Junior Annika Westra's video about her new haircut received more than 3 million views on TikTok.
In the morning before class, a group of students huddle in a circle checking out a video on a phone. Three seconds later, they burst out laughing for five minutes with tears in their eyes. What made them laugh so hard? It’s only a random, fifteen second, video that captured their attention.
What they are watching on their phone is one of the most popular video Apps among teens called TikTok. With its featured 15-second videos and AI-Algorithm, it has gained tremendous success worldwide. According to Harvard Business Review, “In just two years, TikTok has emerged to rival companies like Netflix, YouTube, Snapchat, and Facebook with more than one billion downloads in 150 markets worldwide and 75 languages.” At Eastern Christian High School, TikTok has also gained a huge amount of popularity among students. Most remarkably, junior Annika Westra got “TikTok famous” with more than 40k followers on her TikTok page, as well as more than 10k followers on her personal instagram.
TikTok was previously known as Musical.ly, an App where people post music and dance videos. Musical.ly was later bought by a Chinese firm Bytedance and became TikTok. Annika was a long time user of Musical.ly. However, she uninstalled the App after Musical.ly became TikTok. After seeing countless advertisements about TikTok on Instagram and Snapchat, she sensed that TikTok was becoming the new trend and installed the App again.
Annika has been using the App since December last year but didn’t post anything until this May. Over the summer, she posted an interesting video showing the before and after of her haircut. This video instantly went viral and received more than three million views. “It was completely a surprise. “I was simply having fun posting interesting videos on TikTok. I did not expect it to go viral,” explained Annika. Many people imitated her video and reposted on their TikTok while tagging her in the video. To this day, she still gets more than 99 direct message request on her Instagram almost everyday.
What is TikTok anyway? How did it become so popular among teens? As junior Christiana Hubbard, a long time TikTok user, explained, “As people nowadays have a short attention span, TikTok’s short story format can easily grab people’s attention.” TikTok is also different from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter in a unique way. According to Harvard Business Report, TikTok feeds users information directly using its Al-powered algorithm. Different from other social media where people need to take an initiative to follow other people in order to receive information, TikTok learned what its users like and feeds them with the information they want to see. This can be very addicting.
“I agree that the majority of the contents on TikTok is entertainment not practical in real life, but there are also videos about self-defense, body positivity, and self-worth. It can be very addicting to some people because I know people spending hours after hours watching TikTok. It can be very hard to resist. Many people were simply consumed by it. However, at the end of the day, it all depends on how we use it.” As said in TikTok’s slogan, “Make Your Day.” We can choose to have TikTok make our day or have our day made of TikTok. It’s our decision after all.