I am sure by now that most people have heard of the popular social media app, TikTok. If you haven’t, I suggest investing a couple minutes into the app before it gets “banned” in 36 days—but please don’t get too invested. Over the last few months of quarantine, my unhealthy obsession with TikTok has grown even further after spending way too much time perfecting dance trends that 16 year-olds started.
TikTok (formerly known as musical.ly) rebooted in summer of 2019 but really blew up in 2020. New creators hit the spotlight and began building solid platforms on the app. This was more difficult to do in the beginning phases of TikTok due to low viewership and slow moving trends, so I applaud the people that used their raw talents (dancing, singing, comedy, etc.) to make a real name for themselves. However, many popular influencers from YouTube and Instagram began to head over to TikTok, now making content with an already high follower count. But over a year after the app’s reboot, and almost six months into the Coronavirus pandemic, it seems to me that some (and by some I mean most) of these creators do not actually deserve the platforms we have given them.
Now I say this quite easily because of what is happening in the world right now. As an “influencer” it is their job to influence their followers, right? Some may argue no, and that you should not look up to and follow teenagers that are still trying to navigate life themselves. And while I can’t necessarily disagree with that, the reality is that when these people are handed a platform to be in charge of, it is their responsibility to lead by example. This goes for people of all ages.
Unfortunately, a lot of L.A.’s finest influencers have failed their followers, and are very much disregarding the global pandemic that our country is still having to battle with right now. Los Angeles, Calif., still one of the U.S.’s biggest hotspots for COVID-19, can be seen with packed streets, restaurants and shops. According to the CDC, in Los Angeles County alone, there have been over 221,000 confirmed cases with 5,245 deaths. Although the state of California requires masks (you can even be fined for not wearing one), these numbers show that something is still going wrong. And I can give you a hint, it is largely due to the amount of young influencers living in the heart of L.A. that believe they are immune to coronavirus. Yes, maybe they are wearing masks out in public, but I’ve definitely watched a handful of paparazzi interviews where some of the most well known TikTokers are wearing the mask under their chin or hanging around one ear. I’m glad you have your mask but would it kill you to wear it the right way while you’re being interviewed?
Although, it isn’t the unmasked interviews that irritate me the most. It's flying in and out of L.A. to gather in groups and create “content,” or throwing massive indoor, unmasked parties with hundreds of people attending. It’s the things they can 100% refrain from doing yet still do. Recently, popular creators like Jake Paul, Bryce Hall and Nikita Dragun have received quite a bit of backlash for hosting large parties in 2 of the most popular TikTok/content houses—The Hype House and The Sway House. But the backlash is beginning to hit attendees as well, and honestly, I am here for it.
Why do we continue to support influencers that are not using their platforms to do the right thing? Some of them claim to dislike being referred to as “influencers” and prefer their followers to “do as I say not as I do.” But if that’s the case, then what is the point? Why do these young teenagers/adults deserve a platform to speak up to millions of people, if they are just going to forget a really big part of what it means to be in the public eye. Having a platform to the extreme that a lot of these TikTokers do, means going way further than just providing content that is entertaining for followers. Setting an example and speaking up is just as important as entertainment.
David Dobrik, a young influencer living in L.A. who thrived off of filming vlogs, decided to take a break from posting content on YouTube. This was mostly due to the fact that a lot of his videos showcased his (at least) 15 person “Vlog Squad” partying at home or going out to clubs. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Dobrik says “I knew I couldn’t make the videos that I wanted to and a lot of my videos involve traveling and going out… interacting with strangers are a big part of my videos.” It was a well respected statement that just spoke for itself. If it can’t be done safely, why do it at all?
So all the college kids out there need to take notes. Even if you are not an influencer with a large social media following and a reputation to uphold, it is not the time to host or attend huge back-to-school parties. There is a reason these people are receiving enormous amounts of backlash on the internet and I can’t believe I still have to say this: It is not all about you.
With that said, I am quite ashamed with the time I have invested into these creators. Especially when it is obvious that most of these influencers thrive off of attention and performative activism. It’s hard not to get sucked into TikTok drama and entertainment (especially in a time where we don’t have much else to do), but our views give them money and only expand their platform. As viewers, we need to recognize that some of these people do not deserve our attention; but that’s not to say influencers do not have a job to do themselves. Influencers across all platforms need to remember that whether they like it or not, they are role models for others.