Does TikTok promote originality?

Angela Yang

Over the past few years, TikTok has become one of the most used social media apps, with around 700 million active users. While many people use the app to scroll through videos for entertainment, others must do the work of creating that content for others to see. However, with the rapid spread of ideas and people itching to hop on popular trends, it begs the question of how original the average TikTok is, and if trends and original content can be measured equally.
Freshman Makayla Voight makes TikToks almost everyday, with her content usually following the latest trends.
“It depends on what the trends are. Some people make dances and then others follow them. Others just say something that’s relatable. That’s how things blow up, because others relate to it,” said Voight. “With the content that I make, I prefer the dancing ones. I think they’re just more fun to do. Although, I definitely like watching the relatable ones, [but] I don’t make as many of them.”
Relatedness, nevertheless, is an important part of Voight’s TikTok experience both when making and consuming videos. To her, this aspect helps give videos a personal touch.
“When people post TikToks about things that have happened to them, you don’t feel as alone. Other people feel the same way you do. Content that I can feel personally, those are original,” said Voight. “For example, they might be talking about Algebra homework, and maybe I can relate to that because math is hard for me.”
Senior Abby Harrison used to make TikToks on a regular basis but has recently taken a step back from creating them. Her videos used trends as a starting point for her to explore different forms of comedy.
“I think I was going more for humor rather than a certain niche. I probably did a few dances, but I did a lot of jokes. There’s so many different ways you can take a joke, so many aspects of a situation that you can misconstrue or take out of context.”
Harrison believes all videos have some original aspects, and that it’s especially necessary to be inventive when producing humor-based TikToks.
“I mean, even trends need to have some basis of originality,” said Harrison. “There’s a lot of pressure to be like, ‘Oh, I have to think of something super original that’s still really funny,’ and it is really difficult. There’s so many people on TikTok that, if you try to think of something original, someone’s probably already done it.
Senior Ramona Giddens also believes that creativity is integral when making TikToks.
“Creativity is important, especially on a social media app, where you’re meant just to put out content, or even if we’re talking about art in general. But I feel like with TikTok it’s kind of like flipped that on its head. Everyone’s just doing these trends, not original or creative in any way, making those aspects less important.”
Giddens makes content that has special meaning to her. However, not all of her videos get posted to the public.
“I make a lot of videos – a few times a week, probably – but I don’t post them all the time because I’m afraid of what people would think about me or what people would say. But if it’s a trend, I’m not really afraid to post it, because everyone else is doing it,” said Giddens. “If the video is just something I find funny, or me doing stupid stuff, then I’ll keep it to myself.”
The TikToks Giddens does post are both trendy and sentimental, and they connect her to memories of the people close to her.
“I do year-recap videos a lot, where it’s like a whole bunch of videos of me and Wyatt, my boyfriend. That stuff’s pretty important to me,” said Giddens. “There are a few videos that are very personal and sentimental that I would want to save if I ever deleted TikTok.”
Overall, Giddens is conflicted as to whether trends help or harm creators.
“It’s such a double-edged sword. I feel like it gives people like me who are scared to post things an opportunity to make fun videos. But at the same time, trends are the same thing, over and over and over again, and everyone’s making the exact same video,” said Giddens. “Obviously I post trends, so I can’t rag on them too hard, but I do think they get old pretty quick. Some are the same every time, with people just plugging their own pictures in. I like watching those if they’re by people I know because you get to see everything going on, but if instead it’s some random person, I scroll right on past. It’s repetitive.”
However, Voight believes originality can also be found within individuals’ videos even if they follow trends.
“If you’re doing a dance and you don’t like a certain part, maybe you change it and put in your own idea. Or, if you’re seeing relatable content, you kind of use the same thing, but you switch up the words a little bit to make it more connected to you,” said Voight.
As to which type of content TikTok promotes more, Voight believes that trendy videos win over original content; however, it is not very clear-cut.
“People that don’t make original content follow the trends, and I think that’s an ongoing chain. But there’s also big creators that are creative with the trends, and there’s some people that aren’t even TikTok famous, but they’re very creative, so their content blows up,” said Voight.
Giddens enjoys watching such unique videos on her feed and finding different creators.
“If I’m into a certain show, I’ll see lots of little clips that people edit together, which I think is a creative thing for people to do,” said Giddens. “TikTok also has a feature now where you can make three-minute videos, and some people do these three-minute short films or nature videos that are super cool.”
TikTok contains a multitude of videos and genres that can fit the interests of almost anyone, and it allows users to find communities where they can share their interests with others. Whether the videos people watch are inspired by a trend or sprang into existence from a blank slate, they all help form an overall experience of the platform.