17-year-old Anna is just like any other teen. She’s a senior in high school, a cheerleader with a bubbly personality—oh, and she wants to become TikTok famous. Why? Because it’s the goal of practically every Gen Zer today. From users who are a little famous to mega-famous, everyone wants a bit of the spotlight.
Anna has been using TikTok since spring of 2019, and it’s already taken up a big chunk of her screen time. (The app is actually fairly new to the social media scene, making its official debut in August 2018.) “TikTok is the most used app on my phone. I spend about four hours a week on TikTok,” she says. What keeps her coming back to the app day in and day out is pure entertainment. People sing, dance, or just make up hilarious content, all of which can become pretty addicting. Anna says the app “takes up most of my time and makes me crave to be TikTok famous.”
She’s not famous yet, so in the meantime, Anna keeps up with other regular people like her who did make it into the world of fame. Two of her favorite TikTok celebs are Charli D’amelio and Josh Fleming. She likes them because they are, of course, entertaining. But another key aspect of her loyalty is their relatability. Being able to relate to their content means she can make a personal connection with two famous influencers she’s never actually met. Teens today don’t want to watch someone live an absolutely untouchable life. It’s when those people, beloved by millions, make an effort to let their real selves show that they gain a major following.
Among the most famous TikTok celebs are Loren Gray (36.6 million followers), Baby Ariel (30 million followers), and Zach King (29.1 million followers). But how does one gain so many eyes on their accounts daily? According to Anna, it takes one of two talents: perfect dances or really funny content. In addition to this, you have to post more than once a day, every single day. “Honestly, if you post cool dances with good lighting twice a day, you’ll most likely get famous,” she says. It seems easy enough, but it takes a lot more effort than you might think.
TikToks require more than just a few seconds to generate a well-crafted video. It takes skill, humor, and a whole lot of dedication. Creating TikToks requires sustained mental energy to learn and perform dances perfectly, or to come up with a completely original skit that people across the globe will find funny. For Anna, some of the dances only take a few minutes to pick up. But the more complicated routines can take her and her friends hours. Sounds exhausting, right? Maybe, but for most teens, the clout is worth the effort.
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, influencers at the top of the followers’ list can charge fees of up to $300,000 per sponsored post. But does the average teen aspire to become TikTok famous for the money? In Anna’s experience, no. They just want enough clout to actually be seen. “It’s all about other people seeing our stuff,” she says about her and her friends’ TikToks. “I want to be TikTok famous because I want everyone to see the cool and hard dances that me and my friends dance to.” And at the end of the day, it’s about connection. “I have so much fun with my friends making these dances,” Anna says.
So while TikTok can bring our teens together digitally and IRL, it’s not all fun and...dance moves. Make sure to monitor your child’s account and have good conversations about communicating with people through the app (because if videos are public, anyone in the world is free to view, comment, and message your teen). To make the account more secure, have your child set it to private so they can still post fun videos without worrying about who might be seeing them. And if your teen does aspire to become TikTok famous, it’s not necessarily bad to desire recognition and for people to care about you. But it is important to establish why they want to get famous because they could end up fulfilling those desires in unhealthy ways (i.e. obsessing over followers and views). The best thing you can do is simply talk with your teen about why they want to get famous, what they’d do if they did reach fame, if they’re prepared for the pressures, and how they can manage their account responsibly.
For more info on TikTok and how to talk to your teen about it, check out our Parent Guide!