Gen Z Snap TikTok

Letter from Gen Z: TikTok is for both socializing and social change

By Emily Johnson, Columnist

August 3, 2020 | 5 min read

What does Gen Z really think? We decided to ask. Amid threats to ban TikTok, our first Gen Z guest columnist Emily Johnson, offers a view to how and why teens are really using social media. Safe to say, it runs contrary to what parents think.

Emily Johnson

Letter from Gen Z: TikTok is for both socializing and social change

So, you think Gen Z are always on their phones wasting time on social media? Yes, I have to confess some of us are making dance videos on TikTok or pulling funny faces on Snapchat. However, there is much more to it. Gen Z are using these platforms to gather in numbers to create social change, and it is our understanding of these technologies that makes us so effective.

Everybody now knows about Gen Z’s impact on the no shows at Trump's rally, but the next phase is even more interesting. Gen Z are using shopping cart abandonment tactics to hit Trump where it most hurts – his business.

We are not just trying to hurt his feelings; we are trying to hurt his brand. Thousands of us are placing Make America Great Again apparel into online shopping carts, never to purchase. We know this costs e-marketers about $4 trillion dollars per year.

It makes you wonder: Does Trump actually want to ban TikTok because of privacy issues or due to the concern that it’s become a weapon against him? In the recent interviews by Kahlan Rosenblatt for NBC, we hear that many young people will be driven to vote if TikTok is banned. It feels like their freedom of speech is being taken away. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Back to those dance videos on TikTok. Look a little deeper and you’ll find they are being used in the fight for Black Lives Matter. Right now, Gen Z is actively trying to get the killers of Breonna Taylor arrested. In order to get this message to a wide number of people, influencers with a large following are using clickbait thumbnails on TikTok. One example of a clickbait title displayed in a thumbnail is, “Guys Charli (D'Amelio) and Chase (Hudson) were caught on a date today in LA kissing!” this quickly transitions into the key message, “Arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor”. Gen Z knows that clickbait works and are using it in powerful ways for good.

And, hey Boomers, don’t mess with us when it comes to technology. When parents tried to micro-manage and track their teens lives on an app called Life360, Gen Z moved en masse to give the app a one-star rating on the App Store. Teens are fed up with their helicopter parents constantly trying to track them and they figured if they could give the app enough bad reviews it would be removed from the App Store. This trend gained popularity with ease through the spread of TikTok videos promoting the idea.

I don’t think it will be long before we see Gen Z using social media and technology skills to solve real-world crimes. Randonautica is an app where once you have shared your location and set an intention it sends you to explore a random point. A recent quest led by teenagers in Seattle resulted in them finding a crime scene. Their suspicions about an odd-smelling suitcase kicked off a police investigation and human remains were discovered.

So maybe think twice before getting on your teens back for wasting time on their phones. We could be solving a crime, fighting for social justice, or even having an effect on the political scene before we can even vote.

Emily Johnson is a high school honors student, gold award girl scout and aspiring marketer.

To keep up with all our dedicated US coverage, sign up for the free daily briefing newsletter.

Gen Z Snap TikTok

More from Gen Z

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +