I think it’s safe to say that Tik Tok has made its way into our life in some form or fashion, whether we have liked it or not.
Before this quarantine, I had convinced myself that I was getting too old to keep up with these new social media platforms; simply content with the fact that I would soon be labeled as “out of touch” (an expression I never thought would be attributed to me in my early 20s). However, much to my surprise I eventually caved and downloaded Tik Tok anyways. Importantly, with the amount of time that I have spent on it, I have come across some disturbing trends that I feel need to be addressed and parents should be made aware of.
My friend recently texted me about the term “Randonauting”, wondering if I was aware of this increasing popular trend on Tik Tok. Specifically, she pointed me towards a video in which a group of teenagers claimed to have found the remains of what was later thought to be a dead body, inside a suitcase on a beach in West Seattle. Initially, I was very quick to dismiss the video, believing that it was a prank to receive more views. It was the first time I had ever heard something as absurd as an app leading a group of people to a probable murder scene. However, I decided to read the news and see whether or not this story was credible. According to local sources, Seattle police did respond to a call regarding a suspicious bag (confirmed to have human remains) on the beach near the area of Luna Park in West Seattle. This information left me absolutely puzzled. I only had more questions.
What is Randonauting? And why has this app gained so much traction in the last few months?
Randonautica is an app that encourages users to set an intention before visiting a location. The users, who have coined themselves “randonauts” have hopes of uncovering so-called, “coincidences” outside of what is said to be usual patterns of experiences. For example, a user could set the intention of finding a “waterfall” and may potentially be led to an actual waterfall or just some mere abstract representation of it such as a mural or picture. Even though the example that I have given can be considered harmless, the problem that I want to point out is this app’s ability to direct users to a location that might be considered “off-grid”. In fact, there is a subreddit dedicated to this application, outlining the experiences many people have had in seeking this unnatural “adventure”. Though it is important to note that subreddits are not a good source of credibility in comparison to a fact-checked article, I do think it can be used to highlight this app’s increasing popularity among young adults, especially during this quarantine.
So how does the app function?
Randonatuica is a by-product of what is known as the Fatum Project. I couldn’t find many sources confirming that the Fatum Project was indeed funded on the basis of merit. Everything I did find was on randonautics.com which seemed a bit bizarre and biased to me. But according to this website, the project aims to research unknown spaces outside predetermined probability-tunnels of the holistic world (yeah exactly, huh?). Specifically, randonauting generates random numbers using random number generation techniques (RNG). The purpose of the app is to exploit “blind spots” (a place in the real world that you would never normally encounter through any chain of causal experience) and use human intention to influence the output of the quantum random number generator.
I know, I am sorry I put you on a rollercoaster of information on what is seemingly science and math. But for me, I just don’t find this convincing enough. How is it that these incidents are mere coincidences? Furthermore, I couldn’t find any articles that shed a light on the dangers of having an app like this fall into the wrong hands (if it already hasn’t). Many of the sources that I read were descriptive in nature of the function of the app, but its weaknesses were masked by claims that it would reignite human interaction that was so “lost” during this pandemic.
This brings me to my biggest point: this app is a threat to young adults and is not worth the heightened risk it may already be putting them in.
I have deep concern that some of these “randonauts” are driving to places that are seemingly deserted, and setting themselves up for a dangerous situation. Social media has created a culture in which people pursue trends for attention and recognition. This trend is no different from another, except it has viciously targeted a group of young adults who are vulnerable to such attacks. Roughly 60% of Tik Tok users are between the age of 16 and 24. This further indicates how trends as such, put younger audiences at risk because they grow in popularity at an exponentially higher rate on a platform such as this one. Additionally, I found it even more troubling that there wasn’t a sense of urgency in recognizing how problematic an app like this could be in providing a channel for crime to take place. Unfortunately, over the course of time as technology has become more adaptable, it has been easier for perpetuators to manipulate phone applications and social media to lure young adults and children. Specifically, in the United States human trafficking is notoriously underreported; indicating that this activity is not only operating in a distant sphere of the world, but in our local communities as well. This additionally, poses another concern regarding the security of this app and how it may be used as a tool to enable such situations.
I wanted to write this to shed a light on an issue that I am sure many of you were never aware of. I only learned of this just yesterday and immediately started doing some research. This quarantine has been understandingly hard and it’s uncertain when this pandemic will subside. It is inherent in human nature to seek adventure. But randonauting is not a means of fulfilling that feeling and definitely is not the adventure that is worth seeking.