TikTok innovative, but reinforces stereotypes

TikTok is an app that tweens and teenagers use to pass their free time. Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

TikTok is an app that tweens and teenagers use to pass their free time. Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

Since TikTok was launched in 2017, the world has never been the same.

Well, not exactly, but it has had a huge impact on Gen Z culture and on mainstream media in general. But with every new social media app that comes out, however, it seems that we see the same trend of younger girls being at the receiving end of criticism for their personalities and style choices, and TikTok is no different.

I would like to preface by saying that I am obsessed with TikTok. I could spend hours on that pointless app and completely lose track of time. This goes without saying that I’ve seen a lot of the content on the app, and while a majority of it is great, there are some issues.

A common thread that comes with social media apps is the ability to categorize the types of people who use it, specifically young girls. New terms like “E-girl,” “VSCO girl” and “soft girl” are creating stereotypes for young girls based simply on their interests.

This isn’t a new trend, we’ve seen it with Tumblr, Instagram and Vine. Girls being called “edgy” for wearing combat boots, “basic” for wearing Uggs and drinking coffee, “hipsters” for liking classic rock and the list goes on.

TikTok has brought back many of those stereotypes in brand new forms. Girls who like punk music and fashion are labeled “E-girls,” “soft girls” wear cuffed jeans and wear lots of blush and a “VSCO girl” is pretty much anyone with a Hydroflask wearing a scrunchie.

Many girls who use the app are between their tween and teenage years, and it’s harmful to them to see people policing their style and personal interests, especially at a time when they are still developing their own personal styles and learning about themselves.

However, there are tons of amazing young content creators on TikTok and while most of their content is for laughs, there is also a great number of social issues being spotlighted by short video clips.

It’s amazing to see so many young people being so active and socially aware and creating content that spotlights issues that are important to them. My favorite example of this is the current thread of TikToks where children are expressing their fear of police brutality by simulating how they would react to being apprehended by the police.

I have no doubt that TikTok will continue to be a huge influence on the youth of our generation, and I hope that because of all the social awareness being spread through the app, it will lose the social media-based stereotypes that have categorized young people for so long.

Danielle Kessler can be reached at [email protected] or @reserv0irpups on Twitter.