Tik Tok’s exaggerations follow societal trends


Martha Sanchez

Like many other teens, senior Pia Schultz also hops on the trend- making a Tik Tok in the empty hallways at school.

Martha Sanchez, RubicOnline

Tik Tok, a trending app that follows in the footsteps of Vine and Musical.ly, features highly exaggerated dance videos and clickbait headlines. A quick scroll through the app can reveal videos of teens copying popular dances at school captioned, “We got suspended for this,” or videos of athletes captioned, “My coach will cut me if this doesn’t go viral.” Of course, a user can’t expect to simply exaggerate to become popular (you must dance perfectly or act out a comical scene), but exaggeration is a large part of the growing Tik Tok culture. A video of popular user @justmaiko dancing in a Walmart captioned “I got kicked out for this,” demonstrates this popular phenomenon. But what exactly motivates users to exaggerate? 

The simple answer is that exaggeration can lead to more likes. If a user claims that they will be cut from a team if their video does not go viral, they can expect to see more likes from sympathetic Tik Tok users who don’t want them to get cut from the team. While these captions are generally harmless, they reveal a newly emerging reality of social media that is reflective of current cultural values: drama. 

While the world has always been tumultuous, it feels especially so now. We live under the threat of climate change, political parties in the country are more divided than ever, and the political discourse of today is much more heated than usual—and that’s an understatement. [shooting on Congress floor compared to a current example of craziness] To the world of impressionable teens, they may feel the subconscious need to be dramatic to conform to prevalence of exaggeration in culture. 

Perhaps the most challenging struggle teens face is the struggle to fit in. It’s a struggle represented in every high school television show or movie, and is synonymous with the High Schools experience across the country. Although this cliche of fitting in has pervaded media for decades, the way that teens self-express has changed radically. On the surface, Tik Tok does not seem like an authentic means of self-expression: how can posting ironic caricatures of yourself, in bite-sized clips, say anything meaningfully? But, it is a direct response to the national dramas that are splashed across our headlines everyday. Tik Tok users, often without knowing it themselves, are exaggerating because recent societal realities have taught them to.