More than 300 popular creators on the TikTok app have formed a virtual content house. Instead of renegade dance challenges, teens and young adults are peddling political activism. While those part of the collective “TikTok for Biden” movement hope to secure Democrat Joe Biden a 2020 presidential victory, their youth and inability to vote leaves many, including Montclair State University students asking how, if at all, this campaign will impact the election.
TikTok, a platform with more than 100 million U.S. users monthly, has been the cause of some recent controversy. Nevertheless, the app has also provided an online hub for virtual activists looking to boost their issues and amplify their voices.
The spontaneous nature of the app, which allows for anyone to quickly gain views, has taken the U.S. and the world by storm. The astounding majority, or 60% of TikTok users, are people between the ages of 16 and 24. However, their youth has not stopped them from playing a role in the 2020 presidential election.
The app, created in 2016 by the Chinese company ByteDance, has already been at the center of some election buzz. TikTok users, mostly minors, staged somewhat of a political practical joke.
The prank included teens and young adults registering to attend President Trump’s reelection campaign rallies and then not showing up. While this has ignited a laugh in some and outrage in others, it has become a source of ire for President Trump. He has even gone as far as proposing to ban the app.
The movement has also gained some traction in the press. Take 16-year-old Bella Their for instance, who said that her goal and aspirations with the campaign were quite clear.
“We are working to get Biden voted into office,” Their said.
With more than 800,000 combined followers on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram accounts, the campaign boasts members like critically acclaimed author Hank Green, Glee alumnus Kevin McHale and other popular creators on the app.
One member of “TikTok for Biden,” Jeremy Muchemi, discussed some possibly telling numbers in relation to the upcoming election.
“We’ve amassed over 100 million total combined followers, which is more than what [President] Trump got in votes in 2016,” Muchemi said.
Sam Wilk, a freshman psychology and gender studies major, is happy to see that minors like Jeremy are trying to become involved in politics.
“I think ‘TikTok for Biden’ is motivating minors to care about the world they live in. I hear so many teens saying they don’t care about politics because they can’t vote, but you shouldn’t not care about the world around you,” Wilk said. “This campaign entices young people to get educated and care.”
TikTok’s multiplatform nature should help to make Biden appeal to a younger audience. However, many of the content creators, most of whom fall into Generation Z (Gen Z or Zoomers), meaning they were born during the late 1990s and the early 2000s, are not old enough to vote, which leads many to wonder how this campaign will impact the 2020 presidential election.
Alexia Lynne, a member of the campaign, was able to shed light on the process of getting into “TikTok for Biden” and discussed what the campaign hopes to accomplish.
“So basically it’s just a campaign [or] movement by Gen Z TikTok [users] to encourage people to get involved with this election and vote blue. We never ever expected it to get this huge, but bigger and bigger creators started joining and it took off,” Lynne said.
At the beginning of the campaign, a prospective “applicant” needed 10,000 followers on the platform to be considered. As the campaign grew, that number was bumped up to 100,000 followers.
When asked how she first learned about the campaign, Chiana Rodriguez, a freshman psychology major at Montclair State, saw it on her TikTok feed.
“[It showed up] on my ‘For You Page,'” Rodriguez said. “[‘TikTok for Biden’] has opened people’s eyes.”
In addition to spreading the word, members of the campaign are responsible for creating content for the “TikTok for Biden” handle on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, along with encouraging others to get out to vote, become poll workers and generally encourage political interest in teens and young adults.
One member, 17-year-old Maurice Williams, stated that his parents are not very political motivated, but Williams is still devoted to the cause.
“I wanted the chance to fight for change and the right to equality,” Williams said.
Another member of the “TikTok for Biden” campaign, 22-year-old Harvard student Claira Janover, also spoke about the TikTok campaign.
“I’d say all of my family [and] friends are Democrats. [‘TikTok for Biden’] is a fun group of people from various ‘niches’ of TikTok, promoting voting, Biden and the democratic process,” Janover said.
In addition to online efforts for Joe Biden, the campaign also sells merchandise, all proceeds of which are donated to Joe Biden’s campaign fund, the Democratic National Committee and social justice organizations, including Black Lives Matter.
“TikTok for Biden” has become a launching pad for a new generation of political activism, from connecting people all over the country, to influencing those that cannot yet vote in this election.
Members of the Montclair State community have lauded the virtual campaign as a place for young Americans to learn and engage in their political futures.