Teens take on TikTok one trend at a time

October 4, 2019 — by Megan Chen

Senior Lucy Liang carries a heavy stack of textbooks into her room, not to study, but rather to record a clip to post on TikTok, a video app for creating and sharing short videos. Liang changes into four different outfits and uses props that embody each grade level in high school, following a popular back-to-school TikTok trend.

Ever since the video platform Musical.ly was rebranded as TikTok in November 2017, students have begun to make content on the new app. Many of these students started using TikTok as a joke, but a significant number tend to stay on the app after realizing how creative they can get with TikTok trends.

Sophomore Naomi Mallik, who has amassed 11,300 followers, began making videos in March as a result of the popularity of the app with her friends. 

“I got TikTok as a joke, and a lot of people find the app embarassing and cringy, but they still have it,” she said. “I started making videos with my friends, and after a while some of them started getting 20,000 to 40,000 likes, so I started making more.”

Liang had also downloaded the app on a lark, and then found herself legitimately enjoying making content.

With TikTok’s ever changing “for you” page, which features the most liked and viewed videos, it can be a struggle to get recognized. As soon as a user uploads a video, it gets put on a couple other users’ “for you” page. For new users with few followers, this system makes it rare for their videos to gain enough traction to be featured.

“Relatable content gets the most likes, so the best way to get featured is if you follow the trends and keep your content relatable,” Mallik said. “I think my most viewed TikTok was one about how my entire family is short, but I ended up being really tall.”

Because Mallik has thousands of followers, many of her videos are able to gain more recognition. But for those with few followers, simply posting relatable videos may not be enough.

While Liang agreed that relatable content is the most popular, she added, “you have to regularly post about creative and funny ideas, and have good camera quality, and it probably helps if you’re pretty too.”

Although the maximum length of a video is a minute, and most videos average to be about 15 seconds, users tend to put a lot more time into them. The average video takes Mallik about 10 minutes to film and edit.

As to why the app has gained traction after its rebranding, Liang said, “I feel like you can get more creative on TikTok than on musical.ly, like different dances, trends, art and memes.”

Although students are initially attracted to TikTok for its novelty, the app’s relatable content and constantly changing trends lure students into becoming creators.

“I think trends like VSCO girls and e-boys are really cool, and every time I see them, I want to be like them,” Liang said. “I know these trends often become memed and the butt of jokes, but I think a small part of people secretly wants to be like them.”