The Spectrum

Lifestyle & Culture

Social Media Sites Can Be a Safe Haven and a Place to Show-and-Tell

By Felicity Robles

Within a span of about 20 minutes, Hala Kurbeh watched her TikTok video showing the jeans, shirts, tops and necklaces she’d bought at an online clothing store rack up 79,000 likes and 280,000 views.

Hala Kurbeh’s Tiktok profile.

“I was not used to my videos blowing up … ” said New Jerseyite Kurbeh, 16. “So many people were being so kind and it honestly felt so amazing.”

That was the fourth video she’d posted on TikTok, when she joined the platform in November 2020, mainly to have something to do and to stay connected to other people during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is not the only teen who’s been using social media to share the big and small things they do day-to-day. For some, creating those 15- to 60-second videos on TikTok has even gotten the attention of merchandise brands that have sent their products to content creators.

“[B]eing able to pick out some of my favorite [pieces] from big brands was really cool,” said fashion influencer Sasha Marishkina, 16, of California’s Bay Area, who posts on TikTok and Instagram. In exchange for Marishkina’s publicity, online brands such as Blushmark and Shop Kollyy have sent her dresses, skirts, jeans and tank tops.

Sasha Marishkina’s TikTok profile.

“I ordered the same sweatshirt I love it OMG,” wrote TikTok user deenaishotlol, one of the commenters on Marishkina’s post, which landed on TikTok’s “for you page.” It randomly spotlights certain influencers’ videos.

TikTok isn’t just a place for people who are focused on fashion. Some say that TikTok has helped create friendships among those with similar interests or situations, including bullying or even facing pressure to post on social media.

“Messaging them about, like, your TikTok problems [is] comforting, because usually they face the same issues,” said Eva Aguilo, 15, of New York City. She started growing her TikTok audience by posting a video of herself doing American Sign Language, which she was learning at the time. The video got 7 million views and 1.5 million likes, and her audience kept growing on both Instagram and TikTok.

Eva Aguilo’s TikTok profile.

“World of Dance [messaged] me on Instagram wanting me to join a competition because they watched my TikToks,” said Aguilo, who loves to dance.

Even though she uses social media, Aguilo said she’s not always sure she should keep posting. “I’ve questioned social media a lot. Like, if it was better for me to just quit or if this was healthy for me. After needing to post every day, basically, and seeing numbers go down, sometimes it’s really unmotivating,” she said.

Even there are drawbacks to being social media, some teens believe social media users  are bound to grow in number.

“Social media has become a huge part of everyone’s lives, whether we like it or not,” influencer Marishkina said. “I feel … that it will consume a part of everything as well.”