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TikTok has become an increasingly popular social media outlet for many Yalies, with the top videos from Yale students averaging half a million views.

 

In today’s pandemic climate, social media has played a vital role in helping people feel connected, contributing to TikTok’s astronomical rise in popularity during the initial quarantine last year. Before we knew it, videos of whipped coffee and dances to “Supalonely” had consumed the teen media bubble, but this was only the beginning. The TikTok phenomenon took on a life of its own, branching into the affectionately dubbed “College TikTok,” where students shared videos of their high school stats and day in the life videos, acting as inspirations to high school seniors all across the world.

 

The success of NYU TikTok where students shared videos of dismal quarantine food options made national news in August 2020 and drew the eye of the public to this exponentially growing realm of the app. Yalies have made their own space on this social media platform, with “#yale” boasting a combined total of 124.2 million views.

 

I’ve actually never heard of NYU tiktok (possibly because I’m Australian),” Tia Chitty ’24, who runs a TikTok with 94.9k followers at the time of writing, wrote in an email to the News. “I started making TikTok content on the very same day that I downloaded the app, so my content wasn’t based on what anyone else was making. I would love for Yale tiktok to grow and create its own little community — I think that could be really fun and a great way to connect!”

 

Browsing the tag is bound to yield a host of familiar faces, due to the capability of TikTok’s algorithm to launch a video into the viral stratosphere overnight, inspiring wannabe creators to make content.

 

The popularity of college videos then leads to several questions: What is inspiring these students to create? Are they leveraging the Yale name for clout, or do they truly hope to offer insight? The News spoke to three TikTok creators about their thoughts.

 

“I’m inspired by creators who make me feel genuinely happy,” Chitty said. “I often feel a little bit down after scrolling through social media, but there are a few refreshing, genuine and positive creators who make me smile,” she said.

 

Chitty, who runs a YouTube channel as well, also cited the record of memories she has captured as an inspiration to keep filming.

 

Jasmine Oang ’24, who runs an account with 4,084 followers at the time of writing, shares a similar sentiment with regard to content creation, citing her desire to help people and make interesting content, as well as being inspired by the content that she herself enjoys watching, such as day in the life videos.

 

Dania Baig ’23 has 1,798 followers on TikTok. According to Baig, part of Yale TikTok’s draw is that potential applicants are looking for ways to vicariously experience college, and can only do it through social media due to the lack of Bulldog Days, which is traditionally a three-day-long event where accepted students can get a taste of life at Yale.

 

“I think there are certain creators who definitely have the potential to be shouted out on national news because of the nature of their content — Kahlil Greene, most notably, but also Noelle Mercer for her series where she covers a prominent black woman artist every day this month,” Baig wrote to the News.

 

Both Chitty and Oang detailed that their main audience are people in their teens and early 20s, with Chitty also referencing her status as an international student contributing to the large numbers of Australian teens following her for a glimpse into life at an American college.

 

According to Oang, though her most popular videos are ones detailing tips for the SAT, she enjoys making day in the life videos most.

 

“I love making SAT tip videos because in high school, there were a lot of resources that cost money and really reinforced the elitism in academic success, but as a first-generation student with a single mom, they weren’t as accessible for me,” Oang said. “I spent a lot of time looking into opportunities and I really wish I had someone to point me in the right direction through all of it, so I try to do that through TikTok.”

 

However, Oang cited the ease and fun of day in the life videos as reasons why they are her favorite to create.

 

Chitty also enjoys making “day in the life” content or videos detailing specific events in her life the most. 

 

Her most popular video to date, with 3.4 million views, was about her taking her first Yale economics midterm in Australia at 2 a.m.

 

“I enjoy sharing these experiences with people and also love capturing the moments so I can look back on them in the future,” Chitty said. “Most of my followers are Australian, and so they also enjoy my ‘skit’ videos where I act out conversations between an Australian and an American.”

 

Though the Yale name does give videos a certain boost, both Oang and Chitty believe that they would still be making TikToks whether they were at Yale or not.

 

Since its launch in September 2016, Tik Tok’s popularity has grown exponentially, and is reported to have 1 billion active users as of February 2021.

 

Mai Chen| mai.chen@yale.edu

MAI CHEN