TikTok Politics & Activism: How Gen-Z and TikTok are Shaping Politics

TikTok politics: not just dance challenges

TikTok is usually full of ‘Zoomers’ sharing goofy, funny videos and taking part in dance challenges. However, it’s also given birth to a new wave of political action: TikTok politics. 

If you’ve been lurking a while, you may have noticed the usual dance challenges and memes are interspersed with videos of teens talking about Black Lives Matter, racism, encouraging people to stay safe at home, or celebrating Pride digitally. 

Gen-Z are politically engaged, and highly motivated to share their views on diversity, tolerance and social responsibility.

They’re the most diverse generation to date, which is highlighted in their continued support for social justice movements like Pride and Black Lives Matter. More often than not, this is because they are often directly impacted by them. 

Given we’re living through one of the largest civil rights movements in history, a global pandemic and the ongoing climate emergency; it’s hardly surprising that Gen Z are also using TikTok as a political tool. Here’s what TikTok activism looks like in 2020. 

K-Pop fans unite to protest Donald Trump rallies

Donald Trump’s trying really hard to get re-elected, going as far as holding mass indoor rallies mid-pandemic to promote his campaign. Trump saw high demand for his Tulsa rally this June, with over a million ticket registrations. The actual attendance at the event was…6,200, not even half the 19,000 capacity of the venue.

So, what happened? TikTok activism did. 

Kpop fans on TikTok are an extremely active, supportive community typically discussing music video choreography and boyband BTS. However, this June they delivered a masterclass in organization by mobilizing nearly a million teens to register for Trump’s rally, with zero intention of turning up.

The result? 

A lacklustre start to Trump’s re-election campaign. Gen-Z are tired of exclusionary politics, and worried about the rising coronavirus cases caused by mass gatherings. And they made this obvious in silent and powerful protest, through TikTok activism.

Black Lives Matter

The murder of George Floyd caused a resurgence in #BlackLivesMatter activism across social media and through protests in both the US and abroad. CNN calls TikTok a ‘hub for Black Lives Matter activism’ as young users on the app are raising awareness of systemic racism and promoting equality through their videos. 

With videos highlighting peaceful protests, to explaining allyship, and the history behind Black Lives Matter: TikTok teens are using the app to talk candidly about systemic racism. The impact of TikTok activism is unparalleled: #BlackLivesMatter has over 16 billion views and millions of videos shared. 

Incidentally, Kpop fans have also made an effort to drown out potentially racist content under the #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag, instead filling this up with unrelated Kpop videos.

These videos are reflective of the political landscape Gen-Z are growing up in. To quote the New York Times: the kids aren’t alright – the kids are fed up.

Pride and LGBTQ+ Activism

For LGBTQ+ teens, online spaces can become a safe haven, especially if they haven’t come out to friends or family. This is especially important in countries where LGBTQ+ rights are well behind the UK.

TikTok is often a space where young people can safely share and express their gender identity and sexuality, from drag videos to talking about their experiences. The real-world impact of LGBTQ+ activism on TikTok is apparent: LGBTQ+ users in countries where TikTok is now banned sorely miss the imperfect safe space this network offers.

And in the UK – TikTok served an important function in helping celebrate Pride digitally this year. Since the annual Pride parade was cancelled, users shared videos of their personal Pride celebrations and discussed LGBTQ+ history. 

In an era where youth are often criticized for not voting, or caring about politics, this kind of activism is proof Gen-Z does care – and they’re spearheading social change online. TikTok gives young people an incredible vehicle to share their political views, often through the personal lens of their own experiences in diverse identities (e.g. being black, LGTBQ, Jewish, Muslim).

Food for thought

Do these things signal TikTok’s maturation as a platform or do you think this says more about Gen Z as a politically-invested generation? Or perhaps, only time will tell?

If you’re looking to engage Gen Z, invest more time in understanding their consumer behaviours and trends in a recent article we wrote here. 

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