If you have not heard of TikTok by now, you have to have been living under a rock. From its various controversies, to the rise of new TikTok stars, TikTok has crept its way into every source of media since its introduction in 2018. A new source of memes, entertainment, silly dances, and much more, it’s evident that TikTok has made a lasting impact on pop culture today, and will continue to do so for years to come, following in the footsteps of early Youtube, and the now defunct Vine.
TikTok was originally a lip syncing app called Musical.ly, and has evolved immensely since, offering filters, green screens, interactive effects, stickers, and sound effects. TikTok offers a tremendous amount of video editing services all in one user friendly app. Users have since been able to create a community which follows trends and memes set by one another, the most popular of these users who create dances or jokes that people replicate. The likes of Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae, and Loren Gray are some users with the most followers, each found their success through the app itself creating viral dances and trends that other TikTok users imitate.
Meanwhile, established celebrities like Will Smith, Jason Derulo, and Vine veteran Zach King have managed to cultivate a following on the app as well, diversifying the content available. Clearly, TikTok is accessible by anyone, and has also slithered its way into Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter. With many reposts found on each of the three platforms, TikTok’s presence has branched out past the app itself.
TikTok has also served as an escape from the pandemic for many students, as it is a great way to keep occupied, whether it’s watching videos or creating them. Self-care, cooking, and fashion-based accounts have also been able to garner support, as the app’s algorithm shows users more of the content they prefer. In this way, the TikTok experience becomes what you make of it. Reactions to TikTok at NJIT have been mixed, as many accept it as a source of entertainment and genuinely enjoy it, but some question its need or impact.
Before remote learning, students found comfort in the app, especially during long classes. Cooper Schipske, third year architecture major says “Have you ever been sitting in a (class) review and the professor is talking for quite a while right and you slowly start to lose your mind? Then this glimmer of hope on my phone called TikTok looks me in the eyes and as I sit through scrolling funny videos I think maybe I can make it through five years of this.”
Now that most students throughout the country are learning from their homes, it was only inevitable that its popularity would rise. NJIT even boasts several TikTok stars of its own, including Matt Kotowski, a first year electrical engineering major, who holds over 204 thousand followers on his account @matt.kotowski. Kotowski states that “social media surprisingly not only broke me out of my shy shell, but also allowed me to be more comfortable with public speaking and singing.”
Meanwhile, others are not as optimistic of the platform and expressed concern for those who are especially vulnerable on social media. Casey Medina, Architecture Major says “Tik Tok is an unsafe environment for children and adolescents. Those trendy dances have women and girls moving provocatively and shaking their booties on the internet for the whole world to see. It’s essentially soft porn and a pedophiles playground.” This concern is one of many criticisms leveled at the platform, often alongside censorship of LGBT+ hashtags, discussion of Uyghur internment camps in China and personal data mining.
To say the app has its fair share of opponents would be an understatement, yet this has not prevented millions of users from logging on everyday. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in New Jersey, potentially relegating students to another semester of online learning, there is no doubt that its popularity will continue to rise. Regardless of personal concerns or national calls for its removal, TikTok has established itself as essential to social media and will not be leaving anytime soon.
Prem Naik also contributed to this article.