How teens are turning TikTok into a pro-Biden powerhouse

Nearly 500 creators on TikTok have come together to help get Joe Biden elected, and their efforts have even been co-signed by the Democratic nominee.

Doomscrolling.” It’s that thing you do at all hours of the day as you thumb through social media for hours soaking up bad news like a decaying sponge, and it may be the best word to describe the 2020 election. Social media had always been an exercise in the endless scroll even before President Trump arrived to wreak havoc back in November 2016; but this year hits different. 

WIth the explosion of TikTok, a generational divide has erupted across social media. Boomers type out angry, caps-lock posts on Facebook, slightly-less-old people pretend to be shocked about whatever racist thing Trump did again on Twitter, and airbrushed influencers hawking sponcon have been pushed aside by pastel carousels explaining social movements on Instagram. But on TikTok, a new kind of political activism has emerged – and it’s being led by millions of Gen Z teens. 

Many may not even be old enough to vote, but that hasn’t stopped them from producing a wave of content that helps to make the fate of the world, and American democracy, feel a bit less hopeless. Now, that widespread political content has found a home on TikTok For Biden. Created after the trainwreck first presidential debate, the page has brought together over 400 TikTok creators whose personal social followings amount to over 160 million followers – more than the total number of votes cast in the 2016 election. In less than a month, they’ve built up a following of over 849,000 people and officially partnered with Joe Biden’s campaign to encourage their massive audience to vote. 

We caught up with five of the creators behind TikTok For Biden to talk about what inspired them to jump into political activism, why TikTok is the future for political campaigning, and what they plan to do once the election madness ends.

@tiktokforbiden

Gen z latinos for Biden! Tag who you see!!! ##tiktokforbiden

♬ La Gozadera - Gente de Zona

Lou Avril, 19

@loufordays, Group Leader of TikTok For Biden

What specific moment or person pushed you towards political activism? 

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting that inspired the March For Our Lives movement. I protested for the first time that year and I’ve been involved in activism ever since; volunteering for March For Lives, Black Lives Matter, and for Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

Do you think TikTok has the potential to play a major role in the future of politics and activism? 

I believe TikTok already plays a major role in politics since it’s used by young people to inform each other about injustices happening in the world. With TikTok For Biden, we made a huge impact on young people and I know that can absolutely be maximised in the future. 

What are your plans for content on TikTok once the election ends? 

After the election, Tiktok For Biden will keep working with our members to build an organisation that encourages young people to get involved in politics and social issues that need urgent attention. I will always make political videos on my personal account sharing my point of view and make sure important social and political issues are being brought up. I feel very privileged to have this platform and I know that using it to motivate young people to be the change they want to see is the right thing to do.

Outside of TikTok, what kind of political activism have you engaged in during the election? What plans do you have post-election?

I’ve worked on phone banking and peacefully protested with the Black Lives Matter movement. Before the pandemic, I was involved in rallies and events endorsing Bernie Sanders. After the election, I will keep making noise and stand up for what I believe in. 

What other thoughts do you have about politics, the election, and activism?

As a Latina, bisexual woman in the US, I feel lucky to have a platform that can amplify not only my voice, but other voices that need to be heard. Young people are the future of this country, and we are more powerful than we know.

Luke Schneider, 18

@luke_joseph, Website Manager for TikTok For Biden

What specific moment or person pushed you towards political activism? 

On 3rd September, 2018, I began an internship at the US Senate. I was a junior in high school, and I didn’t know much about politics. During my internship, I saw the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the longest government shutdown in American history, and the funeral of President George H.W. Bush. All of these events made me take a closer look at the world of politics, and I’ve been invested ever since. 

Do you think TikTok has the potential to play a major role in the future of politics and activism? 

TikTok is unique because it has such a large and diverse group of users, ranging from Gen Z to Gen X. TikTok, and other apps like it, aren’t just for posting comedy videos or dance tutorials; they also are for posting information that is necessary to make a change. Since the younger generations typically have a low voter turnout, it’s important that campaigns use TikTok to encourage young people to vote. Apps like TikTok aren’t just another marketing tool; they are a necessity to get the youth to show up and vote.

What are your plans for content on TikTok once the election ends? Will you continue making politically focused videos?

My content will not change after the election. There will always be social and political issues that need to be spoken about. While a majority of my content is non-political, I do discuss the important events when necessary. Political content isn’t everyone’s favourite thing to watch, but it is necessary.

What other thoughts do you have about politics, the election, and activism?

Now is not the time to sit back and accept the status quo. Now is not the time to let the billionaires decide if we are allowed to have a healthy planet. Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to fight for your rights. Now is the time to scream like hell and not relent until a change occurs. Now is the time to vote.

@tiktokforbiden

what’s also scarier than halloween is that election day is only a few days away, so make sure you’ve voted! ##tiktokforbiden

♬ This Is Halloween - Instrumental - The Piscean Creed

Cooper Schneider, 17

@heyyyitscooper, Group Leader and member of the Risk Management Team for TikTok For Biden

What specific moment or person pushed you towards political activism? 

I was a freshman in high school when the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting occurred. After seeing the survivors of the shooting collectively unite behind one front to demand gun reform change, I felt inspired despite only being 14 at the time. I knew if these teenagers could use their voices to spark change, so could I. 

Do you think TikTok has the potential to play a major role in the future of politics and activism? 

TikTok does have the potential to play a major role in the future of politics and activism as it is the gateway to Generation Z. It is true that only a small minority of Generation Z can vote in the 2020 Presidential Election, but that power that Generation Z could hold in future elections is monumental. 

