The Rise and Conquest of TikTok at Hopkins
In an era when attention spans are shrinking, Tik-Tok, a video-sharing platform, is infiltrating every aspect of student life.
In an era when attention spans are shrinking, TikTok, a video-sharing platform, is infiltrating every aspect of student life. TikTok was started in 2017 by the Chinese company ByteDance and merged with the popular social media video platform Musical.ly in 2018. On the app, users can watch and interact with videos on their “For You” page, an algorithmic feed based on one’s liked videos. Users can also create and share their own videos. “It has the entertainment of YouTube, the impermanence of Snapchat, and the humor of Vine all in one app,” said Emi Aniskovich ’20.
At Hopkins, TikTok manifests itself in all types of ways: as homework procrastination, a source of entertainment, or even an in-class assignment. Aanya Panyadahundi ’23 uses TikTok as a reward for completing her work: “If I finish all my homework by a certain time, then I’ll allow myself to go onto the app.” On the other hand, Sydney Matthews ’23 explains: “I either make my TikToks at school during my frees, before advisory with my friends, or at home while procrastinating homework.”
Like many Hopkins students, Lilly DeLise ’20 “downloaded TikTok as a joke and now [is] ad- dicted.” DeLise said she mainly “makes TikToks for [her] friends, but keeps them as private, or comments on funny TikToks found on [her] For You page.” Her most famous TikTok comment amassed over 6,000 likes. Victoria Aromolaran ’20 said she downloaded TikTok in November to “make dance videos to export and post on [her] Instagram.” She now “posts whatever [she] wants from dance videos to comedy bits” and soon hopes to post singing videos as well.
While most Hopkins students have anywhere from zero to 50 followers, Ty Eveland ’22 (@tythecrazyguy) has over 38 thousand fol- lowers and 5.5 million likes across all his videos. “Most of my videos come to me randomly during class. If you look at my page, a ton of my videos are about subjects I struggle with, like Chemistry and Math, but I like turning my problems into funny videos,” said Eve- land. While Eveland “did not expect for [his] videos to go viral,” he credits part of the success to “using trending sounds and making TikToks students can relate to.”
Connecticut has a handful of famous TikTok stars: Fairfield’s Mark Anastasio has five million fans while Norwalk sisters Charli and Dixie D’Amelio have 20.3 million and 7.7 million followers, respectively. Lauren Sklarz ’228 and Michelle Grutzendler ’22 snapped a picture with the D’Amelio sisters at the Norwalk mall, while plenty of Hilltoppers met King School senior Dixie D’Amelio at the Volleyball Fairchester Athletic Association (FAA) Finals game between Hopkins and King. Sklarz said she was “surprised at how nice the two sisters were.” Ellie Collier ’23, who met D’Amelio at the FAA Finals game, agreed with Sklarz saying she was “approachable” yet hoped her presence on campus was “not getting more attention than the game.”
TikToks have even found their way into the classroom. Jennifer Roach’s English 10 students made a TikTok to wrap up Macbeth while Ian Guthrie’s Atlantic Communities II students made TikToks in groups for a unit review. Chris Takoudes ’22, a student in Guthrie’s ACII class explained the assignment: “Guthrie had us make a History TikTok by choosing four terms from a long list to include in the TikTok. For example, our group reviewed the Election of 1824, so we used The Corrupt Bargain, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and John Quincy Adams. Creating the video helped me to see how multiple terms and people tied together in the unit.”
Talia Chang ’22 took her history TikToks one step further and created an Instagram account (@historytiktoks) to showcase bits of her history knowledge through TikToks. “In my history classes, I’ve learned a lot of really interesting, yet complex and complicated information. I thought it would be fun to create simple and memorable videos about historical concepts to help my friends understand their material,” explained Chang. While Chang enjoys creating both “historically based and current political event based TikToks,” her favorite TikToks to make are those that “discuss Western obliviousness.”
TikToks even made an appearance at the 2019 Holiday Assembly. Senior Class President Burton Lyng-Olsen ’20 explained his choice to incorporate senior made TikToks into a Five Golden Rings Skit: “Even if you don’t know what a TikTok is, they are videos that everyone can laugh at; the trend has managed to spread from sevies to seniors.” After Lyng-Olsen played a handful of senior TikToks, Ryan Caine ’20 dressed as TikTok star Charli D’Amelio to dance for the school. “I practiced for maybe half an hour in the Upper Athletic Center bathrooms to learn the dance,” said Caine, “I’m not really much of a dancer myself, so I can’t speak for [D’amelio’s] talent, but I do respect [D’amelio] for putting herself out there on social media.”
Aniskovich explained why so many students continue to use the app: “TikTok isn’t scripted as much as Netflix. It’s not edited like YouTube. The videos are short and easy to follow. As students, we don’t have much free time and often have short attention spans, so the 15 second clips are a perfect source of entertainment.”