TikTok, the wildly popular social media app that revolves round 15-second video clips, has become a major cultural force. It has birthed chart-topping hits like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, incubated new subcultures like VSCO girls, and become the default way to goof off at work. But there’s a simple facet of the app—which has been downloaded over 1.4 billion times globally—that has received far less attention: It exists outside of time.
Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok is totally stripped of information like when a video was uploaded or the date a user opened their account. The app presents an endless stream of algorithmically chosen videos, which you swipe through vertically. But there’s no way to discern when any of them were posted. Tap on a user’s profile and their videos will appear in reverse chronological order, but they only display view counts. Sites like Facebook and Twitter prioritize recently uploaded content. But TikTok, named after the sound a clock makes, has no time for time itself—a decision that ripples across the entire platform.
The most obvious byproduct of that choice: TikTok videos that are weeks or even months old—an eternity on the internet—can suddenly go viral, with viewers blind to their age. “It’s cool that older content can still be enjoyed weeks later, but also annoying that instead of seeing new content I see videos from months ago,” says Moria Bryson, a TikTok creator with over 200,000 followers who goes by @mannequindude. “I wouldn’t say it