How Tik Tok Has Redefined Community

By Lizzie Insoft

The majority of today’s teenagers and twenty-somethings were raised to believe that the correlation between our upbringings and the technological revolution would be an obstacle. Many of us were taught that the early introduction of smartphones and tablets into our lives, while making so much easily accessible and seamless, would also be detrimental to our mental health, achievement, and social skills. Most of us Gen Z’ers were led to believe that preserving our mental health coincided with rising above the trap that was social media and the use of technology, creating a belief that most forms of media were inherently toxic. But, this universal acceptance that today’s youth wouldn’t be able to use the changing world to our advantage was a pessimistic and unfaithful outlook on our generation that was most recently put to shame. It only newly became evident how social media is truly the savior of mental health for so many.

When Tik Tok first began to gain traction, I, like many others , was opposed to the concept. What seemed like mindless scrolling for hours on end, as described by my friends, I soon realized was a haven for so many. In quarantine, finding myself with absolutely nothing to do, I downloaded the app. To my surprise, I found not just one community of people, but thousands upon thousands of communities: foodies, artists, activists, etc. At first, I didn’t understand how videos lasting from five to sixty seconds at max could be so impactful. After spending some time on the platform, however, all of its features combined led me to understand why the app was such a smashing success. It was clear that since each video was so brief, the app’s stakes were so low. I was able to watch a video or make a video in a thirty second time frame. This allowed me to realize that because making the content was so simple and there was such an overflow of it, people were willing to be more vulnerable with their posts. The information I saw people sharing on the app was unlike anything I had ever seen on a social media platform. Not to mention, the potential to go viral was unparalleled. Everything about Tik Tok seemed to mesh into the perfect place to find relatability, regardless of who you are or where you come from. 

Over the past year and a half, people have experienced loneliness in a way that no one should ever have to. Thanks toTik Tok, the world has become a little less isolating. Every person with niche interests and beliefs can find others with those same unique likings on the platform. It seems that every single day, I come across another video where thousands of people are relating to another show, idea, or concept that we all believed we were the only ones to understand. Tik Tok has an authenticity to it that Instagram or Facebook haven’t ever really embodied–it is undoctored and emotionally raw. While people have been able to grow “fame” through the app, what makes it so impactful is that this “fame” is accessible to anyone. It's non-exclusive, and in a world where we are constantly told to find ways to differentiate ourselves, it's a reminder of just how alike we all are. As a college student, I have sought out groups of people who I can relate to and rely on. Hopelessly Yellow, a blog of like-minded U of M students who are promoting positive mental health has been a major source of connection for myself. Being able to write articles about my own experiences as an outlet and to provide some relatability to my classmates has evolved into a true community. And, while I am fortunate to have found Hopelessly Yellow as it allows me to grow relationships with a foundation of the big things: values, attitude, and optimism, Tik Tok is a gentle reminder of the importance of the little things too. Each community I am a member of, no matter how niche, is impactful in shaping my life. 

So, while many associate using social media, and especially Tik Tok, with immaturity, I’ve come to realize that the willingness to be vulnerable and connect with others reflects the opposite. We all need human connection, and the greatest justification for our feelings and emotions doesn’t always come from our loved one’s reassurance, but sometimes from the knowledge that those we don’t know are thinking and feeling the same way. Social media has always come with a warning not to let the fabrications and surrealism of celebrities' lives hinder our self image, but Tik Tok has proven this generation much more resilient than others anticipated. This platform could have flopped, but its popularity reflects the character of today’s youth: authentic and relatable. Tik Tok is proof that Gen-Z and many millennials have adapted to the evolving world and used development as a tool for connection, when many predicted it would cause division. I have always held faith in my peers and any member of my generation that the world around us would be used as a tool to bring people together–Tik Tok is emblematic of this. Any pessimism surrounding how technology and the media were going to affect society can be refuted with the connections fostered on the app. 

So, if you ever find yourself feeling lonely, which we all do, I point you in the direction of the app store to download Tik Tok and scroll away. An act that I had once believed to be mindless, has proven to be a mindful means of finding community, even if just for fifteen seconds out of the day. If the future of our generation entails providing the social and emotional support for one another that Tik Tok has fueled, I look upon it with optimism.