How to tik the Tok

Della Johnson | Staff Writer

Making every second count has led everyday students to stardom.

TikTok, previously called musical.ly, is a video-sharing social app. After the change in titles in mid-2018, the app had slow beginnings. Many viewed it as “cringey,” or a meme. However, it has recently been extremely popular. Currently, the app has around 500 million active users, and that amount of activity has resulted in certain accounts achieving fame on the platform.

Senior Kenzie Smith has amassed over 89 thousand followers, or “fans,” as they’re called, in her past year on Tik Tok. She said her journey on the app began as a joke.

“It was around March of this year,” Smith said. “One of my friends had a bunch of followers, and I thought it was cool. So I was like, ‘Oh, I want to become famous,’ as a joke. And then I gained a bunch of followers.”

There’s many different types of content people can create on TikTok, ranging from comedy skits and simple lip synching to art and unusual talents. Smith said she views her own videos mostly as humor.

“Most people would call it comedy,” Smith said. “I just think it’s stupid. I do it for fun, honestly. I usually make a joke, an original sound, or I’ll just do a trend or something. I didn’t think I’d get that many followers, but here we are.”

Freshman Caden Davis has been using the app for over a year. In that time, he’s gained around 135 thousand followers, and now has a Post Office (PO) box for people to send mail to him. He said he starts producing content as soon as he gets home from school.

“After school, I get home and I’m like, ‘I need to make TikToks,’” Davis said. “I spend two or three hours looking for videos to try to find and make. If I end up not coming up with anything, then I have nothing to post.”

Not only can TikTok lead to large fanbases, it can actually provide income. On the app, creators with over 1000 followers can “go live,” and interact with their followers in real time. Users of the app can purchase “gifts” to send to their favorite TikTokers in exchange for a shoutout or duet, a sort of collaborative video. These gifts are given to the creators in real life in the form of actual money. Davis said TikTok is a source of income for him, similar to a job.

“It’s kind of like a small part time job,” Davis said. “I’m making money off of it. If you go live, people are donating stuff. I used to go live like every day back in the summer, but now it’s maybe once every two weeks.”

Though some may use the platform for profit, others don’t necessarily see it as a favorable way of making money. Smith said she doesn’t enjoy going live or asking for gifts from her followers that often.

“(Going live) is a big thing,” Smith said. “I sometimes like to trick people that I make a lot of money. It’s really funny. But I don’t like to go live. I know a lot of people will go on there and be like, ‘send me gifts.’ And they’ll shout you out for so many gifts or follow you. I’m not interested in that.”

Sophomore Paige Goldberg has earned over 150 thousand followers on TikTok. She has made money from using the live video feature on the app, but said she doesn’t feel attached to the app.

“I’ve made about $200,” Goldberg said. “I feel like I can stop if I wanted to. I think the app will fall out of popularity one day or get remodeled, like it was from musical.ly. I don’t know if it’ll affect me or not.”

Much like most other social media apps, TikTok also puts “like” counts on videos, as well as comments. Smith said she sometimes feels drawn to the app due to her personal increasing popularity.

“It’s kind of addicting,” Smith said. “Once you realize and see the followers you’re gaining, you can get addicted to it. It makes you feel good about yourself. That’s honestly, why [I keep doing it].”

Another byproduct of social media fame happens outside the phone. Real people view the videos and can recognize creators in public settings. Davis explained how he’s dealt with these situations.

“I’ll be at the mall or something,” Davis said. “I’ll be like walking past and I’ll hear somebody like whisper to their friend something like, ‘Oh my God, he’s on TikTok.’ I just laugh and walk away. People will ask me for a picture, but it’s mostly a joke. Sometimes they’re serious, and so I take a picture.”

With such a large platform, mistakes can sometimes be amplified. Davis said he’s had a few misunderstandings with the intent of his content.

“I made like a couple of videos that I thought were funny but weren’t really funny,” Davis said. “People took it the wrong way. So, maybe I might [regret that], but just a simple explanation could probably get me out of it.”  

With TikTok gaining new users every day, more and more people are going from poking fun to spending hours on the app. Smith said people shouldn’t knock it unless they’ve experienced it themselves.

“Don’t hate on TikTok until you actually try it,” Smith said. “Apparently my whole grade makes fun of me for it, and people will make fun of me for it to my face. I just think it’s fun. I know people will download it just to make fun of people, then they realize how much fun it is.”