Updated: Jan 6
As the generations with similar aptitudes to the digital world, millennials and Gen Z’s opinions converged many times in the past. They both prefer Instagram to Facebook. They tend to gravitate towards Apple instead of Samsung. They both love Youtube. However, the newest hot social media app is breaking this status quo. That app is TikTok, and it’s taking the world by storm.
With over a billion users (up from 381 million since 2019), TikTok earned the spot of the fastest growing social media platform of 2021. As of April of this year, 58% of Zoomers use TikTok while only 39% of millennials are on the app. The YPulse survey also states that 46% of 13-19 year-olds use the app daily, which is a lot in comparison to 27% of 20-38 year-olds. It is to the point where more Gen Zers use TikTok than Instagram, beating the former most loved app by 3 million users.
So, why does TikTok attract Gen Zers as opposed to millennials?
The answer lies in the generations’ differing values. While millennials primarily use social media to communicate, Gen Z uses it to kill time. Although TikTok’s messaging system underperforms in comparison to other apps, its micro-entertainment design delivers short bursts of distraction. The bite-sized videos provide instant gratification, successfully captivating the younger Gen Zers who have an attention span of just 8 seconds while older millennials have a span of 12 seconds.
Also, as the youngest generation, Gen Zers are still developing their own identities. TikTok helps them do this by exposing them to relevant content, its finely-tuned algorithm creating a personalized “For You” page (FYP) unique to each user. The FYP is based on many factors, such as user interactions, video information, and level of interest. As a majority of the app’s activity is spent on the FYP, its never-ending design is tailored for users to scroll through an endless amount of videos, captivating and helping them explore their interests.
Another reason TikTok has such a stronghold on Gen Z is because of how easy it is to become a creator on the platform. All you need to do to create a video on Tik Tok is to have a smartphone and the creativity to use the app’s built-in editing tools. Also, it is way easier to go viral on TikTok than other social media sites like Instagram or Youtube. TikTok states, “While a video is likely to receive more views if posted by an account that has more followers, by virtue of that account having built up a larger follower base, neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.” This levels the playing field, causing many users to go from zero views to millions overnight. And, many Gen Zers want to be part of that.
A major value of Gen Z is their desire to express themselves authentically, and TikTok allows them to do so. Zhong, the creator of a company that provides real-time Gen Z marketing insights, states, “It’s become a place where you can be your own weird self and still get complimented and [have your posts] go viral for that.” TikTok has become the antithesis of what many millennials believe social media has turned into: A place of stress and insecurity. In comparison to Instagram— where every post seems to be photoshopped or edited beyond repair— TikTok is about authentic self-expression. Gen Z dominated the platform and turned the tides of social media to become a place to gain self-confidence in one’s uniqueness.
TikTok’s growing popularity is not just the story of a rising new platform, but also the changing of how we as a society view social media and expression as a whole. With Gen Z soon replacing millennials as the largest generation, many more social standings will shift, and all we can hope is that it is as positive of a change as this one.