TikTok’s algorithm is almost too good. While it’s no secret that it’s what keeps you on the app until you’re muttering to yourself “last one” for the fiftieth time. But over the past couple of months, I’ve found the social platform’s algorithm to also be a very accurate and even unnerving reflection of some of the darkest corners of my mind.
One way TikTok’s algorithm serves up new videos is based on time spent, for me, that initially provoked a slew of faux time traveler TikToks, ridiculous comedic bits, and some stylish TikToks, too. But, a few months ago I fell into a mental health rut, and while I privately acknowledged that the videos I was lingering on more than usual were those of glowing models skincare routines, cosmetic surgery, weight loss before and afters, and workout tips, I didn’t realize that TikTok was taking stock of that particular usage as well.
All too soon, my enjoyable TikTok reprieve had become a Black Mirror-esque monstrosity. The content I was ingesting was a direct reflection of the voice in my head that always tells me I am not enough, which had been louder than usual lately. Once the algorithm picked up on my insecurities, it was full steam ahead and I was inundated. Here, try this eyeliner trick to make your eyes look bigger! Use this concealer “the right way” to give yourself a face lift! Here is how you get abs in two weeks and become a millionaire by age 21! At certain points, I felt like I was tapping into a network of secrets only best friends would pass along, and other moments I felt like I was devolving, watching myself intrigued by women who perpetuated diet-culture and other harmful belief systems.
This TikTok K-hole led me to more than just feelings of inadequacy. Occasionally, the anxiety-inducing clips would pause for a video that was actually helpful. One in particular was a TikTok where a cheerful woman lazily pedaled on a stationary bike that had a built-in desk. She looked quite happy pedaling while she clicked around her computer screen. Although a rather ridiculous contraption, I was considering investing in a standing desk, so a bike-meets-desk felt like something good for me. Movement is integral to my happiness, even if it’s going on a five minute walk in the morning. If I too lazily pedaled while working, would I feel better? Isn’t some movement better than nothing?
So I ordered the bike on Amazon and after some time spent putting it together, I had my very own desk bike. While this efficient thing is no Peloton, meaning I’m not breaking a full blown sweat, it has helped me find more movement in my otherwise sedentary at-home lifestyle, without sacrificing time working. I’ll pedal and write, or Zoom for about an hour or two each day (the seat starts to hurt after approximately two hours). On busy days, I still feel like I took care of myself, which is something we all need during these strange and stressful times.
Here, shop the efficient desk bike that will keep you moving while we all continue staying still.