Image: Saumya Grover via Canva
On a recent Friday while cooking dinner, my partner, Mathieu, asked me to look up a recipe for Tzatziki, a popular Greek cucumber and yogurt dish. "Which website should I search," I queried. He responded, “Check TikTok.”
Recipes aren’t the only thing that people can look up on TikTok. For avid Gen Z users like me, TikTok is the new search engine. With posts on fashion advice, date ideas, restaurants, tourist sites, news, and more, the app is a hub for information. The platform caters to individuals from all backgrounds, so each user has a virtual space to share and view content that matches their interests.
Before almost every social outing, I browse the app to find new places to check out. I’m not looking for the most fashionable restaurants and events that Google places at the top of its search results. Instead, I’m hoping to find hole-in-the-wall restaurants or last-minute social events. Such results are often not visible on Google as businesses do not have enough time to publish a formal announcement online and ensure it appears at the top of users’ searches.
When I search for restaurants on TikTok, I can see the number of likes a post
has received. I often opt for posts with a few thousand likes as it confirms the place has enough of an audience to be noticed online but also isn’t so popular that I have to wait months for a reservation. Unlike Google, where you have to scan through thousands of links, TikTok allows me to conveniently scroll through the search results until I find a semi-viral video that fits my preferences.
So why did Mathieu suggest I search for recipes on TikTok? He finds TikTok convenient as he can spend half as much time as he would on Google to consume double the amount of information. “On Google, there’s so much reading to do, but on TikTok, all I have to do is watch a 30-second video, and I have my recipe,” he told me.
I know others who feel the same way about TikTok as Mathieu. My friend Liza Arensten used TikTok to search for skincare advice. Unfortunately, her results weren’t as promising as mine. “I had really bad acne for 2 years, and I kept trying to follow the advice of random people on TikTok and ended up wasting a ton of money trying so many different products that just made my skin worse,” Liza told me.
Since many of the users on the TikTok app are Gen Y and Gen Z, she assumed there would
be some users whose struggles resonated. But she failed to consider the possibility of promotional content. “In retrospect, the people who were recommending products for acne-prone skin probably didn’t even use what they were advertising and were just getting paid to promote them,” Liza said.
Thankfully for me, TikTok provided a delicious Tzatziki recipe that we have continued to use ever since. Liza was not as lucky and had to see a dermatologist to help with her skin. “I wish I had done that in the first place instead of taking the advice of influencers who aren’t really qualified at all,” she said.
Although the risk of misinformation is high, I still consider the app safe for research on information like cooking, lifestyle hacks, and restaurant suggestions. Ever since the Tzatziki moment, I have also used the app as a search engine for healthy dessert recipes, all of which have worked out successfully. However, just like skincare advice, cooking advice can still
backfire. So whenever a recipe seems suspicious, I still go to Google to compare ingredients and cooking steps to avoid food-fails.
Saumya Grover is the Special Projects Intern at Digimentors. She is also a junior at Fordham University studying Journalism, Digital Media, and International Studies. Saumya is passionate about advocating for those from marginalized communities through storytelling.