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How Tiktok Perpetuates Unwanted Stereotypes

July 8, 20205 min read

Tiktok, a social media app that allows users to create short videos in a variety of genres from comedy to aesthetic montages, has revived stereotypes to mainstream culture. You have probably heard the terms “e-girl” or “VSCO girls”—“e-girls” (electronic girls) being the edgy, cool girls who rock unnatural hair colors and bold eyeliner, which sometimes extends to mini black hearts below the eyes, and “VSCO girls” (named after the photo editing app, VSCO) being the basic sweethearts next door marked by scrunchies, hydro flasks, or reusable straws—#savetheturtles. Seems like a fun stereotype to belong to, right?

Image Source: Instagram
















Image Source: Instagram















Not always. As Psychology Today writes in their article, Stereotype Accuracy: A Displeasing Truth, “most of us resent it when our deeply felt complexity is denied; when we are judged by those who don’t know us well; when we and robbed of our uniqueness, our genetic, biographical, psychological one-of-a-kind-ness.” Since my sister embarked on the Tiktok train, she labeled me as all sorts of things: “fake-indie girl,” “trying to be quirky,” and “basic.” In these moments, I felt rather irritated that my interests and styles were being mashed into one or two terms. But more than that, I felt the need to defend myself from being “typical,” like every other “Tiktok girl.” 

Perhaps Danielle Kessler puts the root of my frustration best when she writes, “Many girls who use the app are between their tween and teenage years, and it’s harmful to them to see people policing their style and personal interests, especially at a time when they are still developing their own personal styles and learning about themselves.” 

Sometimes, I find myself avoiding certain styles and activities to prevent myself from being categorized into certain Tiktok stereotypes. For example, I try not to buy chunky, silver chain necklaces, or leave the house with velvet scrunchies cuddling my wrist. I also made a personal oath to never download Tiktok, which is ironic since I have already ingrained myself within Tiktok culture through other social mediums. At this point, I am curating my style by avoiding trends that would direct me towards clear-cut stereotypes, which comes at the cost of trying new styles that appeal to me.

Perhaps, without such stereotypes, I would be more comfortable in following and picking up trends that I admire. There have been times where I just could not resist—for example, the time I dyed the front strands of my hair purple and texted all my friends that I “embarked on a Tiktok trend” to warn them that this was an exception to my Tiktok-wrung lifestyle.

But in all seriousness, I would love to listen to records and proudly state that my favorite movies are “Call Me By Your Name” or “Lady Bird” without being called an “indie-impersonator” or “quirky.” I especially hate the term “quirky” because it makes my interests and passions seem illegitimate and forced. I would love to wear plaid skirts and read poetry at the same time without being called a “soft girl.” I would love to pick up styles and hobbies without having to defend myself from being “that kind of girl.” 

Although Tiktok is not all that bad and enables users and creators to connect on a more intimate and relatable level, the platform perpetuates unwanted stereotypes and erases any attempts to individualize. Why must we squeeze teens into a category when they are in the “budding” phase? Why must we then mock them for fitting into a certain category? I wonder what Tiktok would look like without a culture that pressures teens, who are simply experimenting with their styles and identities, into boxed categories. I wonder when I can just be myself—and not, a “fake, quirky, soft, indie girl.”

Featured Image via Youtube

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Nicole Hur

Nicole Hur is a sophomore currently attending an international school in Seoul, South Korea. She can be spotted wearing quirky, unique clothes (thanks to her obsession with fashion designing) and being a poet whenever she has the “feels.” As a major foodie, she is also the owner of a blog dedicated to food and writing.