Rosalie Anthony, a 20-year-old college student from Birmingham, Alabama, typically uses TikTok to post about her workout routines and to do fun dances with her younger siblings. But during election season, she has begun to post about the importance of voting.
“I’ve made a few TikToks about voting. I made one with a map about how to register to vote, and I made one that I just sent to my friends, where I was driving through my neighborhood and seeing how many Biden signs and how many Trump signs there were.”
Though Anthony is of voting age, much of TikTok’s user base is under 18 and will not be casting their ballot. However, the “Gen-Z for Biden” movement has taken over the app.
Anthony’s latest post about voting was a post for Niche Social, a company which describes itself as “the best place to research U.S. colleges, schools, neighborhoods, and companies.” Anthony is a social media ambassador for Niche Social, and often makes informative TikToks with advice for incoming college students. Her latest post is a recording of her clicking through an interactive map and providing instructions and tips for applying for mail-in ballots in different states.
Anthony, or @rosalinaballerina on TikTok, described some of her favorite political TikToks that she had seen this election season.
“I follow a few news people, like the Washington Post, and this one lady, she’s blonde, and she reports on the news in like a TikTok format,” Anthony said. “So I’ve seen those, voting TikToks, and I’ve seen those ones where it’s like ‘comment as if this is a Democrat group chat,’ so those are pretty funny…I like to read through all the comments.”
One of the latest uploads on the TikTok account “TikTokers for Biden,” features several content creators hopping along to the intro of the Black Eyed Peas’ hit 2003 song, “Where is the Love?” The screen reads “gen z going to VOTE BLUE at the polls.”
The video has 1.3 million views.
“With such an important election coming up, and so much misinformation being spread online, we began to discover many creators on TikTok who were fighting for a better future and informing their audiences about politics, a topic most teenagers haven’t been particularly interested in during previous elections,” said Kiera Spann, a 19-year-old college student, TikToker with 696.1K followers, and the head of risk management for TikTokers for Biden.
The “TikTokers for Biden” page uses a profile picture that is being used by many TikTokers across the app, and it features a rainbow with “Gen-Z for Biden” written underneath.
According to Spann, TikTok has been “incredibly effective” at informing young people and young voters about the election.
“Since most of Tiktok’s audience is younger, there are so many Gen-Z voters who learn their information primarily from social media,” Spann said. “By using TikTok, we are able to reach those voters in an organic way. We have had much success in this respect, garnering approximately 270 million impressions of our logo, “Gen-Z for Biden”, over 82 million views with our hashtag “#TikTokforBiden”, and 12 million likes on our account alone.”
Another one of the page’s latest posts is a video of TikTok user @aaliyahtaco going to the polls and casting her vote for Joe Biden. The user’s personal profile uses the same “Gen-Z for Biden” profile picture, and it features many TikToks of the user arguing against users who identify as conservative. Her bio also includes a Linktree, with links to Joe Biden’s website, petitions for Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake and a link to register to vote.
For TikToks that are posted containing political content, a tag is added at the bottom of the screen that reads “Get info on the U.S. elections.” Users can click on this tag and be taken to a page where they can search for voter registration information by state and see a section of frequently asked questions about the election.
On Election Day, several members of the TikTokers for Biden page were posting about their experiences, including user @petegayvidson, who made several TikToks attending her high school wearing a “Gen-Z for Biden” T-shirt and a “Black Lives Matter” face mask. The TikTokers for Biden page itself posted a “spam” of TikToks on Election Day, discussing Biden’s policies and giving guidance for those voting in person.
TikTok has been the subject of controversy this year, especially regarding President Trump. TikTok’s parent company is called ByteDance, and it is located in Beijing, China. Due to alleged security concerns, in August 2020, Trump signed an executive order, stating that TikTok must separate from its Chinese parent company, or else it would be shut down in the U.S.
But in September 2020, TikTok narrowly missed its deadline as a deal was struck between ByteDance and the U.S. company, Oracle, with involvement from Wal-Mart as well.
And thus, TikTok is up and running for the first time ever during a presidential election.
It is estimated that there are 100 million TikTok users in the U.S. with 10-19 year olds making up 32.5% of the app’s user base.
When asked if they have seen political content while browsing the app, a group of seventh graders from North Hills Middle School all answered “yes.” All of the surveyed students also expressed their support for Biden.
“They’re all about how Trump is taking away our rights,” one of the students said.
“I see TikToks for both candidates, but mostly Biden,” another student answered. “I made a TikTok but all it said was ‘dump Trump.’”
One of the students, though, expressed their worry about the current election season.
“I know this will affect not only my future, but the whole country’s future, so I’m kind of anxious,” the student said.
However, as expressed by 18-year-old Pittsburgh college student and TikTok user, Nanina Grund, TikTok can be a platform for young people to not only discuss politics but to make light of the intense election.
“I enjoy most of the TikToks I see, because it takes away from the pressure of the future by making fun of the present,” Grund said. “The political content on TikTok tends to vary from account to account. You have the common satire of debates and making fun of the candidates, an example of that would be the fly on Pence’s head.”
For young activists looking to get politically involved though, TikTok has emerged as a new, popular platform to do so.
“A centuries-old saying, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ hits the mark when describing youth activism,” Spann said. “While they may not be able to vote, no one is too young to start learning about the world and the people in it. By staying up to date on news and discussing what’s going on, they can influence those around them as well as helping them learn too. Education is just as important as voting. “