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Student opinions are mixed amid UT Austin’s campus TikTok ban

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Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT

Advice on getting into the University of Texas at Austin.

Man-on-the-street-style interviews about fashion trends.

A compilation of clips from the semester set to a Taylor Swift song.

These are all videos you can find if you search “UT Austin” on TikTok. You just can’t view them if you’re connected to campus wifi.

UT Austin blocked access to TikTok, an app where you can scroll through short videos from creators around the world. Several other universities in the state, including the University of Texas at Dallas and the Texas A&M University System, also have banned access to the app.

This follows Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive to ban the app from all state-issued devices, citing the Chinese company that owns TikTok in the way the app tracks user data.

Sarah Winch, a junior public relations major at UT Austin and the social media editor at the Daily Texan student newspaper, said TikTok is the No. 1 social media app of choice for college kids right now, with Instagram a close second.

Winch said that while students are taking note of the ban, not everybody is up in arms.

“I feel like there’s some mixed opinions between the students here, but all in all, I don’t think many of them are concerned, especially since a lot of them like to use cellular data if needed, especially when they’re on campus,” she said. “They can still access TikTok, obviously, when they’re off campus.”

Realistically, Winch said, students are likely to connect through campus wifi to do schoolwork on their laptop, but not everybody uses the network on their phone.

However, Winch said the Daily Texan will look to adjust its social media strategy in light of the news. The student paper, like many news organizations across the country, has a TikTok account. The Texan has about 1,700 followers on the app and posts everything from behind-the-scenes videos of newspaper staff to interviews with students, as well as clips from campus events like football games and concerts.

Last year we did see an increase in engagement on TikTok when we utilized it; we also saw similar engagement when we were posting daily on Instagram,” she said. “So we’re just going to plan on posting on Instagram and putting some more video content on that platform as well. Since Instagram Reels are available and really just overall, our main goal is to continue connecting with our community.”

Reels, Instagram’s video feature that launched after TikTok gained popularity, contains much of the same content as TikTok. However, Winch said many students still prefer TikTok. While Winch herself does not spend much time on the app, she said she knows most of her peers use it daily.

“A lot of people go to TikTok, whether it’s a stress reliever or something to distract their mind and find some amusement,” she said. “I know it’s very quick-paced on TikTok, so Instagram may not be as quick, but I still think a lot of our students that are active on TikTok are still active on Instagram as well.”

And like with any group of people the size of UT’s student body, Winch said there are bound to be a mix of opinions on the ban.

“UT has a very large student population, and we all have different opinions,” she said. “I definitely know some students may be more frustrated than others, but some may just continue using social media, using TikTok, whatever they prefer.”

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