TikTok Diagnosed Me With Autism

The controversial social media algorithm has been the answer to my identity crisis

Kiera Bolden
Human Parts
Published in
9 min readDec 7, 2023

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TikTok was recently the subject of a very bizarre Congressional hearing concerning the RESTRICT Act, which proposed an outright ban on the short-form video-sharing app in the United States. CEO Shou Chew was hounded about TikTok’s connection to the Chinese government and its handling of user data. He was asked questions like “does TikTok access the home Wi-Fi?” and, regarding facial recognition to unlock the app, “why do you need to know where [my] eyes are if you’re not seeing if they’re dilated?”.

The low-down is that TikTok does use a complex, expensive, and, yes, invasive algorithmic formula to drive usage time. But it’s far from the only app to employ Orwellian surveillance tactics. On the Internet, every aspect of your personhood is mined for profit. Tech companies spend billions each year to scrape real-time information from your devices, and that’s just for location. Your demographics, your interests, your biometrics, and your embarrassing search queries are bought and sold in an underground trade. Personal data is this century’s gold rush. In exchange for signing away our privacy in the fine print, we get content customized to exactly what we want, when we want it.

The Algorithm can be dangerous. It can also be enlightening.

As a noble last stand of sorts, I’d refused to fall down the algorithmic rabbit-hole before the 2020 lockdown. But as the months dissolved into each other, I caved. I downloaded TikTok. I started scrolling. I’ve since un-downloaded TikTok, re-downloaded TikTok, and set timed permissions for TikTok. Daily, I hit the “Allow all day” prompt without thinking. What I intended to be a reminder to put the damn phone down is now a minor annoyance as whatever video I was watching pauses and buffers. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is reach for my phone, check for messages, and open TikTok. I keep scrolling…

(Photo: Charles Deluvio)

The videos that appear on my FYP (“For You Page”) distill my personality into…

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Kiera Bolden
Human Parts

Wannabe writer, Certified G • Politics + Pop Culture