Kilmeade a liar for saying TikTok is owned by the Chinese, and Kilmeade could only scream “algorithms!”

It was quite an exchange for two conservatives who usually come down on the same side of issues. It was jarring.

For the record, I’m no friend to TikTok. The many allegations about how it harvests data, encourages social dysfunction, and is simply not good for America are all probably true.

But if we’re going to use the federal government as a sledge hammer to go after businesses we don’t like, what might be next?

Blame Game

As a farmer who raises a lot of cows, I can imagine John Kerry and Bill Gates devising a similar campaign to rid the country of burping, farting bovines.

But I can think of lots of companies that destroy Americans, not the least of which are Coca Cola, McDonald’s, the makers of Hot Pockets and Lunchables, and Monsanto (now owned by Bayer).

Where does “this business is bad and must be exterminated” end? And what kind of elitist thinks he can demand it be sold and to whom?

This whole storm is a classic victim mentality expressed in a blame game that demands rescue by legislation. I’ve got news for you… legislation seldom brings rescue. It usually brings enslavement at worst and unintended consequences at best.

Add to this the second involuntary manslaughter guilty verdict in Michigan against the parents of a high school shooter. We have a culture reeling in the face of multiple dysfunctions but unable to create a consistent responsible response.

If parents don’t want their children on TikTok… and if Americans don’t want their personal information going to the Communist Chinese Party… who is requiring that anyone log onto TikTok? Is someone demanding sign-ups?

I don’t think so.

With the courts now deciding parents are liable for their children’s behavior, wouldn’t it be consistent to tell parents struggling with social-media-induced teen mental illness they’re responsible because they gave their kids smartphones? This is a consistent responsible response.

Every TikTok participant is a willing customer. Parents who don’t want the influence on their kids should step up and become referees for their children’s lack of judgement. Really, no parent needs to buy their child a smartphone.

As a culture, we say we’re addicted to these technologies… yet refuse to reimagine life without them. If the government did not provide any mental health services, perhaps parents would feel a bit more responsible about their children’s mental diet.

The mob runs in a certain direction. When it comes to a cliff it then says not it’s responsible for running that way.

Speak the Truth

Folks, this is crazy.

If all the effort expended against TikTok was invested in positive alternatives, speaking truth and reality rather than obnoxious seduction, perhaps we could get to a better place.

I’m thinking, for example, about the campaign that publicized the dangers of smoking. Remember the videos of smokers’ lungs? We didn’t need to shut down the tobacco companies. As culture, we came together to educate and explain the dangers of smoking. For the most part, it worked. Movies and TV shows voluntarily quit showing smokers.

A cultural campaign against social media addiction could yield similar results. Show pictures of teen suicides due to depression from not measuring up to viral videos.

An 18-year-old in our community was tragically killed last year trying to make a sensational TikTok video. His pickup truck rolled over an embankment and crushed him during his attempt to create something outlandish.

How about plastering his crushed body on some ad campaigns, explaining “addiction to social media viral videos can kill you. Don’t participate. Just say no – that’s courage.”

How about philanthropists start therapy farms for recovering social media addicts like we have wagon trains for juvenile delinquents?

When a culture decides to intervene on an issue, it can harness tremendous resources and creativity – and accomplish much in a short time. All voluntary. All with consent. All because noble, sacred journeys attract people.

Anyone who thinks the federal government is the only and best protection is asking for the worst of all possible remedies.

Running to the government without first exhausting voluntary citizen resources is a recipe for tyranny and ultimate defeat.

We must not let our aversion to TikTok or any other demonized business erode our commitment to freedom.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. Others who like him call him the most famous farmer in the world, the high priest of the pasture, and the most eclectic thinker from Virginia since Thomas Jefferson. Those who don’t like him call him a bioterrorist, Typhoid Mary, a charlatan, and a starvation advocate. With a room full of debate trophies from high school and college days, 12 published books, and a thriving multigenerational family farm, he draws on a lifetime of food, farming and fantasy to entertain and inspire audiences around the world.