In the TikTok realm of renegades, povs and humorous sketches, content promoting political campaigns and debates may seem like an outlier. The growing popularity of political creators, debates and content on the app suggests otherwise.
While politics may not seem like the most prevalent outlet for teens, youth engagement and early exposure to politics stresses the power of voting when the time comes, helping raise the voter turnouts and create a more politically active nation.
But, at a time when being political seems synonymous with joining a feud the Montagues and Capulets envy, the task of finding a political voice is daunting. TikTok debates present a different future for political discussion. They represent fellow teens’ opinions on different issues that affect them, doing so in a way that values information and fast facts.
“With TikTok you can put politics into comedy and have someone their age talking like they’re a friend,” said Benjamin Williams, @benjaminpolitics, in an interview with The New York Times.
The Gen Z dominated app is a reflection of its multifaceted creators and users. The app is geared towards the shortening attention span of a new generation, forcing political TikTokers to utilize the short amount of time given for each video, 15 seconds to 60 seconds. In a world were cable news networks play all day every day, TikTok is doing the opposite. Reaching out to the teens and their attention spans, political TikToks are short and pointed.
“CNN and Fox and big-name news media, those are all geared toward people who have honestly grown up with a longer attention span,” said Sterling Cade Lewis, a political TikToker with nearly 100,000 followers, to The New York Times. “TikToks, on the other hand, run a maximum of 60 seconds; most videos are as short as 15. Being able to make shorter videos and educational clips, it’s easier to connect with a younger generation who’s just swiping through their phones 24/7.”
The political discussion occurs between opposing “hype houses”, spoofs on the original residence of popular TikTokers @lilhuddy and his colleagues (who are totally unrelated to politics). The houses are umbrella accounts for different political creators to post under and are run by various creators with similar political ideas.
Some leading accounts for conservative-leaning houses are the @conservativehypehouse, @TikTokrepublicans and @therepublicanhypehouse, and the leading liberal accounts are @liberalhypehouse, @leftist.hype.house and @theprogressivehypehouse.
These are some of the bigger, more active accounts, but out there in the wide world of TikTok is a variety of different accounts with different niche’s and representations. Within each account, different people post and create content supporting the view they represent, reaching out to different teens who want to be educated and find their political voice.
These houses then host debates with opposing houses, inviting several representatives of each house to participate in a live streamed debate, complete with a host to steer the conversation. The discourse is often well-researched, respectful and encouraging for the future politics of the nation.
The debates focus on controversial, hot button issues and usually have a moderator or someone within the debate appointed to lead the discussion and present the topics. Sometimes, the moderator and debate participants will pull topics from what is being discussed in the live chat on the stream, but usually the questions are already conceived and prepared. At the start of each debate everyone introduces themselves with the excitement of a college-tour guide and states their political bias/position.
Within the debate, there is a focus on civility and fostering conversation, and many times debaters can be found agreeing with each other in a middle ground. Though insulting comments and content exist anywhere on the internet especially TikTok, within the debates the discourse is focused on insightful dialogue.
The main goal of these creators and their debates is to portray to fellow teens that activism isn’t just voting, but also maintaining a political education and conversation.
Featured Image Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal