One City Is Already Living Without TikTok, Here’s What It’s Like

TikTok has been banned in Hong Kong since 2020, and while some still lament the ban because it was their primary source of income, many others feel a sense of relief at having been freed of their doom-scrolling habits.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

tiktok hong kong

In the past year, TikTok has faced criticism from various levels of government due to concerns about the security of the data it collects from United States citizens. Despite TikTok’s denial of these allegations, several state governments have prohibited the use of the app on any state-issued device or service. Now, the government is in the process of banning the social media app altogether, but that isn’t news in places like Hong Kong where TikTok has already been banned for several years (via CNN).

It’s only been four and a half years since TikTok merged with in 2018 and became widespread throughout the world. Since then, various creators have used the app to go viral, build businesses, educate, and entertain their audiences. Meanwhile, complaints from social media users about the infinite scrolling addiction that the platform enables has become worse—but not in Hong Kong.

TikTok pulled out of Hong Kong in 2020 and received mixed reactions from users. While content creators were upset that one of their platforms was disappearing, many users felt relief that their doom-scrolling days were behind them. Now, life in Hong Kong shows what life in the United States might be like a few years down the road, if the government goes through with its planned ban of the company.

TikTok being banned in the United States could negatively affect more than five million businesses, like it did in Hong Kong. Shivani Dukhande, an ex-TikTok creator in the city had amassed roughly 45,000 followers just before the app left the country and had planned to use her platform to leave her 9 to 5 job—a dream that became crushed after the app suddenly disappeared one day. When speaking before Congress in March, Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, described that similar situations might happen to the millions of business owners and growing creators using the app in the United States.

On the other hand, for millions more users, losing the app could be a welcome change. Children and adults alike have lost hundreds of hours endlessly scrolling on the app, which has specific algorithms designed to make it addictive. Poppy Anderson, a 16-year-old in Hong Kong, is glad the app is gone because “I didn’t have the self-control to get off it on my own,” she said.

There are pros and cons to TikTok. While it is full of useful information that can educate and teach its users about things like mental health or how to learn new skills, and can also help people connect over common interests or funny dances or trends, it is also almost completely unregulated and features content that is exploitive or misogynistic like the self-proclaimed “Alpha Male” Andrew Tate’s channel.

According to Anderson, it’s just not worth it to be on TikTok, and in fact most people’s lives are better off without it. When describing how people fill their time now without the app as an option, Anderson said, “For us, that was exploring our passions more.” 

Since TikTok has left Hong Kong, people have found themselves having more face-to-face conversations, they find themselves spending more time outdoors, and their overall mental health has improved. According to Anderson, after two years away from TikTok, everyone has pretty much forgotten about the app that used to waste so much of their time.