Do you remember when "millennial" was the blanket term for "youth"? When it was us who were the cool new generation, baffling minds and murdering industries? When we laughed in the faces of the Olds who tried so desperately to figure us out?
Well, despite the fact that we still get blamed for everything, it turns out that we're the Olds now. Over the past few years, I'll admit, my suspicion about this has been growing; my hangovers last three days, my friends would all rather stay in on Friday nights, and, oh yes, the alarming amount of grey hairs I've been discovering. Tragic. But not even the literal greys have so harshly confirmed my status as "old" as has TikTok.
I was born of Myspace. I still actively use Facebook. And, of course, I am obsessed with Instagram and Twitter. But, starting with Snapchat - which was released in 2011, only a year after Insta - I've been growing increasingly confused by new forms of social media. I held on as long as I could; I "got" Snapchat for a while, and sent ugly photos of myself to a few friends. I still sometimes use it for the face filters (which I then save and post on my Insta story). But I could never use it the way my neice, who is seven years younger than me (she's 21), and her friends do. It's like, their thing. My neices's last Instagram post was months ago, but she's on Snapchat 24/7. However, even she is technically still considered a millennial.
Are they called Gen Z, these new teens? Well, whoever they are, they're up to all sorts of weird stuff. One needs only to browse through Taylor Lorenz's brave work at The Atlantic (and more recently, The New York Times) to become familiarized. The teens have hijacked Google Docs as a way to chat in class. The teens are becoming influencers just by selling their clothes. The teens are randomly airdropping memes to strangers (a particularly terrifying phenomenon, if you ask me). However, nothing - nothing! - has shook me to my core, or sparked the personal existential crisis I am presently involving you in, quite like TikTok.
Theoretically, I understand that it is like the late mini-video platform Vine (RIP), an app that I wasn't funny enough to post on but with which I could still easily keep up with (thanks, mostly, to the memes being cross-referenced on Twitter and Instagram, thus quickly becoming pop culture jargon). But the TikTok teens are in a world of their own, and it doesn't look like they want us in it. Even when the trends or "challenges" (like this putting-random-stuff-on-your-feet Iggy Azalea one) go viral, they're still self-contained within the digital walls of the platform itself. And don't even get me started on the dances. Over Thanksgiving my seven-year-old cousin came into the kitchen pop, drop, and lockin' it like those old *NSYNC dance workout videos.
As alienated as this platform of the future has made me feel, which is 99% of the reason that, until now, I've mostly disregarded it as a dumb social media thing for kids, it might actually be time for me to catch up. After all, it's being heralded as the new go-to for influencer marketing, and on a recent media trip, filled with my peers in their late 20s and early 30s, the conversation centered on TikTok - a few fellow editors even created accounts right there at the brunch table. The phenomenon which began with YouTube stars all living in content creation mansions has also reached the TikTok generation, with talent management companies putting up their viral clients in swanky homes together to fuel their creativity (a.k.a. output) on the app.
These teens are about to blow up as celebrities and if, like me, you're incredibly out of touch, click through for the TikTok influencers to know.
With over 38 million followers, 17-year-old Loren Gray is the most followed person on the platform. She lip syncs, dances, and just generally looks cute in her videos, which have earned her a Teen Choice nomination and a record deal with Virgin Records for some reason.
Next up is BabyAriel, real name Ariel Martin, who boasts over 30 million fans and who also lip syncs, dances, and acts a little goofy in her clips. She won a Teen Choice award and made some appearances on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel.
Babyfaced social media star and singer Jacob Sartorius started gaining internet notoriety when he uploaded his first Vine video at just 11 years old. He has released multiple EPs as of 2019 and also dated Stranger Things star, Millie Bobby Brown (a teen celeb I actually know).
With a Kylie Jenner face and ever-rotating selection of wigs, 20-year-old Kristen Hancher has skyrocketed to TikTok fame with over 23.3 million followers. She also lip syncs and dances and uh, looks cute. See, this is why I hate this app.
Colorful TikToker Lauren Godwin at least has a sense of humor. Find her pranking her friends, family, and boyfriend, fellow influencer Sebastian Bails, and getting plenty of likes and laughs out of her 18 million followers.
Known for his beatboxing skills (which, I'll admit, are pretty impressive) Spencer X runs an entertaining account, which even featured an appearance by Alicia Keys.
Spencer's BFF, Joey Klaasen, is also a name to know. The funny guy pranks his parents and fellow TikTok friends with different viral challenges.
Model turned social media star Gilmher Croes posts comedic sketches on TikTok with his brother, Jayden. You have to admit, they're adorable.