How I went viral on TikTok and why I hated it

photo of the tik tok app open on a phone
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As embarrassing as it may be to admit, I spent my early teenage years being a dedicated fangirl of internet personalities. Not only did I save money in the hopes of purchasing these influencers’ merchandise and meet and greet tickets, but I secretly wished for that internet-famous lifestyle as well. The idea of being adored for merely posting on social media seemed like a dream to me. So it may come as no surprise that getting famous was my number one goal when I downloaded TikTok.

I soon realized that achieving TikTok fame would be difficult. I’m not funny by any means, I can’t dance to save my life and I do not meet TikTok’s high standards for beauty. What seemed to be a blessing at that moment (and would soon lead to my downfall) was how fast trends moved on the social media platform. In fact, a new aesthetic would dominate the “For You” page on TikTok every few months. I immediately found my niche when the indie aesthetic became popular last summer.

My first video that got more than a few hundred likes embodied the indie nature of summer 2020. It was a highly saturated video of me dancing to “Renee” by Sales without a care in the world in front of my photo wall and Conan Gray poster that rested above my twin-size bed. I woke up to comments praising me for the “immaculate vibes,” and it was at that moment that I knew I needed to keep making videos that embodied this indie aesthetic.

During the weeks that followed, my plan of becoming a famous indie TikToker was working. The few hundred likes on my videos were slowly turning into a few thousand likes. Before I knew it, I had already amassed 10,000 followers. The validation and attention I received for posting videos of myself dancing and lip-syncing with a bright filter felt surreal. However, all good things do come to an end. 

My growing distaste for my popularity on TikTok occurred when one of my videos hit more than 1 million views. I should’ve known that I was bound to get a few negative comments when such a huge number of people are perceiving me, but I was certainly oblivious and not ready for it. The hateful comments from anonymous profiles shone brighter than the positive ones as I scrolled through my notifications. I decided to take a break after that one viral TikTok took a toll on my self-esteem.

I returned to the app after a few weeks, thinking that I could go back to posting my carefree indie TikToks. After that viral video of mine did some light damage to my mental health, I had received thousands of more followers, leading me to believe that I would receive the same attention I had gotten before. However, my return coincided with the end of the indie phase on TikTok. The For You page no longer wanted my saturated and happy videos and the algorithm wanted nothing to do with promoting my content anymore.

When I look back at my fleeting moments of fame on TikTok, it is not a time I want to relive. I learned that internet fame and becoming viral is not fulfilling and the happiness that comes from anonymous validation is temporary. Social media can build you up, but it can also tear you down. I no longer dream to become viral again and no longer yearn to be the next big influencer. 

Contact Zara Koroma at [email protected].