The Double Edged Sword of TikTok

TikTok is a top app for everyone.

TikTok is a top app for everyone.

Written By Mary Stewart Hunter , Neely Hume , and Lucy Dempsey

Over the past two years, TikTok has become a phenomenon for teenagers everywhere. We love TikTok and we are not alone. The app became huge over the span of just a few months, and teenagers from all over became active on it. TikTok blew up during the fall of 2019 thanks to top contributor Charli D’Amelio. Once she became famous, TikTok became more of a dance platform where regular teanagers from all over the world went viral doing 15 second dance videos in their bedrooms. The #foryoupage makes TikTok very appealing to its users because customizes videos for each person that fits the content they want to watch. 

With more and more content creators blowing up on the app, users began to follow different influencers. TikTokkers grew into “stars,” and with that popularity came the ability to monetize their everyday-kids monetizing their fame. With people in quarantine during the spring and summer of 2020 and so many individuals spending long periods of time on the app, social media celebrities were trending. Unlike many other social media influencers, TikTokkers presented a persona of being typical everyday people, which made them seem relatable to their followers/users. This relatability made them appealing to their followers; they seemed more like peers and friends rather than superstars and celebrities, and that allowed them to grow their fame. 

TikTok shows users throughout the entire world and records over one billion users. Most every user spends about one hour a day of their screen time on TikTok. We spend about two hours a day, which is a lot of time (considering we have school five days a week). So many users love TikTok because of the wide variety of content it has to offer such as social media challenges, dance, art, animal and videos, etc. Natalie Massardo ’24 agreed with the wide variety of content. Massardo said, “I love TikTok because of all of the influencers that appeal to different audiences.” TikTok’s #foryoupage helps cull through suggestions customized just for the individual. “I love the #foryoupage because it shows me videos from all different categories and it’s so entertaining to watch,” Sloan Wooster ‘24 said. TikTok’s long-lasting presence has outlived Vine and appeals to more viewers because it provides various updates with more filters, features and themes on the app; viewers also want to see what their friends are posting and the never ending scroll of the the never ending scroll of the #foryoupage. Avery Cheatwood ‘24 said, “It’s impossible to get off TikTok for me because I can’t stop looking at the #foryoupage.” This is a common problem that falls on TikTok users and students. 

The #foryoupage recognizes what types of videos each user enjoys watching and shows more of those videos, reeling the user in more. Kayla Flett ‘25 said, “I watch Minecraft videos, and ‘Outer Banks’ edits are what’s mainly on my fyp (foryoupage).” Each user has different videos that interest them. Molly Snyder ‘25 said, “I mainly just watch my friends and anything that is trending on TikTok.” We enjoy watching the #foryoupage, since a lot of the famous peoples videos end up there. Famous people such as Addison Rae, Bryce Hall, Josh Richards, and Blake Gray. These videos really intrigue us and allow us to become more interested in their lives. This also makes it challenging to exit out of the app due to each video becoming appealing to the user. 

Charli D’amelio is a TikTok “influencer” with over 100 million followers, making her the most popular creator on the platform.

Many influencers appeal to people scrolling through TikTok because of their positive attitudes and energy, which makes users become interested in watching more of their videos. “My favorite influencer is Blake Gray because I love his videos and he is very nice to his fans,” Lydia McNichols’24 said. Gray is a male influencer who has recently reached 10 million followers on TikTok. Fans love him and his girlfriend, Amelie Zilber, who is very influential to young girls and women. Zilber is an ambassador for the clothing brand Revolve and often models their clothes. “Addison Rae is so inspiring and I would love to meet her because she seems so nice and I love her TikToks,” said Katherine DuBose ‘24. Rae is a well known influencer who has grown quickly over the years. She holds 84.6 million followers and 5.4 billion likes. Rae recently starred in her own Netflix movie, “He’s All That.” We really enjoyed this movie because we are very interested in Rae’s life and this movie paralleled it. 

The influencers we follow on TikTok represent the celebrities of our generation but since they seem so regular and accessible, we wanted to find out how they became such huge superstars simply by making short videos in their bedrooms. Because their jobs are based on their fans, one would think these creators would stay in touch and communicate with them; however, this is not what we experienced. We hoped to interview a TikToker to learn about their life in the spotlight, so we reached out to around 50 influencers and only received one response from a smaller creator’s manager, and they never even followed up. 

This was disappointing because interacting with their fans is part of their career; unfortunately, none of them seemed interested in answering any of our questions. This lack of engagement creates questions about their time with fame: if you don’t feel compelled to interact with your fans, how likely are you to maintain that fame? TikTok has been very popular for about two years now, but how much longer will this last? 

Social media influencers are expected to interact with fans online but knowing they do not always respond could lead to a downfall in their popularity. After all, they are only famous because of the support from their following. If they lose their fanbase, they could lose their livelihoods. With these results, we found that TikTok stars are mostly run by managers and are more similar to typical movie stars than we thought. Because the personas they convey are more like everyday people rather than celebrities, this made us realize that their preaching authenticity may not be accurate. Considering they got famous by making dance videos in their bedrooms rather than making a hit song or having a star role in a movie, this proves how our generation has very low bars for star statuses. In the past, there were more famous “movie stars,” but now “reality stars” are the celebrities of our generation.

After really investing our time into following influencers for a year during quarantine, we jumped on the first opportunity to meet them and see more into what their lives were like. Bryce Hall and Austin McBroom announced a fight on June 12, 2021 in Miami (which is in between our two birthdays). They had been wanting to9 fight for a while because of a personal encounter that rubbed each other the wrong way. This event prompted the idea of the two of us planning to attend. We told our parents early on about the idea, but they never fully understood what we were talking about and how we wanted to go to a fight to see some of our favorite influencers on an app that we randomly downloaded. Our first experience in Miami necessitated a change in accommodations from hotel issues, the next three days weren’t looking quite as exciting as they were before. After our fiasco with our hotel situation the rest of the trip was amazing, especially when we went to Hard Rock Stadium for the fight. In the car ride to the stadium we mentioned how we were really hoping to see Neely’s favorite TikToker, Caitlyn Rae. What were the odds that we would meet her in a stadium full of thousands of people? As we entered the stadium, Rae was right with her boyfriend and Bryce Hall’s best friend, Rory Fitzpatrick. We were both nervous to approach her, but she agreed to pose for a picture which created high expectations for the number of influencers we hoped to see. Throughout the evening we had the opportunity to take selfies with about seven different influencers; luckily, they were very nice, making it even easier to like them. But with that being said, the amount of time and energy spent trying to go to the fight could seem wasteful and unnecessary to some users which can lead them to delete the app.

Although TikTok is entertaining for teens and students, it definitely interferes with school life and can be a distraction. For our peers, TikTok gets in the way of homework and other school-related tasks. Aditi Satish ‘24 deleted the app because of the time it consumed in her day. “When I used to have the app it sucked a lot of my time; I kept saying only five more minutes, and by the time I kept saying that 30 minutes would have gone by. It is difficult to stop but at some point I know that I am wasting my time and need to finish my homework,” Satish said. While many students like Satish do delete the app, it’s still challenging to follow through with the decision since the app also provides a connection within their social circles. Lindsay Baker ‘24 said, “I could delete TikTok, but I think I would feel left out whenever my friends made a TikTok or they talked about something that happened on the app.” Overall, despite the many benefits we get from using TikTok, it can be a harmful and time consuming app.