The Latecomer’s Guide to TikTok

The Latecomer’s Guide to TikTok

TikTok has become massively influential. We’re here to help you understand how it all works.

It has become impossible to ignore TikTok. It’s been a hugely popular short-form video app for hyperkinetic bursts of self-expression for years, now with more than a billion active users worldwide (some even use it as a search engine).

TikTok is not just for viral dance videos — it’s also wildly complicated. Its algorithm, which makes it easy to consume videos, has been blamed for amplifying misinformation and other harmful content. The Biden administration is currently negotiating with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, over concerns about national security and the safety of Americans’ personal data on foreign servers. And there are ongoing concerns about the mental health harms the app may pose to teenagers and young people.

But at least for now, TikTok is only growing in influence. If you’ve constantly heard it mentioned by your friends (and children) but have been unsure how it works, this guide is for you. No need to be embarrassed.

Once you’ve learned the basics, you’ll be better equipped to delve into #BookTok and other trends making news, supervise a child’s new account or just see what all the fuss is about.

If you want to add TikTok to your phone, download the app from your phone’s app store. TikTok is ad-supported and generally free.

Once you install the app, you must go through the familiar social-media ritual of setting up a new user account and profile page with a user name and photo.

On the profile screen, tap the menu icon in the upper-right corner for the account settings, including parental controls.

A sample TikTok profile page next to a screenshot of the app's Settings page.
On your profile page, you see your account’s statistics plus access settings for privacy and parental control. Credit…TikTok


After you log in, tap the Home icon and TikTok will start showing videos. The For You feed shows videos that TikTok’s recommendation algorithm thinks you will like, based on how you react to other videos and accounts. The Following feed shows clips from accounts you have chosen to follow.

Swipe up to go to the next clip. The vertical strip along the screen’s right side also has icons for liking a video, leaving a comment and sharing.


A sample of TikTok's “For You" screen next to a sample of the app's "Following“ screen.
TikTok’s algorithm automatically finds videos to play in the For You feed, while the Following tab shows clips from accounts you have chosen to follow.Credit…TikTok


TikTok’s algorithm delivers entertaining videos, but it has also been criticized for helping posts with misinformation go viral. You can address that by being proactive about who you follow.

Tap the magnifying glass in the upper-right corner to search for people or organizations you trust, or keywords. If you watch a video and want to follow that account, tap the account’s user name or icon and then tap Follow in the profile page.


An image of TikTok's "Find Friends" screen next to an image of the official Indiana University-Bloomington profile page with a large red Follow button in the center.
Once you set up your TikTok account, you can search for people and organizations you want to follow.Credit…TikTok


If you select the Add Friend icon in the top-left corner of your profile page, TikTok asks to access your phone’s contacts list to help you find acquaintances on the platform; you can decline. Unlike accounts on the Following list, Friends are people who follow you back; you can see their videos on the Friends tab. A final option is the real-time live video at the top right.

Ready to make your first video? You can create a mini movie of just about anything that meets TikTok’s community guidelines — and people do, including book and music reviews, crazy dances, funny pet moments, daily fashion choices, cooking demonstrations, language lessons and do-it-yourself tips.

You can record and edit your video directly in the app by tapping the + icon in the bottom-center of the screen, selecting Camera and hitting the Record button. Choose Story if you want to create a short clip that’s visible for only 24 hours. To upload a series of still photos, tap the Templates option to create an animated slide show.


A screenshot of TikTok's recording screen with its built-in timer and other tools, next to an image of the app's Retro Filter tool for creating slideshows for uploaded photos.
TikTok’s Camera screen for recording videos, at left, includes a timer and other tools to use while capturing your clip. On the right, the app offers templates for making stylized slide shows from pictures already on your phone.Credit…TikTok

TikTok videos tend to be short, but they can run up to 10 minutes. There’s a timer option on the recording screen. From the corresponding icons onscreen, you can flip the camera’s view, zoom in or adjust the speed of the recording.

