By Ethaniel Reyes
TikTok’s popularity among Summit Shasta students has gotten to the extent where even the most mundane of places, such as the C-building restrooms, have become filming hotspots for many students to create videos on the app. More people are beginning to use the app and its usage has become more noticeable around campus.
“I see tons of girls in the bathroom doing that Renegade dance or I see tons of girls standing in a place and just start doing TikToks,” Shasta sophomore Kristen Huddleston said. “There’s this specific set of girls in the bathroom that are always in there while I’m trying to wash my hands.”
Huddleston also said she is an avid TikTok user herself, commenting that “it’s become more interesting than Instagram now. You don’t have to read a post; you just watch it and then you just move on to the next one.” She started using TikTok a few months ago after watching her sister constantly using it, which resulted in her becoming “hooked” to TikTok like her other friends.
She also believes that the app’s “For You Page”, a page of personalized content, is also one of the reasons why TikTok is addicting. “It customizes for what they think you want to see so that it just keeps making you want to watch more and more.”
This is clearly seen with their statistics over the years. With over 738 million downloads in 2019, TikTok is certainly one of the fastest growing social media apps today. The number alone accounts for 44% of all downloads the app has accumulated since it was introduced in September 2017. Since most of the demographic of TikTok users in the US are between the ages of 16 and 24, it is clear that the app definitely has an appeal to teenagers and young adults today.
Huddleston said that TikTok has increasingly become very relatable for teenagers because of the light-hearted nature users bring to world issues, making it one of her reasons why more students are using it. “They have funny jokes about world issues today. Like, how they had all those World War III TikToks and then they have those Coronavirus ones and like, I think it’s just like funny and relatable for everybody,” she added.
However, Huddleston does not believe that the same could be said for political content on the app, and when she manages to find political videos on her For You Page, she said that “she usually skips over them because I’m not interested in that type of stuff.” She explained that TikTokers generally don’t take anything too seriously when it comes to hot-button, political issues, saying that “they just see it as a joke” before forgetting it and moving on to another video.
Shasta freshman Jaden DuYee, who started using TikTok in October 2019, also agrees with Huddleston and even applied the same understanding towards stereotyping on the app: “It’s just TikTok, so it’s just funny videos,” he said. “And when people think of ‘funny’, they think of ‘unrealistic’ because — let’s be real. It’s 2020. Nothing is taken seriously nowadays.”
For DuYee, TikTok offers more for creativity and interactivity than other apps, allowing him to create funny videos constantly with his friends. “It’s fun because it’s convenient and it includes music, videos, pictures, and it’s creative. It’s something new,” he said.
But DuYee also believes that it is not enough for teenagers to use TikTok, rather, that teens create a following and become famous. According to him, the reason why students are trying to get viral through TikTok is because “it is still new enough for people to get viral without any influence. People can randomly get famous because it’s not like finding one post like a needle in a haystack” compared to Instagram and Snapchat.
This happens often with up-and-coming teenage celebrities such as Charli D’Amelio, who currently has gotten over 30 million followers on TikTok since first using the app in June of 2019. Although she is only 15 years old, D’Amelio continues acquiring fame with her music and dance videos, which has even led her to appearing in events such as this year’s Super Bowl.
But for D’Amelio, things haven’t been so well. On Christmas Eve last year, photos of her partially nude were released to the public through Twitter. There is no knowledge of who leaked the photos, however it is clear that the issue is on the spectacle of both TikTokers and non-TikTokers alike.
It is for this reason that DuYee strongly advises against teenagers using the app for the sake of achieving fame and success, recounting on the harm fame on social media brings to teenage celebrities on the app today. “Fame degrades you, whether it’s through the inside or outside. It sucks,” he said. He believes that “fame will change who you are,” no matter how a person is seen on a public spectacle. “It’s just another thing about teen culture. It’s frustrating sometimes,” he added.
For others, fame could still have its uses as a positive force. Shasta freshman Jade Lim believes that fame could be a positive thing depending on what one does with it. However, when asked about celebrities like D’Amelio, Lim said that her type of fame is “a negative type of fame,” depending on the example celebrities like her are setting.
For Lim, politics is something she feels should be irrelevant to social media apps today. When asked about political opinions on TikTok, Lim said that it is completely unnecessary to post controversial content on a space where teenagers and young adults are meant to have fun. “I mean, I understand you want to inform people but it’s unnecessary to always put your opinion online,” she added.
The Bay Area is also home to micro-influencers on TikTok who have been able to make a following with their content. Sophia Malvar, a junior at Dublin High School in East Bay, has been able to accumulate a following of approximately 100,000 followers on TikTok in a little more than a year. Her account @agapan has currently accumulated over 1.3 million likes on her posts.
Malvar believes that TikTok is transforming into another social media platform about fame, likes and celebrities. She feels that back then “it wasn’t about the hype” as much as TikTok is right now, which explains why people are starting to use TikTok more often.
”More celebs are joining. It’s addicting to watch videos. Everyone does it to be a part of it. Everyone wants to be a part of something and they don’t want to be left out,” she said.
However, Malvar’s experience with fame has not been a positive one. She feels that fame puts a lot of pressure on influencers, like it once did with her most popular TikTok; she posted a video about drawing her followers’ profile pictures, which gained a lot of pressure from fans to have her draw their own pictures. As a result, she kept receiving negative comments from fans saying “you will never draw me” and “I’ll never get picked.”
Malvar said she is feeling unmotivated as the “new generation of TikTokers” is coming on the app. “I feel like I’m giving up a bit. I feel like I’m giving up and so do many of my friends,” she added.
When asked about politics, she feels that she sees more content about Trump and whether or not people support or oppose the president. She feels that since TikTok is a “good outlet for people to express themselves”, it’s important for her that people express their political opinions. However, she warns that it could be negative because of “how judgmental people are and how people can take things the wrong way.”
Featured Image (at the top of this post): TikTok is an incredibly popular social media app. PHOTO CREDIT: Ethaniel Reyes