Stuy’s TikTok Stars

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Issue 13, Volume 111

By Ava Fung, Isabella Jia, Lauren Lee 

Cover Image

Boredom. It's horrible to live through, but it’s great for creativity. Stuyvesant students have experienced boredom beyond bounds during this pandemic, but TikTok has arisen as an outlet to express pent up creativity. The expansive social media app has a specific algorithm that tailors to viewers’ preferences, but some students have gone above and beyond the viewer status to become content creators, amassing thousands—and sometimes millions—of likes. These students have built their following through well-thought-out content and fresh editing and have gone on record to spill their secrets and stories.

Junior Emma Wong has many TikTok accounts, but her most popular account has amassed 20.4K followers and 540.3K likes. Wong typically posts relatable and funny content as well as TikToks that use popular sounds and follow trends. Wong’s first viral TikTok was unexpected. “It was funny when my account first blew up because I posted it without the intention of it going viral, since I only had about 100 followers,” Wong wrote in an e-mail interview. “My TikTok notifications and [follower] count just started going up really quickly and it caught me by surprise.”

Wong enjoys the benefits of her newfound TikTok renown, including new internet friends and more followers on her other social media accounts. “It's pretty cool to have a following on TikTok, and people are usually impressed by it. Because of TikTok I've made good friends that live in all parts of the country, and my Instagram account gained over 2,000 more followers too,” she explained. However, Wong notices a difference between the TikTok algorithm and other platforms. “Although I have over 20K followers, my TikToks don't get nearly that many views or likes because of how the algorithm works,” she said. “I've noticed that this is the case for most people on TikTok, where they could accumulate a decent following but their content doesn't consistently get shown to their followers.”

For others who are looking to grow their TikTok following, Wong has some advice. “Post often. The TikTok algorithm seems to favor accounts that post often and will put their videos on the For You page more,” she said. “I would also suggest that you post content that is relatable, so that people will share it with their friends and leave comments. Creativity is definitely useful, especially if you're putting a twist on popular trends or sounds.”

Sophomore Ruby Friedman also creates comedic and relatable content. Most of their videos are geared towards the LGBTQ+ community and document their journey coming out. Since last August, Friedman has racked up 19K followers and over 500K likes on their account @rubyfriii.

At first, Friedman felt animosity toward the app and only watched TikToks through Instagram Reels. “I had originally encountered TikToks through Instagram, because I was kind of an anti-TikToker, like I despised TikTok,” they said. However, they started to embrace it as they watched more LGBTQ+ TikToks. “At the time, around March quarantine, I was heavily closeted, and I was watching all these gay TikToks. And I was like, ‘Hey, that's really cool. I could try that.’ I came out in April, and then I was like, ‘I think I'm going to start,’” Friedman said.

Friedman’s exploration into TikTok was rewarding, as they received support for coming out, which encouraged them to continue posting. “I was met with a lot of support, which was really nice, because I was fresh out in the closet. And I really liked appealing to the gay community. So I make a lot of LGBTQ+ based TikToks. A lot of humor-based content as well. No thirst traps ever,” they said. Over time, Friedman switched up their content style when they came out as non-binary.

This wasn’t the only switch for Friedman’s TikTok content, as they began to be known for fake piercing tutorials. Friedman made a fake nose ring tutorial in mid-September and got half a million views and almost 200,000 likes. From that TikTok alone, Friedman amassed 6,000 followers. After receiving their first taste of TikTok notability, they continued along this path and filmed more piercing tutorials, including a septum ring one and earring one. However, they eventually lost interest and switched back to LGBTQ+ content.

TikTok following doesn’t come without consequences, however. Friedman has also faced haters and death threats. “The worst thing is when you encounter the weirdos; the weirdos are the people who recently put me on a shaved head fetish page [...] It was very bad,” Friedman said. “I've also not enjoyed the death threats. Those aren't fun. I get those. Sometimes they're like random hate comments that are like ‘haha, Baldy,’ and then there's sometimes ‘kill all the fill-in-a-homophobic-slur-here.’”

There’s a different side to TikTok creators, though. Junior Paige Wolfing mainly uses her account, not to grow to a wider connection, but rather a deeper connection with friends. After she was convinced to try out a trend, Wolfing slowly started creating more and more videos. “I post a lot of different things, but mostly basic transition videos, outfit videos, and just any of the trends that are going around at the time. For me, usually when I post about Marvel or Minecraft, that makes the algorithm,” Wolfing wrote in an e-mail interview. Her followers consist mostly of friends or mutuals, but a few of her TikToks have become viral, with her total likes coming in at 131.6k.

Wolfing has met a lot of great people from all over the world that she has built a connection with through the app. She was even able to reconnect with an old friend of hers. “I remember this one person recognized me after being on her For You page, and I haven't seen her since a summer camp we were in together in like fourth grade. It was cool that TikTok could bring us together again, even after that long period of time,” Wolfing said.

While scrolling through the For You page, you might even stumble upon math TikToks sandwiched between dancing and comedy videos, featuring SAT math tips or tricks. Junior Cary Han is one of the pioneers of these math accounts with 2.3 million followers and 20.3 million likes on his account, @my.bummy.math.tutor.

He started in the June of 2020 in the midst of boredom during quarantine. “Basically, I was really bored. So I had nothing to post and I posted videos related to math,” Han said. Regarding his massive account growth, he attributes it to his constant posting. “As long as you post consistently, and your quality is somewhat the same, I guess your account just continues to grow,” he explained. “I normally post around three times a day. I post at 11 a.m. And then I post around 2:30 p.m. And lastly, at night around 8:30 p.m.”

Han also attributes his growth to the lack of math accounts on TikTok. Thinking outside the box and filming math content has helped Han stand out and gain attention. “Math isn't really a loved subject, in terms of what people watch on TikTok, but that's why I did it. At the time I started TikTok, math wasn't really that popular. Because if you think of TikTok you think of like dancing videos or just like comedy. Math kind of stands out in that realm,” Han said.

Junior Christopher Dou, another math TikToker, started his TikTok, @themathwizard, in mid-October of last year and has amassed 1.2 million followers and 14.7 million likes. He posts TikToks with the goal of teaching math to a mainstream audience, as well as spreading his love of math. “What inspired me to post was a while back I was doing tutoring and there were a lot of kids who kind of wanted math tutoring but they couldn't,” Dou said. “I just feel like there are so many people I could teach at one time and a lot of these people didn't find math interesting.”

Dou has some advice up his sleeves to becoming TikTok famous. “Follow the trends and use the features that TikTok puts out, like stitches and duets, as TikTok often heavily promotes them, and make sure that you get their attention in the first two seconds to make them not want to leave,” Dou said. Additionally, he advises making videos that catch the audience’s attention right away. His last piece of advice was much less technical. “Just try to be yourself. Don't be someone you're not; they can tell if you’re being real or fake,” he said.

All of these TikTokers have one thing in common. They all jumped right in, and that's exactly what Dou recommends. “For people who want to start TikTok, just go for it; don’t be scared what's the worst that's gonna happen,” Dou advised. Soon, you might find yourself hooked on making videos about things of your interest, whether it be math, art, or Marvel comics. And who knows… maybe somebody else will be interested too.