Picture this: you walk into class early one morning and at a glance, everyone is seemingly plugged into their phones. What are these students watching? TIKTOK! The newest form of social networking has been the talk of teens everywhere in recent months due to its exciting and relatable content. While it is easy to get caught up in the trend, it is important to note just how much of an impact the site may have on the latest generation.
The Destination For Mobile Videos
The app Musical.ly initially debuted as a DIY music-video program in August of 2014 and quickly caught the attention of many. With nearly 10 million users a day, the site offered individuals the chance to produce and share their own 15 second clips. Its success was groundbreaking; the app collected $26 billion in advertising alone! The world was devastated to hear the news in 2018 that Musical.ly would no longer be available for download. A Chinese company called Bytedance merged with the owners to form a new site more broadly focused on short-form video sharing. Though it lacked interest in the beginning, TikTok took off in the summer of 2019, when the viral dance craze “Renegade” spread like wildfire. Now, the app is crushing it on the charts! With content revolving around anything from relatable teen issues, to song lyric puns and situations that radiate ‘Vine Energy,’ TikTok is the new and improved form of mainstream entertainment.
TikTok’s slogan is “Make Your Day” and it seems to be perfectly fitting! The content on the site is a great pick-me-up, mainly because it is so spontaneous; you virtually never know what you are going to get. In stressful or dull times of the day, students often find themselves reaching for their phones to get in a quick video or two. EHHS junior, Stephania Korenovsky, mentioned, “I view the app as something that can get your mind off of things because usually when I watch TikToks it’s when I’m bored or in a bad mood. I can always find something that can make me laugh.” The many pressures of high school can quickly get to students’ heads, so it is very worthwhile to create a space for them to ‘get away’ and find light in times of darkness.
With the emergence of the app came a spark in the creativity of students everywhere. The site offers one the opportunity to explore their imagination, using different songs to portray a story in the matter of seconds. Whether it is showing off a talent, hobby, or hilarious encounter, TikTok users likely find themselves tapping into their artistic side. EHHS English teacher, Mrs. Ashley Bogart, is not an avid user, though she has experienced the craze firsthand with students in her classes. She stated, “I will say that I do see a certain benefit in the fact that they are not just staring at a phone screen. They are up, they’re moving, they’re memorizing, so that part of maintaining attention has its benefits.” This kind of thinking has actually transferred into the classroom. Students have found themselves applying what they viewed on the site to what they are learning in class in order to better enhance their understanding. Though their brains are never at rest, students’ memorization skills and versatility are truly improving for the better.
The creative side of TikTok has further helped many large content creators make a name for themselves. The chance for an individual to launch their career is virtually at their fingertips. Fifteen year old Charli D'Amelio rose to fame on TikTok simply doing what she loves. Her quick dance combinations gained much popularity from the public eye and led her to sign with a major talent agency to kick start her future. Other individuals have even used TikTok to sell clothing and specialty goods. The opportunities are nearly endless on this app; it is crazy to think about what can come out of just one short video.
Credits to Angelina Fiorentino, Amanda Martindale, Megan Gaudioso, Ally Stettinger, and Isha Patel: Sample Tik Toks Made Right Here at EHHS!
Like any form of social networking, TikTok has its speculations. With a platform that is so mainstream, it is easy to prioritize the harm over the good. A common worry among adults is that the app is causing the attention spans of teens to suffer. In regards to the potential dangers that the site may be presenting, Mrs. Bogart stated, “One of my concerns is that they are one minute videos. That is a very short amount of time to focus your attention. The younger you are introduced to those things, the more you become used to not having to sustain your attention for long periods of time.” With students getting to the climax of a story on TikTok in seconds, how are they expected to sit through 45 minute class periods and retain all of the necessary information?
Another troubling area is students’ concentration and drive. It is not uncommon that teens find any opportunity they can to explore the app, even while in the middle of a lesson. This puts the education of our youth in danger, as they may be more focused upon their phones and less on the essential skills they need to develop. Sophomore Matthew Gaudioso claims,“I find many people, including myself, doing the renegade dance while in their seat. I have also seen girls get up towards the end of the class when they have nothing to do, and start making and posting TikTok dances.” Inevitably, TikTok is constantly running through the minds of users, as it is viewed as often as four hours a day. It has become an excuse for putting off homework, working out, or simply talking to a friend. Though clearly engaging, TikTok, at times, can be a major distraction.
Anytime you are putting yourself out to the public, you are at risk of receiving harsh criticism and backlash. TikTok fits right into this category. It is scary to consider the fact that the individuals that are viewing your videos are people you may have never met face to face. The power of a stranger is incomprehensible, and the slightest comment can totally impact how one views themselves or another person. On top of this, so many teens feel pressure to be perfect. In this case, that entails going ‘viral’. In some students’ minds, the more views they get, the more valuable they are. Mrs. Bogart has seen this first hand with some of her own students. She stated, “[I]t presents a sort of distorted view of what lives people are leading or how happy they really are. I think it becomes competitive. We are all about fitting in and looking good; social media definitely increases that pressure.” Believe it or not, TikTok puts a lot of stress on teens to stay up-to-date on the trends in order to be socially accepted.
Is It Truly Worth It?
It is hard to predict the future of TikTok, but it is pretty clear that it will be around for at least a little while longer. While trends come and go, the influence of each and every one is everlasting. Social media puts individuals, especially teens, in a tough place. Technology has helped so many people step out of their comfort zones, but in the same breath, has presented the world with new issues. Face-to-face interaction is slowly but surely dwindling, as many find it easier to hide behind their screens and prove their worth through images and videos. Much like every other social networking site, TikTok is a fun and beneficial way for students to express themselves, so long as they use it wisely and remain aware of the possible consequences.