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How to teach TikTok what you like to watch

It’s called the For You page for a reason

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

For those who may not yet be familiar with it, TikTok is a different type of social media platform. Unlike more traditional platforms like Instagram or Twitter where you manually curate your feeds by choosing to follow others — most likely, people you know — TikTok uses an algorithm to curate a highly personalized feed of videos. This algorithm can get shockingly specific as it gathers the videos it thinks you’ll like.

TikTok’s main page is named the For You page — and that really means for you. For instance, after I’d been on TikTok for a while, the algorithm figured out that I’m a grown-up emo kid (it was never a phase, Mom) who is trying to learn French, spends too much time playing The Sims 4, and is also queer. But TikTok’s algorithm didn’t get that shockingly specific by itself. It took time and effort for me to tailor the videos so perfectly to my tastes.

While TikTok does eventually learn the type of videos you like, it can be challenging to find content that appeals to you when an account is brand new. At the start, the For You page will typically show mega-viral videos from the app’s most popular users, but if you want to see what other videos and creators are out there, there are a few steps you can take.

Do you still have a Discover page?

Once upon a time, the easiest way to find videos was using the Discover page to see what was trending. The Discover icon was located at the bottom of the page to the left of the center Add icon. Unfortunately, last May, TikTok announced that it was introducing a Friends tab that would let you “easily find and enjoy content from people you’re connected with.” Eventually, many TikTok users found that the new Friends tab had replaced the Discover tab — and that the Discover tab had disappeared entirely.

If you still have the Discover tab (and according to a support page still up on TikTok’s site, some people still may have it), you’ll find a collection of popular hashtags, sounds, and effects when you select it that lets you start to tell the TikTok algorithm what you like. You can also use the search bar up top to look for topics you enjoy.

TikTok’s Discover page lets you search on hashtags.
TikTok’s Discover page let you search on hashtags.
TikTok with cat
The bottom tab (second from left) that once led to the Discovery page now leads to a Friends page.

Search for topics without the Discover tab

Even if you don’t have the Discover tab, you can still search for topics you’d like to explore. If you tap on the Search icon on the top-right corner of your homescreen, you will be taken to a page with a search field on top that you can use. Below the search field, you’ll find several of your past searches; below that are some suggested searches (which, judging from those that have appeared on my page, are probably based more on current trends than anything you’ve expressed interest in).

Doing a search is a relatively easy way to find a variety of videos with different hashtags and music. Liking the videos that you find (by clicking the heart-shaped “like” button on the side) and following the creators (by clicking the creator’s icon on the side of the screen and then on the red “Follow” button) will help ensure that the type of content you enjoy comes up on your For You page.

Use the Search bar in the Discovery page to find content you like.
Use the Search bar in the Discovery page to find content you like.
Search page
Even without the Discover tab, you can still find new topics using the Search page.

Click on sounds

The more the algorithm learns about you, the more you’ll start to notice trends within whatever TikTok rabbit hole you’ve gone down. A lot of the time, these trends are built around sounds. The sounds can be audio clips from popular media, music, or even audio created by another user.

In the bottom-right corner of a video, you’ll see a rotating circle; this is where the sound lives. By pressing that, it’s easy to find a trove of other videos that use that sound (if the sound is trending or at least relatively popular).

Although you’ll only be watching videos that use the same sound, this is a great way to find a large variety of creators that might not have made it to your For You page.

TikTok can be a great tool to pass the time, socialize, or learn new things. At the start, though, it can take a little time to build up the patterns before the algorithm begins to do the work for you. Just be careful — it’s very easy to accidentally lose three hours of your day watching TikToks without realizing it.

Update August 9th, 2022, 1:38PM ET: This article was originally published on July 13th, 2021, and has been updated to account for changes in the app, such as the removal of the Discovery tab.