Tiktoks effect on meme culture and self-expression leading to a reality of self-destruction

By Gwynnevere De La Cruz Lauren Nadal Caitlin Dempsey April 14, 2022


Quinn Corralejo

From lecturing to responding to comments and questions from students, posting content on ASI social media channels, updating the ASI calendar and budget, sending emails, and meeting with her social media and marketing staff, this is a typical workday for ASI Marketing Coordinator Quinn Corralejo. A CSUF Alumni, she received her bachelor’s degree in Business administration in 2017. She received her MBA in 2019 in organizational leadership; and is currently receiving her Ph.D. in business management, where shes focusing on strategy and innovation at Capella University. As ASI Marketing Coordinator, Corralejo has developed a better understanding of how to use social media to target GenZ and guide her ASI staff  in improving their communication and marketing abilities.

  Social media has evolved into a vital part of our daily lives, with users valuing themselves depending on the number of likes, comments, and shares. It has become quite common in our society, with people sharing practically every detail of their “perfect” life on social media. Tiktok, since the pandemic, has had a large impact on GenZ’rs self-perception. From waking up and viewing a TikTok shaped around one perfect morning routine to putting down your cell phone and rushing out the door to make it to school on time, GenZ defines its norms and memes based on the fake reality of the media. As a generation curated on technology, meme culture, and spectacles, GenZ daily is reframing the social constructs that are followed and shared online.They are not only consuming the content on their “For You” page, but also creating it. Though the current trend is to celebrate and showcase self-expression, self-destruction is the outcome for many who fake it till they make it. Not everyone has completed a full routine by 7am. GenZ is losing track of time scrolling through their FYP and using it as a distraction against reality. According to Statista Research, six percent of TikTok users spend more than ten hours per week on the platform. Globally, the average time spent on TikTok per day is 52 minutes, with 90% of users accessing it on a daily basis. The intention of Tiktok was to inspire individuals to become their best selves and to promote healthy habits. However, it has turned into an unhealthy obsession of individuals who compare their lives to an imaginary figure. Many people view this trend as self-care and improvement gone toxic. This imaginary persona and individual that has been created is glamorized and idolized as the person we should all strive to be. 

We watch and absorb 15-30 second highlight reels when scrolling through our “For You” page, which are not accurate portrayals of everyday life. Thanks to these short clips that must constitute meme culture, self-care, weight loss and morning routines have become obsessions and comparisons. The truth is that meme culture creates a fake reality and holds viewers to unrealistic expectations and standards. Comparing ourselves to others is a basic human instinct. According to a study published in Psychology Today, social comparisons account for up to 10% of all everyday thoughts. Comparing oneself to others has the potential to be toxic and harmful. It makes one feel as if oneneeds to modify everything about ones habits and lifestyle to keep up with the current trends. Through these videos that are flooding Tiktok, GenZ is now comparing themselves to someone who is not even real, someone that social media and influencers carefully crafted to perfection.

Meme culture influences GenZ in every facet of their lives, and the trends are generally positive .However, because many of these trends center around determining and evaluating one’s worth, they can be destructive to one’s self-perception and make it worse. Given the significant popularity of TikTok, it’s critical to promote trends that don’t make others feel less valuable and lead them to compare themselves with others. Although it can help GenZ build a sense of community and form of entertainment, the platform has a negative impact on mental health, particularly on those who already have low self-esteem or other mental health problems.

Many influencers will post videos of their daily routines that are not attainable for most people who are in school or working a 9-5 job. Corralejo agreed that this image of what society says about our lives is not attainable for the average person. She stated that when people watch a day-in-the-life video, they do not consider that a person is continually filming and refilming various clips while also taking the time to edit them. This goes into the topic of Tik Tok influencers and how it affects users’ mental health. According to the 2016 Monitoring the Future study, 13-year-olds who spend over 10 hours a week on social media are 56% more likely to be unhappy, while 27% of social media users see an increased risk of depression. This alarming statistic reveals just how much of an impact social media has on the mental health of young teens. Corralejo herself expresses that even she will sometimes get onto Tik-Tok and go down a downward spiral and watch many videos, which negatively impacts and is harmful towards her self-esteem and self-confidence. 

Corralejo expresses that if one is self-aware of the impact TikTok has on an individual’s life, it can be a healthy outlet. If one is self-aware, “sometimes you can be like, okay… I understand that ether, maybe for some reason, Tiktok is harmful to my mental health, or am I just focusing on more on my every day.” 

Go out. I don’t know; if you’re self-aware of that, you can take the steps; you need to be able to use TikTok specifically or social media in general mm-hmm <affirmative> and live a healthy life, both mental and physical health. Um, but if you don’t have that self-awareness, how can you change when you don’t know something needs to be changed?

When speaking with Corralejo about the impact of social media influencers, we asked her if she thought that a person either follows influencers because it’s something they like or follow influencers based on something they are trying to be. She tends to follow an makeup influencers because it they share a passion for it, and she is interested in improving her skincare and beauty routine. As she emphasizes, it is not that she is trying to alter her appearance or become them in any way, its that she feels she can learn from their techniques and tricks so that she can improve on her makeup skills. In her response, she explained that it depends on the person and how important it is for them to be aware of the negatives and positives of following influencers. What can attract Genz to a specific influencer or even become an influencer can be for several reasons, some being that they are interested in their brand or simply trying to emulate their lives. Social media influencers have had an enormous impact on meme culture, often serving as role models and mentors to those who follow them. Influencers can promote a particular lifestyle, various products and brands, and original content on their social media pages.

 After sharing our topic that Tiktoks affects meme culture and forms an idea of self-expression that creates a reality of self-destruction in GenZ, Corralejo believes that doing quantitative data would be the most effective. Corralejo is in the process of doing her dissertation on knowledge management and is conducting quantitative data. Taking and sending out surveys after handwriting over 2000 organizations’ emails, Corralejo shares that doing everything manually allows her never to miss a step, this can lead to “making something biased, so I’m taking the long route.” Corralejo emphasized the importance of asking very specific questions to gather exactly what we need. It’s easy for one to hide behind being anonymous, so using things like the liker scale will help us get as much information as extra information or comments cannot be added. One wants raw answers to avoid skewed results. Time and time again, we have an insatiable desire to seek and ideally earn acceptance from others. With that in mind, we resort to social media for a sense of belonging, hoping that others will find it worthwhile. This compells us to compare ourselves to others, as well as others to others. Social media platforms like TikTok offer a unique perspective on the construction of the self, and the impact this construction has on our well-being is astounding. Constant daily self-evaluation in opposition to influencers has a detrimental impact on us. The ease with which they might be compared to these false “ideals” causes them to be dissatisfied with their appearance. That is why it is critical to realize that social media, as well as the all-encompassing influence it has on our lives, will not go away. The more we ignore this issue, the simpler it will be for this generation’s insecurities to become normalized, and the risk that their shattered sense of self-esteem will evolve along with them as they grow up.

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