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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Two weeks in the life of a failed TikTok star

The Hawk News
Hannah Pajtis ’26 describes herself as a failed TikTok star. PHOTO: MADELINE WILLIAMS ’26/THE HAWK

At 19 years old, viral TikTok influencer Charli D’Amelio has a house in Hollywood, a reality TV show and her own clothing brand. At 19 years old, I have a list of assignments to complete, a campus dining card with a $4 balance and college debt.

I’ve had a personal TikTok account for years but never actively tried to go viral, viewing it as an unrealistic pursuit. The content I post is sporadic and random, usually consisting of silly videos about my life experiences. My views typically average from around 400 to 1,000, with the most I have ever gotten being 6,000.

TikTok’s algorithm isn’t the only factor that determines views, according to a recent Forbes article. In addition to algorithmic recommendations, TikTok staff hand-selects what content receives exposure and is boosted on the For You Page, a personalized feed of videos recommended to TikTok users based on their engagement and interests.

“I think that’s just a really interesting point to raise,” said Rachael Sullivan, Ph.D., assistant professor of communications and media studies. “It’s not just a computer doing it. It’s not just random. It’s not organic. There’s an editorial process there.”

As a communications student who admittedly spends way too much time online, I wanted to see how easy it was to gain engagement from random people on TikTok. To make my experiment truly unbiased, I made a new account and kept its username a secret from my friends. I set a selfie as the profile picture, made the account public and embarked on my journey as a wannabe content creator.

Some people, like Josh Watson ’25, a TikTok content creator with 8.6 million followers, has always enjoyed making videos and put significant effort into brainstorming ideas. Watson, who posts about one video per month, specializes in special effects content, like videos depicting him swinging through the air Spider Man-style. Watson said he always wanted to be like the special effects social media stars he admired.

“I just got a good idea one day, that’s pretty much it,” Watson said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, I gotta make this video now.’ So I made it, and then it did [go viral]. It got a million views. It got more. And that jump started everything for me, which was awesome.”

Gab Deo ’25, a TikTok content creator with 82,200 followers, said her content creation journey also started with a singular post. She described the post as a “stupid video that just went viral.”

“My account for a while was just me making videos with my friends and stuff,” Deo said. “And then it kind of turned into a haul account [and] small businesses would send packages to me.”

Haul videos are posts where an individual shows and describes their recent purchases, typically clothes, skincare products or makeup.

To sustain engagement, Deo said she used viral audios, followed trends and analyzed which of her videos got the most engagement. She then based future content on the results.

Unlike Watson and Deo, I was not cut out for TikTok virality. The whopping one follower I gained over the two-week period I posted on the account definitely speaks to this.

I’ve resolved that my embarrassing failure can be attributed to a variety of reasons. Foremost, I only made five TikTok videos. These videos were relatable content posts and “a day in the life” videos. Unfortunately, these types of videos are posted by many creators, almost all of whom have more entertaining lives than me.

Perhaps if I posted more frequently and consistently, I could have seen more success.

“[Content creation] is a very time consuming thing and you have to put the effort in to get what you want out of it,” Deo said.

I realized I didn’t have that time and stopped before I went viral, which was a slim possibility anyway.

I also may have gained more exposure if I made more specialized content, like Watson’s Spider-Man themed special effects videos.

“I think one critique you can make of your success rate being low is that you jumped into this huge niche that’s kind of overcrowded,” Sullivan said.

Extremely low success rate aside, I don’t regret my two-week TikTok trial, as it taught me more about social media engagement, which I appreciate as a communications major. I doubt you’ll see me on your For You Page any time soon, but I’m confident St. Joe’s very own internet stars will keep you entertained.

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Hannah Pajtis
Hannah Pajtis, News Editor
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