Wednesday, 12 Jun 2024

The Evolution of TikTok: Connecting Users to Real-Life Friends


TikTok, the popular social app known for its creative content, has been on a mission to inspire joy and creativity among its users. Unlike traditional social media platforms, TikTok didn’t focus on connecting people with their friends and family. However, recent changes have started to shift the landscape.

Discovering Real-Life Connections

In the past few months, TikTok has been making a concerted effort to connect users with people they already know. It has become a common complaint among users who are now being encouraged to follow individuals from their real-life networks. This shift has raised concerns about privacy and how TikTok establishes these connections in the first place.

Despite these concerns, a TikTok spokesperson reassured users that the platform values the safety and privacy of its community. They emphasized that TikTok offers a range of privacy settings and opt-in features to customize the app experience according to each user’s comfort and enjoyment.

Unexpected Encounters

For some TikTok users, the change in connecting strategy led to unexpected encounters. Alex, a 27-year-old living in Queens, was startled to find that her father had followed her profile one night. This incident made her reflect on her own personal journey of coming out as bisexual. While she had been contemplating opening up to her father, TikTok unintentionally revealed her secret before she had the chance to do so herself.

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Alex shares that her TikTok profile includes personal information about her identity, making the situation uncomfortable. She assumed that the algorithm wouldn’t show her videos to her father due to their differing beliefs and interests. However, TikTok’s suggested connections exposed her profile, leading to an unintended revelation.

Understanding the Mechanism

TikTok employs various methods to establish real-life connections. One of the ways is through syncing phone contacts or Facebook friends. If users provide their phone numbers during sign-up and list their age as over 16, TikTok will suggest their accounts to their phone contacts by default. This means that if someone has your phone number and you provided it to TikTok, they can find your profile unless you opt out.

Interestingly, some users were unaware that they had opted into this feature until prompted by a WIRED reporter. This highlights the importance of reviewing privacy settings and being mindful of the permissions granted to apps. TikTok also suggests profiles to users who have mutual connections, similar to how Facebook recommends friends with common connections.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I prevent TikTok from suggesting my profile to people I know?
A: Yes, TikTok allows users to customize their privacy settings to control who can find their profile. By reviewing the app’s privacy settings, you can manage the suggestions made by TikTok.

Q: What other measures can I take to protect my privacy on TikTok?
A: Apart from adjusting your privacy settings, it’s crucial to be mindful of the information you share on your profile. Consider the potential implications before posting personal content.

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Q: How can I review and update my privacy settings on TikTok?
A: To review your privacy settings on TikTok, go to the app’s settings menu, navigate to the “Privacy and Safety” section, and explore the available options to customize your preferences.


TikTok’s evolution from a platform primarily focused on creative content to one that connects users with their real-life friends marks a significant shift. While this change has raised privacy concerns, TikTok emphasizes its commitment to user safety and provides tools to customize the app experience according to individual preferences.

As TikTok continues to evolve, it’s essential for users to stay informed about privacy settings and be proactive in protecting their personal information. By taking these precautions, users can confidently navigate the TikTok landscape and enjoy the app’s creative offerings.

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