Students find fame through viral TikToks


Emmett Campbell

Emmett Campbell’s (12) TikTok page shows his many videos. He has amassed over 19,600 followers creating popular content.

For most teens, TikTok is a way to share jokes, discover new ideas and keep up with celebrities. Some students, however, have found success making content that appeals to broad audiences. 

Rylie Duke (12) got into TikTok as it first became popular in 2017 when she started a hobby of making TikToks featuring herself and her friends. For her, a major appeal of the app is how easy it is to consume. 

“It’s just kind of like bite-sized content on the internet that’s easy to watch, easy to digest,” Duke said. “I use TikTok every day; they just kind of have everything on there.”

To date, her most popular video is called “When they try to apologize but you’ve already told your long-distance friend.” But Duke does not make TikToks for views. For her, it is more about having fun and making memories. 

“The TikToks I make are like, completely random videos … I just kind of make silly little TikToks about whatever’s happening in my life,” Duke said. “A lot of the time I don’t put any effort into it; it’s just something fun to make. And a lot of the time I don’t expect them to get attention at all.”

Emmett Campbell (12) got into TikTok when it had become popular, and he saw TikToks being shared on other social media apps. For him, a major draw of the app is how open it is to everyone.

“It’s really interesting because TikTok is one of the only platforms I can think of where it genuinely is pretty easy for regular people to get a lot of attention,” Campbell said. “So the people you’re seeing on your ‘For you’ page aren’t really celebrities; they’re just normal people.” 

Campbell makes TikToks about whatever interests him: hanging out with friends, making jokes and recording his FTM transition. One of his most popular videos with over 24,800 views shows him joking frustratedly about J.K. Rowling’s transphobia. Another with over 23,300 views shows him removing the tape from his scars after top surgery. 

“Sometimes if I see a trend, I may replicate that, but when I look at social media, I see it more as a way to document stuff, so that’s kind of where I take it,” Campbell said. “And then it’s just a matter of whether I’ll document it in a way that I’ve seen other people do, or if I’m just going to hit record and go with it.”

Presley Spiller (10) was initially interested in TikTok because of how massive, entertaining and addictive it was. For her, the main draw is the diversity of communities and content on the app. 

“There’s just so much on the app,” Spiller said. “Games, crafts, humor the platform is so wide that you can never get bored. It’s really creative; a lot of inspiration comes from this app.”

Spiller makes a variety of TikToks from jokes to dances, but they are not always the ones that get views. The TikTok algorithm can be surprising, and one of her most viewed TikToks, a video of her taking down lights in her room set to audio from another popular Tiktoker, was not the one she expected to blow up. 

“Sometimes with a video that goes viral you think to yourself ‘Is this really the video that went viral? Seriously?’” Spiller said. “Because for me, the video that went viral I put the least amount of effort into.”

To others looking to make it big on the app, these students have this to say: do not take it too seriously. 

“Don’t really worry about trying to create the perfect video or that sort of thing,” Campbell said. “Just post whatever you want or whatever you’re doing and keep posting because with the way the algorithm works, eventually something you post is going to hit with people. So don’t get discouraged if you have a lot of videos that aren’t getting the amount of views that you want.”