This post is the third in a 3-part series looking at “Day in My Life” TikTok videos. I show how, through these videos, TikTok creators are producing a large body of work that cumulatively gives not only a multi-layered snapshot into contemporary, hyper-connected living, but a window into something we could call “the algorithmized life”. 

With earlier social media apps, algorithms have tended to work behind the scenes, shaping and curating information that is served up “as live” in users’ timelines.  In TikTok, the algorithm is foregrounded through the default For You Page. This feed, known as the FYP feed, deprioritises friends’ videos in favour of a personalised mix of random content.

Because of this, everyone’s experience of TikTok is very different. People’s FYP feeds are individualised – based on their behaviour rather than who they follow. Users are aware of the algorithm, and consciously work with it. Interaction is important because it controls and calibrates people’s experience within the app. Researchers Aparajita Bhandari and Sara Bimo have called this the “algorithmized self”.

The algorithmized self

In 2022, Bhandari and Bimo spoke to TikTok users between 18 and 24 about their relationship with the TikTok algorithm. The results were published in the paper, Why’s Everyone on TikTok NowBhandari and Bimo’s interviewees described the TikTok algorithm as if it were a person. They talked about the amount of time spent on TikTok and the emotional work involved in “training” the TikTok algorithm.

The algorithm takes on an almost magical, supernatural quality as people talk about the different “sides” of TikTok and the work they do to stay in the parts of TikTok they like (on TikTok you can find a niche for just about anything (see BookTok, StudyTok or WitchTok).

Bhandari and Bimo note how while TikTok offers many different ways to engage with other users – for example, comments or duets – these features were “seldom employed by users for their intended purpose; rather, they were frequently repurposed to interact with the algorithm”. 

The algorithmized life - images show TikTok users dueting with each other and a TikTok user responding to comments

The algorithmized life: dueting with other TikTokers; a creator responding to comments


For Bhandari and Bimo, the algorithmized self is a clear successor to the earlier concept, developed by Zizi Papacharissi, of the networked self. The networked self plays out on a platform on which the individual is linked to numerous audiences. In front of these networked publics, the platform acts as “a stage for self-presentation and self-connection” as well as being a site of “identity negotiation”, according to Papacharissi.

By contrast, for the algorithmized self, identity is experienced through users’ dual role as both consumer and producer. TikTokers build an idea of self through engagement and interaction with other Tiktok users, who are mostly recommended via their FYP feed.

In this way, the algorithm shapes both the way we relate to others and, conversely, the way we see ourselves. It’s like an amplification and augmentation of the networked self.

Methodological note

On TikTok, the user profile is diminished and demoted to the point of near-irrelevance. One constraint of the Tiktok platform (from an anthropological point of view) is that favourited content and followed accounts are by kept private by default.

For my research into “Day in My Life” TikToks, I wanted to know what key creators in the DIML community were consuming and experiencing. I found 3 ways to do this:

  1. Scroll through creators’ published TikToks to look for duets and stitches with other users.
  2. Look through the comments section of individual DIML videos to see who creators have interacted with.
  3. Read the caption posted alongside any DIML video.

When I came across plenty of responses and interactions, and/ or if captions show a commitment to a regular DIML updates (for example, “Finally, the perfect day!” or “I had a really productive day today so wanted to share with you”), I made the assumption that these users were following, and taking an interest in, other DIML creators.

A two-way mirror

Comments show what the community (both users and the algorithm) are paying attention to. In such a way, I could how models of the selfhood are being created and then mirrored back to the user. The process of self-making is less a performative construction through the management of a user profile (as in the. past). It’s more an interactive process, working with the algorithm. 

To conclude, selfhood is becoming increasingly hybrid, entangled and messy as TikTok’s algorithm serves up ideas and concepts for users to experiment with, which are in turn remixed, replicated and distributed back across the platform. It seems the “algorithmized life” is already with us (and it’s not solely confined to TikTok).

Photo: Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

The TikTok takeover of social media