TikTok: The Great Social Equalizer of Apps

Published by Imani Benjamin on

TikTok: The great
social equalizer of apps

Amanda Funger | Avant-Youth

What is TikTok?

It’s a fun digital space to share videos and trends with friends. Or it can be an open forum to air problems and or talk about shared traumas. For creators, it’s another place to expand their brand and reach their fans. 

The app we all know [and maybe love] was not originally created this way. It used to be called Musical.ly, a DIY music video app. It allowed users to create 15-second videos of them lip-syncing or dancing to pop hits. It produced creators like Jacob Sartorius and  Ariel Martin

But that all changed in 2017, when ByteDance, a Chinese media company, bought Musical.ly and turned it into TikTok. Fundamentally, it’s the same. Users can make 15 second or longer videos of themselves lip-syncing or dancing to songs. But they can make these 15+ second videos of anything they want–skits, makeup, the dreaded POVs–anything

Now, TikTok is a big and sometimes scary place, packed to the brim with content. Within every category, there are a hundred subcategories and niches to explore.  It would be impossible to look at all the corners and “sides” of TikTok to see what’s out there because it’s an infinite rabbit hole. But we can still look at some creators and how TikTok, the great equalizer of social media apps, has affected them. 

@kaeskastle

This was the first comedy sound I used/ first video that ever went “viral” 🥺 thank you so much for 300k dont miss out on my ig giveaway 🖤🖤 #standup

♬ original sound - The Laugh Factory

Kae Kastle –  @kaeskastle

Kae Kastle blends makeup and comedy, lip-synching to comedy sketches while doing her makeup. There’s a good laugh to be had as she creates bright, vibrant looks with her eyeshadow. 

She’s not the only TikTok creator to do this. What sets her apart is her combination of “makeup and comedy sketches while providing quality lighting, quality looks and still an educational yet enjoyable experience for about 30-60 seconds.” Kastle also does tutorials where she leads the viewer through her process. 

Like a lot of creators, she chose TikTok because it’s easier to make and share content and interact with her followers. Kastle has a following that just reached three hundred thousand and has allowed her to open a store on Instagram. 

TikTok is easy and hard. 

She loves interacting with her TikTok community and using the app to be herself. But even with a great community, you still have to keep going. Like any social media platform, building a following takes time, but Kastle said, “… it’s important to remember that as long as you love it and enjoy yourself that’s really all that matters, and your time will come.”

@ben_brainard

How different states count votes.

♬ original sound - Benjamin Brainard

Ben Brainard–  @ben_brainard

Ben Brainard is a Florida-based comedian and he’s doing what everyone does to get ahead on TikTok by “… just try to do my own stuff. You stand out by being unique.” I found his sketches flipping through my “For you page” (FYP). The Table is a sketch series about the states arguing over current events in American politics, from the election fiasco to various (and repeated) government shutdowns due to COVID. 

The Table is not the only content he puts up. There are clips from his live shows, he talks with his fans and joins in on trends as they come and go. The app has proven to be great for sharing content to people who already follow him but introducing his work to new fans. He’s gained plenty since he started posting. They’re a “diverse group of people” that he loves interacting with and tries his best to keep up with his growing fanbase. 

Although TikTok was “just another social media app” for him, it had a pretty big impact on his comedy career. After five months on the app, he went from “… maybe an up-and-coming local comedian to a nationally recognized headliner.” He’s at a point where comedy can be his first and only job.

Greg Hamilton –  @gergbamilton

Greg Hamilton covers a wide range of human history, bouncing around world history, U.S history and even major events of ancient history. He got his start on Instagram making comedy videos. He gave TikTok a try to see how he’d do on another platform.  

His history videos are informative and fun, using familiar audio to talk about a variety of subjects from American imperialism to the causes of World War I and II. There’s usually audio he’s favorited so he can come back with a video idea fully formed.

He’s carved out a niche for himself. His videos are wild, they’re fun and he’s got a supportive community that he’s always interacting with. Although his TikTok doesn’t have people recognizing him on the street, there’s a lot of work that goes into making one thirty-second video (almost five hours) and it’s something that he’s having fun with.

@zcbender

Gotta read the fine print of that Noahic covenant... 😬 (Genesis 9:9-17) #noah #flood #bible #biblestories #god #christian #genesis

♬ original sound - zach
https://www.tiktok.com/embed.js

Zachary Bender –  @zcbender

Zachary Bender is a mass communication specialist in the U.S. Navy. Journalism, videos or photography, he does it all. Like a lot of people this year, Bender got on TikTok when the shutdown started. He was “… fascinated with the culture of TikTok, the inside memes, the way the platform was laid out and the way the algorithm worked. It seemed intuitive to use, new and revolutionary.” 

