The age of social media-bred super stars is an interesting one. No longer are red carpets being littered with actors and actresses from the biggest blockbusters of the year, or artists behind the current radio hit. Instead, entire awards shows and meet and greets are being created and held for high schoolers and people in their early 20s who have amassed huge followings from social media apps. This trend became most prominent with the creation of Vine in 2013. Vine’s six-second, repeating video format was something the social media world had never seen. What was once only options of scrolling through endless text-posts or still-photographs, Vine offered a new alternative. However, Vine was eventually shut down in 2017. As expected though, a new app has filled in Vine’s place: TikTok.
For many of the same reasons that Vine was such a revolutionary social media platform during its reign, TikTok is now engaging the masses. TikTok, like its predecessor Vine, provides young users an incredibly unique platform on which to express themselves. Unlike many creative outlets that may be reserved for the prominent, experienced or well-known, TikTok is a space that encourages any and every user to contribute. Some of the most popular accounts are just everyday high schoolers. Fifteen and sixteen-year-olds are becoming social media sensations over-night, simply for posting videos on the app. Creative freedom and credibility on a public platform are no longer reserved for the already famous.
Tik Tok’s use of “sounds,” already existing sound bites that can be used by other users, breeds community and the mass following and recreation of video trends. The creation and use of sound bites, mostly made by other users, encourages TikTokers to make their own spin using the same “sound” as millions of others. Collectively, sounds, which can be tracked using tags, end up inspiring hundreds of thousands of videos, all unique to the individual user.
There is a sense of community and familiarity between users of the app. Similar to how you might feel when someone quotes your favorite movie, TikTok is creating its own sense of familiarity among users. Video creators also pull from well-known movies and television shows. Videos are made using iconic images or lines from familiar pop-culture references as a way to communicate new messages, whether comedic or simply relatable. Much like Vine’s iconic one-liners, TikTok’s sound bites are easily thrown around, becoming normalized humor in everyday conversations.
The comedy found on Tik Tok ranges from relatable, everyday situations, scripted jokes, storytelling and even tackles larger, more serious issues. A popular form of comedy on the app is using humor as a coping mechanism for issues that Gen Z’ers are all too familiar with, such as racism, mass-shootings and mental illness. The relatability and understanding of the humor on TikTok makes it that much more notable as an outlet for its users.
Outside of the comedic aspect of the app, TikTok is also driving a revival of dance crazes, which in turn popularize various genres of music in an extremely unique way. Dance trends are a huge craze on TikTok, with thousands of users creating, remaking and reposting various choreographies. These dances often use original music created by other young TikTokers, or remixes of songs from varying decades and genres.
New and old artists alike are benefitting from the trends in which their music plays a huge role. Whether as the music for a choregraphed routine, or as scoring to comedic bits, new and old artists alike are benefitting from the exposure that these trends bring to their music.
Still, despite all of the socially prominent characteristics of TikTok, the app and its users are receiving backlash. Older generations specifically are critiquing the app for being a waste of time or mocking the content which comes from it. Just like when every other social media app was introduced and gained popularity, those who aren’t involved with it often look down on the app and point out its negative features or the frivolous nature of it.
And yes, there are downsides to the app. Much like with any social media platform, the app is a wasteland of minors acting like they are more mature than they are. Those dances mentioned earlier are often hyper-sexualized. High schoolers using the app as an emotional outlet or as a coping mechanism could benefit from professional help or healthier forms of venting.
However, TikTok is just one of a handful of social media apps with which a large portion of the younger generation interacts every day. If that’s where they are investing their time, it’s important to consider its social value and notability. So even if you are not an active TikToker, or whatever may come next, it’s important to at least acknowledge and try to understand the social impact and generational importance of the app.