TikTalk: The rise of PoliTikToks’ appeal to young voters

There are three TikToks put together of Jon Ossoff. The number of views are on the bottom left corner.
Politicians have been appealing to young voters on TikTok by showing them the inner-workings of their campaigns. (Photo courtesy of @jon on TikTok.)

Just to be clear, I am not TikTok famous, nor am I a TikTok expert. I am just another Gen Zer who found themselves downloading the app as another means to procrastinate doing schoolwork and distract themselves from the uncertainty of the pandemic.

With a “for you” page of content curated to my liking and a stream of content that could take a lifetime to consume, I found every moment of my free time being spent on the app. I did not feel too guilty about having so much of my screen time being spent on TikTok because I realized I was actually learning a thing or two. 

This column is meant to give TikTok the credit I think it deserves. It is not just an app for influencers who keep up with dance trends and memes, it is also a place where interesting conversations about political, social and popular culture are taking place. 

During election season, politicians became cognizant of this too and decided to take advantage of an audience of millions of young voters on the app. The first time I saw a politician in my feed, it was former 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang. He was lip syncing to “The Box” by Roddy Ricch while holding stacks of fake money and telling viewers to go out and vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Not used to seeing any political figures in this element, I was taken aback. Maybe it was because I was so used to politicians wanting to ban TikTok that I did not think one would ever actually join the app. 

It makes sense though. For the younger generation, social media is where we get our news, and more importantly, how we form our political opinions, so politicians finally met the young voters where they were, TikTok. 

Before being elected, Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff caught the attention of young voters by participating in the #RenaissanceChallenge and making videos to trending sounds. He even gave a tour of his campaign bus showing his snack cabinet and overfilled closet. The night before the Senate runoff in Georgia, he posted a TikTok praising the record-breaking youth voter turnout and first-time voters. 

This is a prime example of the transparency and realness from political candidates that we have been missing. It gets tiring listening to politicians who, more often than not, are old white men, tell us what to believe in or who to vote for, while also keeping the inner workings of legislation a secret from the very people they are supposed to be helping. 

By using TikTok, understanding politics becomes accessible to young people while also giving them a direct line of communication to politicians. The effort made by certain politicians — such as Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey or Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr. — to answer questions they are asked, connect with the young audience and partake in trends creates a larger appeal for said audience to go and vote for that candidate. 

Gen Zers on all sides of the political spectrum have created political houses, similar to the hype house of famous TikTokers such as Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, to express their support. Pages such as the @therepublicanhypehouse and @tiktokleftists have been created for people to share commentary on their political ideologies. 

As TikTok continues to gain recognition as a hub for Millenials and Gen Z, I would not be surprised to see more and more people in office join the app. With the ability for instantaneous consumption of news and opinions, it is only a matter of time before TikTok becomes a go-to social media platform, such as Twitter and Facebook, for information.

Not everyone likes TikTok, and that is totally OK. I am not trying to force anyone to download the app. Instead, I hope that people will see it in a new light and appreciate its significance in how discourse surrounding current events is being spread among the younger generation. TikTok can be a balance of entertainment and education, that is something I hope to emulate in this column.

Trinity Gomez is a junior writing about TikTok and popular culture. Her column, “TikTalk,” runs every other Tuesday.