TikTok’s Other For You Page

Finessing the algorithm with a little help from your mutuals.

Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, from Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.🧩

You’re in her DMs sharing delightful TikToks, and so is today’s guest blogger, Michelle Santiago Cortés. —Nick

Every night, before I go to bed, I check my direct messages on TikTok. There are usually 30 or more, 60-plus on a good day. They're just videos, same as the ones served up by the algorithm on my For You Page—except they’ve been maniacally curated by my sister and my closest friends. A rag-tag team of three to six mutuals generate my Other FYP, a darker, sexier heavier-lidded version of the official FYP I’m greeted with upon opening the app. The Other FYP is the Shego to TikTok’s Kim Possible.

My official FYP and my Other FYP are in a never ending, neck-and-neck race to see which one can provide the best stream of TikToks. If my sister sends me something I already saw on my FYP, I hit her back with a “SEEN!” and she knows to up her game. (On the flip side, if I notice someone only reacts to one of 12 TikToks I submitted for their Other FYP, I hang my head in shame.) Sometimes, I’ll see something on my official FYP that I had previously seen on my Other FYP, and I think: “TikTok could never.” 

When I scroll through TikTok, I see the familiar faces of the creators and celebrities I enjoy, laugh at the in-jokes of my relevant communities, and delight in a handful of fun hacks (after I fact-check them elsewhere). My FYP is that girl, an ouroboros of TikTok memes about TikTok memes about TikTok memes that make no sense in any other context, and that’s fine. The curators behind my Other FYP are key parts of that context. As we scroll through our respective FYPs, we think of each other and occasionally pause to press send. Our FYPs, in turn, begin to show the traces of people we commune with in the DMs. 

An embarrassing example: My sister and I love the Korean boyband NCT. While it’s literally nobody’s business but mine, I’m a Johnny fan. “My FYP is all Johnny because of you!” my sister, a Yuta fan, complained to me a few weeks ago. But my official FYP is all Yuta, because I keep liking the Yuta videos in order to get new ones to send my sister.

That’s care. The algorithm can’t beat that.

When I first joined TikTok in late 2018, it wasn’t a social space for me. Nobody around me was on it then, so I hardly opened the app. Two years later, my friends and family found their own unique reasons to join, and I think I can claim some credit here: I often texted them funny and weird TikToks from a FYP that only two years of chronic online-ness can curate. I’d hear a lot of “I just joined TikTok but my FYP is nothing like the things you send me” or “I’ve been stuck on Straight-Tok for months.” Like a grade school Dunkaroos dealer, I offered to send people a sampling of my FYP to jump-start their FYP. Now they're just returning the favor. —Michelle Santiago Cortés