TikTok tells our story: the year at home

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Abby Wolf staff writer

“Why are there eight empty glasses in here?” my mom yells, barging into my room.

I always thought this situation was unique to my family, until I saw a teenage girl from Ohio film herself cradling half filled glasses from her room to the kitchen, attempting to avoid her mom.  

Many parents worry TikTok is a waste of time. In fact, a study cited in Forbes showed that pre-teens and teens spend about 80 minutes per day on the app. What parents fail to understand is the sense of community and comfort TikTok provided in the year we were trapped in our rooms. 

With limited ability to process this bizarre year face to face with friends, millions of teenagers resorted to TikTok. We reacted to the monumental events of 2020 and 2021 through 15-60 second videos. 

We witnessed a protester bloodied at a Black Lives Matter march with Childish Gambino’s “This is America” playing softly in the background. We viewed news updates from freelance journalist Marcus DiPoala in Washington, D.C., as insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol. We commemorated President Joe Biden’s inauguration with thousands of videos admiring Michelle’s coat, lionizing Bernie’s iconic mittens, and applauding Amanda Gorman’s inspiring poem.

Aside from being a political forum for teenage activists, TikTok provided support and comfort for many. 

According to a study in a New York Times article about teenage loneliness during the pandemic, about one-third of 3,300 high school students polled reported feelings of depression since the beginning of this school year. 

Teens found camaraderie on TikTok.

We commiserated over the awkwardness of getting stuck in a Zoom breakout room with students we did not know or the embarrassment of accidentally unmuting during class. We shared our joy and grief with videos of us opening our college acceptance letters. We all understood when Maddie from Pennsylvania said, “Every day is the same.” 

During the early months of quarantine, we shared theories about “Tiger King”, followed recipes for whipped coffee and exercised together with Chloe Ting. As the pandemic dragged on, life came to a halt. We stopped seeing our friends, so there was no new drama that needed rehashing. Netflix had few new shows and removed binge-worthy comedies like “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office”. 

TikTok gave us new things to talk about every day. 

Maddie from Pennsylvania was right. For the past year, every day has been the same. But our generation found a unique way to capture it and when we look back at this year, we will be reminded of the way Gen Z turned a global pandemic into a year of online laughter and community. 

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