TikTok – What is it and Why Are Teens Obsessed?

From a slightly older “Gen Z” perspective, Tik Tok initially appears to simply be “Vine 2.0.” In other words, a newer version of the 6-second video platform that skyrocketed many Youtubers into fame and glory. However, for the modern teen, Tik Tok has become the core of pop culture and minds. 

Originally launched in 2014 as Musical.ly in the United States, the app was bought by ByteDance, a Beijing-based media and tech company. ByteDance simultaneously owned and operated the app Tik Tok in China. Eventually, ByteDance combined the two apps, which were comparably popular in their own regions, under the name Tik Tok. This allowed Tik Tok to become the most downloaded iOS app  in the first quarter of 2018. So if Tik Tok has been popular for years in the United States, why are only teens using it? Perhaps because the app’s user base is very young compared to more popular social media platforms.

“All my friends and I love watching Tik Tok” Eliot, an elementary school student, reports. “It is the best app for watching funny videos and making awesome music videos to the best music!” Eliot adds, “More adults should use Tik Tok because it’s hilarious!” 

Last year, Digiday cited that 50 percent of those who used Musical.ly on iPhones (60 percent of users on Androids) were between the ages of 13 and 24. Another interesting fact Digiday found was that Seventeen Magazine has nearly double the amount of followers on TikTok than the publication does on Instagram, which is thought to be a more popular social media app. Clearly the Seventeen crowd, those around a similar age, are very engaged with this platform. 

“I think it relates to people in their early twenties and teens,” says Karna Small, a senior at Southern Methodist University, “I don’t think busy adults have time to mindlessly scroll through random videos.” However, generally, Karna likes to spend her free time on Tik Tok since “For viewers, it encourages mindless scrolling and humor. For creators, it encourages and inspires creativity.” 

Tik Tok is unique in that it is the only social media platform dedicated to videos. Originally, Musical.ly was a lip sync app, which transformed once users got more creative and began making music videos for the biggest hits. However, with the implementation of “face filters”, hashtags and short shows from media companies like NBCUniversal and Seventeen, Tik Tok is quickly becoming a well-rounded app with entertainment for all ages. 

Like other modern social media platforms, influencers have figured out a way to make money off of Tik Tok. The top “Musers” of Tik Tok include Baby Ariel, Jacob Sartorius and Mackenzie Ziegler (of Dance Moms). 

Both Facebook and Instagram first became popular with teenagers and eventually reached older generations. However, platforms like SnapChat mostly remained popular with the younger generations. 


Only time will tell how many people of different generations will become avid Tik Tok-ers!