Already have a clip you want to use? To upload a video on your phone, tap the Upload button onscreen and select the file from your camera roll.


An image of TikTok's video-editing toolbar next to an image of a sound clip being added to a video.
The icons on the editing screen provide controls for adding a soundtrack, editing the clip and applying filters, text and special effects to your video.Credit…TikTok


Before you publish your video, tap the Add Sound button at the top of the screen to slap on a soundtrack from TikTok’s searchable library of music snippets if you don’t want to use the clip’s natural audio.

A screenshot of TikTok's Stickers page next to a screenshot of the tool for overlaying text on the video.
Tap the respective screen icons on the TikTok editing screen to overlay stickers and text on your video.Credit…TikTok

From the icons along the left side of the screen, you can apply filters and special effects like sparkles and lens flares to alter the overall look of the video. You can also overlay stickers, text titles and closed captions.

After you’ve edited your video, tap the Next button. On the Post screen, add hashtags, user-name mentions, location tags and permissions for who can see and comment on your video. The Post screen includes a few advanced options, like Stitch, which allows other users to combine your video with theirs, and Duet, which allows users to post clips right beside another user’s video and play in a split-screen view, creating a dialogue or musical performance.

When you’re finished, tap the Post button to share your creation with the TikTok world. If you later change your mind, open the video, tap the three-dot menu icon on the screen’s right edge and select Delete.


A screenshot of TikTok's "Post" screen to publish a video next to an image of the app's screen for sharing and controlling clips from your account.
When you get to the Post screen, you can decide how you want to share your clip. Tap Draft to store it and upload later. Once you do publish, you have many ways to share your video outside of TikTok — and there’s always a Delete option if you have second thoughts.Credit…TikTok

The TikTok site has a full user guide, but you may learn more (and have more fun), by just playing around in the app.

Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A stable, positive, non preachy, objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre. A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
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Buy What Goes Around at Amazon

“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

The Latecomer’s Guide to TikTok

The Latecomer’s Guide to TikTok

Here’s a case of “Group malfeasance, blamed on poor judgement, from the consumption of too much wine!” A nine month investigation of the American chapter of “The Court of Master Sommeliers” has revealed a widespread expectation/demand of sexual favors in return for mentoring female applicants, undergoing the rigorous exam process, required for membership and recognition as an official Sommellier. 

This follows the complaint of 21 women that their supposed mentors, had pressured them for sex, apparently a well-established condition with a long history. So far 22 men have been investigated. 

The point being, that when a lowly activity becomes “institutionalized” in a grouping of people, ie: company, sport, union, association, religion, etc, it can go on undetected for a long time. It may even acquire an almost “accepted as part of the game” kind of cover, with those participating considering it, “just one of their perks”, and no big deal! That is, until someone blows the lid off.

That’s when everything changes for those who took part. It is not after all, that they didn’t know there was something amiss about the game they were playing. They just thought they had a really good cover! Instead, that cover just went poof, as all covers eventually do. Just another example that, “What Goes Around Comes Around!” Its just difficult to predict when. 

Colombo Family Crime Boss and 12 Others Are Arrested, Prosecutors Say

An indictment unsealed on Tuesday accuses the organization of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort a labor union.

Credit…Jesse Ward


For two decades, the leadership of the Colombo crime family extorted a Queens labor union, federal prosecutors said — an effort that continued unabated even as members of the mob clan cycled through prison, the family’s notorious longtime boss died, and as federal law enforcement closed in.

Over time, what began as a Colombo captain’s shakedown of a union leader, complete with expletive-laced threats of violence, expanded into a cottage industry, prosecutors said, as the Colombo organization assumed control of contracting and union business, with side operations in phony construction certificates, marijuana trafficking and loan-sharking.

On Tuesday, 11 reputed members and associates of the Colombo crime family, including the mob clan’s entire leadership, were charged in a labor racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

All but two of the men were arrested Tuesday morning across New York and New Jersey, prosecutors said. Another was surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday; another defendant, identified as the family consigliere, remained at large, prosecutors said.

