TikTok is the fastest-growing social media app that has captured the attention of over one billion monthly active users. For those acquainted with the platform, it might be what keeps you up scrolling late at night, or it could simply be a place for inspiration and advice. Even if you haven't joined the app, you're bound to see reshares of TikTok videos on Instagram Reels. At this point, it's safe to say that TikTok is omnipresent and unavoidable. So much so, that its string of famous teen celebrities manufactured by the platform in a Disney Channel-esque way have easily climbed the ranks of celebrity: in two short years, Addison Rae went from joining TikTok to attending the Met Gala.
To the average outsider, the app is a place for Gen Zs (who make up 60% of users) to try out viral dances. But it doesn’t take much to see that this barely tickles the tip of the iceberg. While digging into TikTok’s many subcultures would have us here all day, today we’ll look at the two main categories you’ll find on TikTok: Straight Tok and Alt Tok.
What Is Straight Tok?
This is the mainstream side of TikTok, where TikTok stars like Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio were birthed. An Urban Dictionary definition categorises it as “bland, unfunny, boring, and uninteresting videos”. While that's of course subjective, it typically refers to dance videos, lip-syncing songs, overly ‘try-hard’ and cringe thirst-trap content. It’s best summed up by the Hype House, a collection of ever-rotating TikTok personalities who live in a rented LA mansion, creating content together. The term ‘straight TikTok’ or ‘straight Tok’ is often used as an insult, synonymous with bad taste.
What Is Alt Tok?
Short for ‘alternative TikTok,’ alt Tok houses a whole spectrum of content known for its niche memes, relatable storytimes, dark humour, satire, and artsy content. While the sides of TikTok aren’t determined by your sexuality, this side of TikTok is known for its queer creators, and more generally, being more inclusive and progressive. Alt Tok is an umbrella category for a plethora of niche subcultures and interests — so a nonsensical edit falls under alt Tok, as does a realistic day-in-the-life video, or a self-deprecating comedy sketch.
There's no 'good' side of TikTok, so whatever side you find yourself on (or if it's a mixture of both), just enjoy it. And you might pick up a skincare hack, book trick, or a sewing tip along the way.