It was a new, fun challenge. 

The ideas for his sketches came later. Bender’s faith is important to him, and he views the bible as a “… historical book and it has such vast significance. Whenever I’m reading it, I try to picture what’s happening and there are sometimes where I have an idea of a verse and I try to make a video out of it.” He’s part of a niche group that makes biblical themed TikToks and his skit ideas come from the scripture itself. 

He initially joined to have fun but was surprised by the amount of people that started following him. Most of his followers are in the United States but he also gained a big following in South America. He was even invited to speak with two youth groups over a Zoom meeting. 

One of the best parts of TikTok for him is the positive effect his videos have. He overlooks the negativity to positive comments like how he helped someone who “… needed my videos to show them that the Bible is fun and uplifting because they had always seen God as really judgemental and harsh.” 

Although the growth of his following baffled him, it’s something he’s proud of and can “… look back on when I’m older and see something cool that I made that I like and other people happen to like. That’s the most awarding part.”

Hannah Laelo –  @hannahlaelo

Who could forget the Twilight Renaissance? The release of “Midnight Sun”, “Twilight” from Edward’s perspective, started a frenzy of fans posting old memes, dances and hot takes on all the characters of the series. 

That’s how I found Hannah Laelo, or Sheriff Charlie Swan. Laelo was supposed to have a Twilight-themed dinner with a friend. When those plans fell through, she decided to celebrate Twilight by herself and came up with the idea to become Sheriff Swan. A lot of her content is Charlie Swan and focuses on everything from his dislike of Edward Cullen to his fanon crush on Carlisle Cullen. 

We were all young when “Twilight” was released on the big screen in 2008. We were far more interested in the supernatural love triangle between Bella, Edward and Jacob than we were with any of the parents. But now that Twilight fans are older, we’ve noticed Charlie Swan on a sliding scale of, “Oh he’s kinda fine” on one end and, “What a great dad!” on the other.  

Twilight’s TikTok community is active and Laelo goes back and forth with creators like Twilight Saga Forever to hype each other up and comment on each other’s posts. While playing a dad doing his best to connect with his daughter (or slide into Carlisle’s DMs), Laelo’s become kind of a dad to some of her followers. She’s had comments saying, “You’re better than the dad I actually have,” or telling her that they had a bad day. She’s happy to reach back out to her followers and offer help. 

There are ups and downs for any creator, and Laelo is doing her best. While not everyone gets her content and understands it 100%, she still has a community of followers ready for more Charlie Swan. 

Jazmyn W – @jazmynjw

Jazmyn W is a California-based comedian who’s been doing part-time comedy for six years. Just last year she said, “screw that” to her corporate job and pursued her passion full-time. She got on TikTok early this year intending to grow her fan base. 

She said that her “… videos and content are made for Black people specifically and everyone else can enjoy the content and relate to it.”  She stands out because she uses humor to talk about her experience as a Black woman. She’s seen that people who watch her videos relate because “… as a community we are all living the same life.”

When it came to ideas, she didn’t have to try too hard. Jazmyn’s videos range from exaggerated workplace interactions to Karen Behavioral Therapy. She’s based some of them on real-life experiences, hers or those of her friends and family that have been exaggerated for comedy. As for her Karen Behavioral Therapy sketches, she used to work in HR and wondered what it would be like if Karens would have to deal with their biases instead of getting fired. 

TikTok has had a positive effect on her career. It’s hard work to get up on a stage and get people to remember you. If COVID hadn’t disrupted normal life, Jazmyn would be traveling city to city doing stand-up and trying to grow her presence as a comedian/performer. With TikTok, she’s able to reach so many more people and she’s developed a kind and caring following.   

She’s gotten a lot of love and understanding from her followers, shown through the  comments. Her community is made up of “… people who relate to me the most and also people who care about the community of black women.” Not only is she getting a lot of support, she feels she’s teaching people, helping someone learn how to understand people of color, Black people or Black women. 

TikTok is something of a great equalizer when it comes to social media apps. People of all ages flock to it because it’s fun, easy to use and there’s something for everyone. Whether that’s makeup, POVs, art or hot takes on your favorite childhood show, it’s the place to find your niche and maybe make a profit. 

However, even if you don’t strike it big on the tiny screen, your voice can still be heard. And there’s plenty of people ready to share their thoughts too. 

As we wait to see what 2021 has in store for us, why not try TikTok? Shout at the void and see what shouts back. 

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Imani Benjamin

Imani Benjamin-Wharton is a graduate from Georgia State University with a degree in English. She’s an aspiring novelist hoping to write the next great American novel. In her free time, she learns the secrets of survival from her favorite horror movies.

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