What are your plans for content on TikTok once the election ends? Will you continue making politically focused videos?

After the election, I’ll continue to post politically focused videos on my personal account. The fight to ensure a better future for our country doesn’t end after the winner of the 2020 presidential election is announced.

Outside of the platform, what kind of political activism have you engaged in during this election? What plans do you have post-election? 

Outside of TikTok, I’ve attempted to stay active in my community in support of the campaign as much as possible, while still respecting the protocols of social distancing. This may be the first election cycle where I’ve been politically active, but I’ve still been able to encourage voter participation and registration amongst my peers at school because many of them have taken for granted their right to vote. Post-election, I plan to continue on in my activism and fight for reform on gun control and climate change regulations. 

What other thoughts do you have about politics, the election, and activism?

Other generations may try to discredit our work [and] on the surface, it may seem like we are just a group of teenagers posting silly videos, but we are so much more. [TikTok For Biden is] a group of almost five hundred people with a collective following of 200 million. Despite coming from an assortment of different backgrounds, we have united to make a final stand to ensure a better future for our country.

@tiktokforbiden

The final presidential debate from an unbiased point of view! @kieramarie.xx ##tiktokforbiden

♬ Up Beat (Married Life) - Kenyi

Kiera Spann, 19

@kieramarie.xx, Head of Risk Management for TikTok for Biden

TikTok hasn’t been used by either the Biden or Trump campaign. Why do you think these two have steered clear of the platform?

With the controversy that surrounded TikTok during this campaign, I think it was a political move by both parties to not use TikTok, especially the Trump administration who rallied behind banning the app completely. While Biden may not directly be on TikTok campaigning, TikTok for Biden is officially partnered with the Biden campaign, which is something we are all incredibly proud of and excited about!

Do you think TikTok has the potential to play a major role in the future of politics and activism? 

I think it already has! TikTok has over 50 million daily users, many from the United States. While you need to fact check things you see online if [they are] not from a reputable source, I’ve still learned so much from this app. I post political content on my private page as well, and the number of positive comments and people sending private messages saying thank you for helping educate them shows me that this is a community of knowledge and learning, especially in the world of politics. 

What are your plans for content on TikTok once the election ends? Will you continue making politically focused videos?

On my personal page, I plan on still creating political content. There is always more to be done. A country can always be improved. Also, spreading information and educating people is always beneficial. Right now, just about every video of mine is centered around politics with the election so close. In the future, I might decrease the number of videos I put out, but I will never stop posting about it. There is always someone out there who needs their voice to be heard. 

Outside of the platform, what kind of political activism have you engaged in during this election?

I am studying political science at school, so I’m constantly surrounded by politics in both my social and academic life. I was very vocal throughout the entire election, doing as much as I could while following Covid-19 regulations. I started a successful series on TikTok, Unbiased POV”, where I discussed factual information pulled from statistics, policies, and public interviews without inserting any of my own personal opinions into them. Educating others has been my number one priority throughout this election process. 

What other thoughts do you have about politics, the election, and activism?

I cannot stress enough how important it is to educate yourself. Reading about current policies and politics in your country, staying updated on world news, and learning and reading up on history all play a major role in staying educated in the world. Educate yourself, inform others, and get involved.

@tiktokforbiden

In honor of the women’s march taking place today ##tiktokforbiden

♬ original sound - TikTokers For Biden

Dylan Troesken, 17

@usersweetbabybbq, Group Leader for TikTok For Biden

What specific moment or person pushed you towards political activism? 

In 2018, I joined a youth group in my community called Youth and Government. There were delegations all over the state that met three times a year for mock government conventions. After my first meeting, I felt such a strong sense of community. Before I joined, I had planned on becoming a business major and planned on opening a restaurant later in life, but as soon as I debated for the first time I left the business degree behind and focused on becoming a political science major. 

In addition to that, after watching Knock Down the House, a documentary about Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s journey along her campaign trail running to become the House Representative for the Bronx, I realised my love for politics was far bigger than just getting Donald Trump out of office. 

Do you think TikTok has the potential to play a major role in the future of politics and activism? 

Absolutely. Next to Instagram, TikTok is arguably the most popular social media app right now across the globe. Sooner or later, I’m sure a number of politicians will use it to boost their platforms. I would hope that they use it for good, like pushing young voters to participate in state and local elections. However, the Republican Party typically supports voter suppression to a certain extent. 

What are your plans for content on TikTok once the election ends? Will you continue making politically focused videos?

Even though I only began posting political videos on TikTok when Joe Biden won the Democratic nomination, I plan on continuing to grow my platform to encourage my generation to fight for change. That includes climate change reform, prison reform, expanding minority rights, and bringing an end to the electoral college. 

Outside of the platform, what kind of political activism have you engaged in during this election? What plans do you have post-election? 

Other than being involved in TikTok For Biden, I’ve done a number of phone banks in different states for Planned Parenthood, as well as the TikTok For [Senator Ed] Markey. Once protests broke out across the US after George Floyd’s death, I started shifting my content to be more political. After Tuesday, I will either be celebrating or sobbing. 

What other thoughts do you have about politics, the election, and activism?

Our country has never seen such a divide. Covid-19 has made that relationship between Republicans and Democrats far worse, but the fate of our nation is in our hands, and we have the power to secure a future for ourselves and future generations. It’s time to fix the mess that’s been made.


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