By Katherine Williams
Say goodbye to Facebook and Twitter—there’s a powerful new media app taking over the internet. TikTok, a social platform on which users create and share short, seconds-long videos, is Gen Z’s new favorite app. Over 60% of TikTok users are members of Generation Z, today’s young people who are now between the ages of about 9 and 24. While Instagram and Snapchat are still popular among Gen Z when it comes to traditional social networking platforms, TikTok offers a space for not only social media, but the rapidly developing content-creation market. And for Gen Z, individual expression is at the core of everything they do, making TikTok the perfect app to develop their identity and connect with other young users. If you’re hoping to understand what TikTok means for Gen Z, here are a few key insights to keep in mind.
Research by McKinsey has shown that the expression of individual truth is Gen Z’s defining characteristic, a value that translates easily onto TikTok’s interface and constantly changing For You Page. The personalized algorithm and development of niche interest groups feed into Gen Z’s desire for community, connection, and individuality. From WitchTok to sorority rush, TikTok has fueled the growth of micro-communities that bond over shared experiences, aesthetics, and identity performances. In Gen Z’s digital-first reality, friends are made over the internet, and TikTok is a place where everyone is constantly sharing their curated selves in the quest for connection.
TikTok has also accelerated the trend cycle for Gen Z. Clothes, food, and products go viral within a day on TikTok—everything from tinned fish to air fryers all gained traction on TikTok, where users shared their reviews and incorporated the item into their own personal aesthetic. “Discourse” on TikTok often tends to circulate narratives of what users should be doing, wearing, saying, and eating in order to achieve a certain lifestyle; this is nothing new for the aspirational structure of internet culture, but TikTok has made this even more rapid and conspicuous. Influencers in particular are the new cultural gatekeepers and Gen Z’s new idealized selves, often complete with branded content and hauls.
Ultimately, TikTok is Gen Z’s digitized reality, where users try on different identities, where social interactions happen in split seconds, and where a vast majority, if not the entirety, of youth culture is created and scrutinized. This makes TikTok an essential platform with which to engage if you’re looking to understand Gen Z or tap into the minds of today’s youth.
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