On Wednesday I attended a one-day workshop on TikTok led by my Transformational Leadership Council friend Raymond Aaron. I had never used TikTok before, and this seemed like a fun opportunity to lean in and explore divergently. Raymond has 56K+ TikTok followers, and I had zero, so I was happy to learn from him. My intention was to try it out with an open mind. The night before the workshop, I downloaded the TikTok app for the first time and created my account.
I very much enjoyed Raymond’s workshop since it was very hands-on. He got us posting our first videos quickly and helped us make improvements as we figured out the interface. Soon we were adding titles, transcriptions, and hashtags to our videos.
By the end of the workshop, I had lost my TikTok virginity and posted my first 5 videos. Four of them were just 15 seconds, and one was 60 seconds. I shared some basic tips about using ChatGPT for self-development, such as using it to generate positive affirmations or to help with brainstorming your values – nothing that I’d consider controversial by any stretch. How much could I really say in 15 seconds? I just came up with spontaneous ideas and hit record.
Since we were sharing our results with each other in the workshop, I noticed that something seemed to be off. Relative to what everyone else was reporting in terms of their view counts for their newly posted videos, my views were utterly dismal. Their views were around 10-20x higher, even for the newbies like me who had just created their accounts and had no followers.
At the end of the workshop, we shared the views for our top-performing videos. Others were typically reporting around 100 or 200 views by then. My best video was at 11 views, and the other 4 videos were all in single-digit views still. It seemed that the only views I was getting were from people going to my profile page directly, such as others from the workshop. We shared our new channels with each other as part of the experience. So TikTok wasn’t actually showing my videos to anyone else, as far as I could tell.
I also noticed that my account wasn’t showing up in a search. If I searched on my name or my handle (stevepavlina) on TikTok, my account didn’t show in the results.
Then I discovered that I couldn’t follow anyone. If I clicked the “follow” or “follow back” button, it would change colors to verify that it had been pressed, but my account would remain perpetually stuck showing that I was following zero people. I was never able to use this feature at all, so I knew something was nerfed. I couldn’t even follow Rachelle.
I sent a message to TikTok’s support to ask for help. They replied the next day with a poorly worded message about some kind of suspicious activity detected on my account, and they listed some details that seemed unrelated to how I’d actually been using it. It didn’t make any sense to me. Honestly their reply looked like a badly written AI-generated one. It didn’t seem related to what I’d asked or how I’d been using the service. And it wasn’t clear what, if anything, I could do about it or if they were going to fix the issues. They basically just told me they thought I was sus.
I thought maybe it would fix itself after a day or two. Since this was a brand new account, I figured I was in some kind of probationary limbo, like maybe they needed to do some extra security checks to verify that I wasn’t a bot or something. No one else in the workshop seemed to be having these issues though.
Yesterday I decided to post one more 15-second video about goal setting, even though the account was still nerfed, so I knew hardly anyone would see it. My intention was just to practice a bit more while waiting for my account to be fixed. I had sent a second support email to them with more details about the issue, so I was waiting to hear back on that, hoping to receive a more professional and intelligent follow-up than what I received the first time.
The next day (this morning) before heading to the gym, I opened the TikTok app and saw this message, telling me that that I was “permanently banned due to multiple violations of our Community Guidelines.”
I don’t know why, but that made me laugh at the absurdity of the overall experience.
I have no idea why they banned me. I think it’s more accurate to say they never let me in to begin with since my account was crippled from the start. I’m sure I didn’t do anything untoward. For whatever reason, my TikTok exploration was dead on arrival.
Maybe they thought it was a fake account. While I was on the service, I did see a short video of another TikToker mentioning that people were creating fake accounts to steal and repost his content under a handle almost identical to his. So I wonder if that’s a big issue for them.
Maybe they just have some poorly configured automated filtering in place that generated a false positive in my case. I logged in to my account from three different devices on the first day I used it (iPhone, iPad, and Mac), so maybe that was too many devices for them, even though they’d have all shared the same IP address. Or maybe posting 5 new videos in the first day was too quick for them. I think they ought to be able to handle 2 minutes of content though.
Perhaps it was something I said in my first video about exploring self-development with AI tools, like maybe their algorithm mistakenly flagged me as posting AI-generated content. Do they ban that sort of thing? My videos weren’t written by AI though – I was just speaking off the top of my head. In those first few videos, I was more focused on figuring out how to use the TikTok interface versus putting much thought into the content.
Despite the unprofessional treatment from TikTok, I think I got what I wanted from the experience, which was to satisfy my curiosity about their service. I didn’t get the chance to delve into it very far, but at least I got to take a sip. Since my account is now permanently banned, there’s no need for me to wonder about possibilities there anymore. That’s oddly satisfying since it lets me release any energy that would have been tied up in curiosity about TikTok. Now I know that TikTok isn’t a match for me to invest in, so there’s nothing more to wonder about in that direction. That frees up that energy to flow elsewhere.
So that was one of the quickest self-development explorations I’ve ever done – from start to finish in under 48 hours. And I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve been banned from any social media platform, so now I can say that I’ve lost my social media banishment virginity too. How marvelous.
As a spontaneous afterthought… I shared what I wrote above with ChatGPT and then asked for its opinion. Here’s what it said.
Then I asked…