The indictment accuses the Colombo family of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort an unnamed labor union that represented construction workers, using threats of violence to secure payments and arrange contracts that would benefit the crime family.

The charges are an ambitious effort by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take down one of the city’s five Mafia families. In addition to the union extortion scheme, which is the heart of the racketeering charge, the indictment charges several misdeeds often associated with the mob, including drug trafficking, money laundering, loan-sharking and falsifying federal labor safety paperwork.

Detention hearings for the defendants in Brooklyn federal court continued into the evening Tuesday, as they entered not-guilty pleas to the charges; prosecutors had asked the court to keep 10 of the defendants in custody.

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself,” Michael J. Driscoll, F.B.I. assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement. “The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.”

Around 2001, prosecutors said, Vincent Ricciardo — a reported captain in the family, also known as “Vinny Unions” — began to demand a portion of a senior labor union official’s salary. When Mr. Ricciardo was convicted and imprisoned on federal racketeering charges in the mid-2000s, prosecutors said, his cousin continued to collect those payments.

Starting in late 2019, prosecutors said, the senior leadership of the Colombo family became directly involved in the shakedown, which extended to broader efforts to siphon money from the union: for example, manipulating the selection of union health fund vendors to contract with entities connected to the family, and diverting more than $10,000 each month from the fund to the family.

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Andrew Russo, 87, who prosecutors describe as the family boss, is accused of taking part in those efforts, as well as a money-laundering scheme to send the proceeds of the union extortion through intermediaries to Colombo associates. He was among nine defendants charged with racketeering.

Mr. Russo appeared in court virtually from the hospital Tuesday; he is set to be detained upon his release, pending a future bail hearing.

The family’s infamous longtime boss, Carmine J. Persico, died in federal custody in North Carolina in March 2019.

Federal law enforcement learned of the extortion scheme about a year ago, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday; investigators gathered thousands of hours of wiretapped calls and conversations recorded by a confidential witness, wrote the prosecutors, who also described law-enforcement surveillance of meetings among the accused conspirators.

The authorities said they repeatedly captured Mr. Ricciardo and his associates threatening to kill the union official. “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Mr. Ricciardo was recorded saying in June.

On another occasion cited by prosecutors in the memo seeking his detention, Mr. Ricciardo directed the union official to hire a consultant selected by the Colombo family, saying: “It’s my union and that’s it.” Prosecutors said his activities were overseen by a Colombo soldier and the consigliere who remains at large.

Much of the activity outlined in the indictment took place while the defendants were either in prison or on supervised release for prior federal mob-related convictions. Theodore Persico Jr., described as a family captain and soldier, was released from federal prison in 2020 and, despite a directive not to associate with members of organized crime, “directed much of the labor racketeering scheme,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Persico, 58, is set to inherit the role of boss after Mr. Russo, prosecutors wrote.

Several of the defendants were named in what prosecutors described as a fraudulent safety training scheme, in which they falsified state and federal paperwork that is required for construction workers to show they have completed safety training courses.

One of the defendants, John Ragano — whom prosecutors say is a soldier in the Bonanno crime family — is accused of setting up phony occupational safety training schools in New York, which prosecutors said were “mills” that provided fraudulent safety training certificates to hundreds of people.

In October 2020, prosecutors said, an undercover law enforcement officer visited one of the schools in Ozone Park, Queens, and received, from Mr. Ricciardo’s cousin, a blank test form and an answer sheet; weeks later, the agent returned to pick up his federal safety card and paid $500.

The purported schools were also used for meetings with members of La Cosa Nostra — the group of crime families commonly known as the Mafia — and to store illegal drugs and fireworks, according to the indictment.

Mr. Ragano wasn’t charged on the racketeering count, although prosecutors also sought his detention pending trial. In addition to the racketeering count, several defendants, including Mr. Ricciardo and his cousin, were charged with extortion, conspiracy, fraud and conspiracy to make false statements.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.


An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people identified in an indictment as members of the Colombo crime family. It is 11, not more than a dozen.