By: Ali Smith and Sara Reinberg (9th Grade)
Anyone that asks a Hebrew Academy student what they have been doing during quarantine will constantly be told of the use of the newly popular app, TikTok. Whether creating their own videos where they can express themselves through dancing, singing, or acting or just scrolling through the endless feed, TikTok usage has definitely spiked during isolation.
TikTok, originally known as Musical.ly, made its debut on the App Store in 2012. The creators changed the app’s name to TikTok in 2018 in order to rebrand and recapture their audience. Since the rebranding, TikTok’s fame has skyrocketed, reaching 500 million daily active users.The new social media platform allows its users to publish relatable content and grow a following.
Many Hebrew Academy students have joined in on the trend, spending hour after hour watching these entertaining videos.
“I think I could probably stop myself and delete TikTok, but I’d constantly be thinking about the videos I’m not seeing,” said Reeva Abraham (9th Grade). “I guess you could say I’m kind of addicted to it.”
Students are not only addicted to watching TikToks, but many are obsessed with making their own. Senior Sarah Safdie has been using TikTok since its Musical.ly days, and this year she saw one of her creations go viral. She created a video of her lip-syncing with her brother, sophomore Rapha Safdie, at the beginning of the school year using a sound that repeats the phrase, “I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.” Within the next few days it rapidly gained views and likes, and by the end of the week Safdie saw that she had reached 1.2 million views and almost 150,000 likes.
“I think it also gives you a lot of confidence, people that don’t usually dance can do those videos and immediately get a boost of confidence,” Safdie said. “I think it’s a platform where you can have fun with anyone.”
Other students say the app encourages creativity. Users can make TikToks from original ideas or based off of others’ videos. Either way it pushes people out of their shells, allowing them to come up with unique ideas for their own content.
“It forces you to think of creative concepts,” said Eliana Pollack (11th).
Some faculty even agree that despite the app's negative components, it does encourage creativity.
“I know that our students in our school are a little obsessed with the Tik Toks and they're doing them even when I walk into a bathroom … I think it's become a little bit of an obsession all over,” said Principal of General Studies Dr. Lieber “For a lot of people that are a little more shy or introverted, I do think they’re able to kind of come out in that way so I think for them it's a nice thing, like they get to have that outlet.”
Despite all the good that TikTok offers, there is also a dark side to it. Many people find the app to be a negative force in over 400 million daily users’ lives. One reason for this is that the app is known to consume a lot of time and can act as a big distraction.
“It can take up so much of your time, and there is not really much you can get out of it,” said Yosef Fruhman (11th). “It’s just people repeating trends that other people made up, it’s a cycle of meaningless.”
Teachers also notice the distracting nature of the app.
“Students who spend most of their time on Tik Tok are having difficulties focusing on their academic work and normal social life,” said science teacher Mr. Yang.
But distraction isn’t the worst aspect of TikTok. The app also has the potential to endanger users through its various trends and challenges. The “jump challenge” or the “skull breaker challenge” is a current trend on TikTok where two kids work together to prank another. These two pranksters stand on either side of the victim and ask him to jump as high as he can. Midair, they swipe his legs out from under him, causing him to fall backwards. Although this may not seem like a malicious act, it has been proven to be extremely dangerous over the past month, severely injuring and even killing some.
The jump challenge was even practiced at Hebrew Academy high school. Two sophomores tried it on an unsuspecting student, who fell backwards and landed on his back, getting the wind knocked out of him. Although the student was okay, the school issued an email warning parents and students about the challenge.
“I think it’s stupid, dumb and reckless,” said Uri Kruger (11th) about the jump challenge. “Who in their right mind would think it’s a good idea?”
The verdict is still out on whether the TikTok trend will last. Since the beginning of social media,several platforms have exploded in popularity, only to shortly lose steam and be replaced with new fads.
Students are also unsure whether this new craze will overall have a positive effect on the students, encouraging creativity, confidence, and fun, or if it will be known as a distracting, dangerous, fad.
“TikTok definitely has its benefits, It lets people let their creative side out. It’s also something you can do with your friends and you can end up having a good time, but at the same time there's definitely some bad sides to it. Like you end up wasting a bunch of time on TikTok instead of talking to the people around you.” said Ariel Corcia (11th).