TikTok is having its moment in the cycle of online social platforms. One of its core user bases is current and future college students who depend on it for all sorts of things. Ithaca College students are no exception to the quick integration of TikTok into their everyday lives.
One of the most used features of the platform is the in-app search engine, which is increasingly becoming the first place many young people go for answers to their questions, according to the New York Times. Things like dorm tours and days in the life of a college student have been popular for years. But in the 2020s, people will find most of the newest college videos on TikTok.
College life content has always been a massive genre focus in media. College students are on the cutting edge of technology and what is in and what is out; they are constantly adapting to newer and newer platforms. Despite YouTube’s reign lasting over a decade as the most popular social video platform, TikTok is now the most popular entertainment app on the Apple App Store, and it seems to be where college students are posting about their day-to-day lives.
The transition from high school to college has always been difficult. While moving away from family and friends, students are also moving into a totally unknown space that some see for the very first time on move-in day. But YouTube and other internet platforms changed this process entirely. Current students’ personal dorm tours, day-in-the-life videos and other video blog-style content allow prospective students a peek behind the curtain, a look at the college life that the Office of Admissions might not say in an official tour.
With TikTok as the dominant video platform, these private looks at colleges are getting shorter and shorter. The few Ithaca College specific dorm tours available on YouTube range from nine to 30 minutes, but TikTok currently restricts users’ videos to a maximum of three minutes. This makes it harder and harder for viewers to get all the information they want and for creators to fit all there is to say within one video. First-year student Tyler Long has posted multiple videos on TikTok about his life at the college. He said his main goal is just to have fun with it all; he never assumed prospective students would see his videos.
“I really just make them to sort of romanticize my life,” Long said. “I think I just want people to be entertained by the videos and see some of the good in the world.”
Long said his videos are much less about sending them out to the world and more something to share with his friends. Originally, the videos were sent to a private group chat before he was told to post them on TikTok, where he already spent a lot of his time. The day-in-the-life videos he has posted were made to capture the good things throughout the day, whether that be a nice sunset, a moment with friends or a satisfying looking sheet of notes from class.
These videos can be important for some prospective students. First-year student Chike Nezianya said he was not able to tour campus prior to move-in day, and the only way he was able to learn about the college from reliable sources was to watch videos from students. He said there were not very many to watch on YouTube, so he turned to TikTok, where there is more Ithaca College focused content, similar to Long’s. But he did not plan on staying for long. After having been through the cycle of deleting and redownloading social media apps over and over (including TikTok), he found that he feels like it is more of a waste of time than anything.
“It lulls people into this false sense of interaction I think,” Nezianya said. “It’s easy to give and get that validation through likes but I feel like every time I open the app I get sucked in and waste 30 minutes of my life. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything.”
Nezianya said he was a more active TikTok user once upon a time though, before his college search. He said he used to post dance videos, but eventually, it just became too much and he stopped posting, turning to be just a viewer. Since cutting down his use of the platform, he has noticed a split between online personas and real-life ones and does not want to bring that to college with him.
“When you meet people for the first time in real life now, there’s almost an expectation for them to line up to their online persona,” Nezianya said. “And when people meet you, you have to decide, ‘Am I actually going to be the character I’ve curated online?’”
Sophomore Sydney Terfloth is also unsure about the application of TikTok in students’ daily lives. They said they had the app for multiple years and found the app’s content essential when preparing for college, along with other platforms like YouTube and Pinterest. Ultimately, they also ended up deleting the app because it was a waste of time and had a negative impact on their mood.
“Being able to send your friend a video that reminds you of them or you think would make them laugh is a really nice feeling, but spending all that just made me feel alone,” Terfloth said. “I mean, it really does feel like on the internet we’re all alone together, right? Maybe that’s just what college is.”