Oh, the wonders of social media. Trends come and go just as quick as a story on Instagram, everyone posting for their shot at fifteen minutes of fame, and the ever growing following of a new type of celebrity- social media influencers and content creators. Everyone who owns a smartphone probably has Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and now Tik-Tok, as it's growing to be a major social media platform for teenagers and young adults. Tik Tok became popular in the United States in late 2019 and since then has grown a considerable amount. Personally, I was one to make fun of Tik-Tok and say it was a dumb app like Musical.ly or Triller, and now months later, I spend more time on it than I do on Instagram.
The amount of creativity that goes into content on Tik-Tok is more than I would've ever expected when I first downloaded the app. People create "point of view" clips that are mini-movie plots for the audience, supposedly easy choreographed dances (that I somehow still can't do as well as Charli D'Amelio), smoothly edited "transition" videos, and of course common "thirst trap" or lip-syncing videos from both boys and girls.
As can be seen from reading this article and even skimming your own For You Page, Tik-Tok allows its users to create as much as they please and whatever they please. However, it's all just for the fun of it until content gets a significant amount of likes and views. People like D'Amelio and Addison Rae have blown up as a result of making and recreating Tik-Tok dances. D'Amelio has over 80 million followers and Rae is close behind with 58 million. That's more followers than some A-List celebrities have on Instagram! These girls, and many others, have gotten so popular so quickly, that they have made a ridiculous amount of money in a ridiculously short amount of time from their videos, ad revenue, sponsors, etc. Their road to fame has been seen as controversial to other teenagers asking, why did they get to become famous for doing something as simple as recreating dances? D'Amelio, according to Celebrity Net Worth, is worth four million dollars and made that fortune in under a year! Rae, according to Celebrity Net Worth, is worth two million dollars.
D'Amelio and Rae's road to stardom has brought many opportunities on and off of social media. D'Amelio is now an official spokesperson for Hollister Co. jeans and has her own coffee order, The Charli, on the Dunkin' Donuts menu (super jealous of this one..I get coffee everyday...Hey Dunkin', where's 'The Alexia'?!). She also collaborated with Morphe on a new makeup brand called Morphe2. Similarly, Rae co-founded her own makeup company, Item Beauty, and works with American Eagle Jeans. Soon, D'Amelio and Rae are both going to be voice actresses in animated movies on the Big Screen! The countless other sponsors and sources of income that have enhanced the celebrity status of these girls are also enriching other Tik-Tok content creators, such as "Snitchery" (Eleanor Barnes), Loren Gray, Abby Roberts, and more.
The issue at hand, in my opinion, is why have these girls gotten so famous in under a year? What have they done that made them stand out from the content of the other millions of users on Tik-Tok? These girls have mostly made "transition" videos and videos of themselves recreating dances. What about their videos has been so captivating that we have all stopped in our tracks on our For You Page to watch and "like" their 15-to-60 second video clips? The way I see it, we all want to be a part of the trends. Whether that means buying new clothes or watching certain people, teenagers always want to fit in and not be the odd one out. Regardless of whether content creators like D'Amelio and Rae are going to be around for a while or just a flash in the pan, they are what's popular now, so everyone wants to go along for the ride. Another reason we all follow and like these simple, yet viral videos is natural human envy, the idea 'why are they so famous if I can do these dances too.'The desire to be financially comfortable and famous is something we all have, but many of us don't have the mindset and motivation to make it happen. The wealth and fame of Tik-Tok creators is inspirational, but perhaps it demotivates users from working hard the traditional way to gain wealth, i.e starting a business, working multiple jobs, etc. and promotes the shortcut to easy money.
Now comes the ethical question, are they deserving of the riches that have been handed to them? How much work really goes into making their content that generates thousands of dollars from sponsors? It seems like they get wealth and celebrity status from not doing anything worthwhile. For instance, Rae is at a high point in her career, so high in fact, that she has befriended the Kardashians, who are also up for debate on whether or not they deserve all the fame they have bestowed upon them. Solely because of Rae's popularity, Kourtney Kardashian posted on Instagram a picture with her in the pool on August 24th. Society has come to a point where it is letting people just like you and me "go viral," for sometimes no reason other than our physical appearance and our trendy clothes. Are D'Amelio and Rae famous for ridiculous Tik-Tok dances or have they put in hard work, such that their prosperity should not be questioned?
Youtube is a competing platform that arguably requires a lot of work and talent to make a stable living. Booming creators on Youtube tend to have a crew and tool kit of equipment in order to make high quality videos. Youtuber Berlin Edmond, a gamer and entertainer, has a paid editor, multiple cameras, professional mics and headphones, lighting equipment, and exceptional computer monitors to give his audience a good viewing experience. Many Youtubers who do this much for each video they create don't get nearly as much recognition or opportunity as content creators on Tik Tok. Generally, successful youtubers have been making videos for years, while people like D'Amelio and Rae have rocketed to fame seemingly overnight. For example, Shane Dawson (even though he's cancelled) continually made videos since 2008 that generated a stream of revenue to afford his lifestyle. In 2020 he stopped making videos, but that was after 10+ years of creating videos and gaining a following. Can Tik-Tokers say the same for the work they put into each video? Most just need a standard ring light and their phone, then they're set to make viral videos. Regarding monetization, Tik-Tok created a one billion dollar fund to pay creators who apply. This source of income gives Tik-Tokers a way to make a living off of undemanding 15-second video clips. While this can be beneficial for smaller, hard working, users, we will have to see where the funds are allocated.
In spite of everything, Tik-Tok has been an amazing outlet for those who choose to make creative content on the platform. Whether or not young personalities such as D'Amelio and Rae deserve their newfound fame, they have become influential idols in the eyes of the young kids watching them. We can only hope that any of the new Tik-Tok celebrities will strive to be good role models for their viewers, and not abuse the power they attain.