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TikTok, formerly Musical.ly,  blurs the lines between internet challenges, memes, music videos, and other forms of online content. Some TikTok trends are unique to the app while others are indicative of broader online trends. Understanding which TikTok trends go viral and why is key to decoding Gen Z, Millennial, internet, and meme cultures.

What began as a simple, lip-syncing app has become a prolific source of viral memes. In order to understand TikTok memes, let’s first review the definition of an internet meme. An internet meme is a concept or piece of online content that proliferates online, changing as it spreads, in ways big or small. On TikTok, memes exist in the form of short videos and the challenges, dance moves, and jokes they contain.

As with most internet memes, young people are the pioneers and trailblazers of TikTok memes. As of June 2018, TikTok had 500 million monthly active users globally. Of TikTok’s total users, 66% are in their teens or 20’s. The most popular TikTok creators generally skew young as well. Thus, TikTok culture is heavily influenced by Millennial/Gen Z culture and the memes and jokes made on the platform often reference the specific experiences of young people.

Music plays a crucial role in the development and proliferation of TikTok memes. It’s sometimes referred to as a lip-syncing app because of the way it encourages users to use popular songs in the background of their videos. It also has a function wherein someone can take the audio from any other TikTok video and use it in their own video. Through this system, many popular memes are born. For example, the Hit Or Miss, Go Hard, and Just Did A Bad Thing memes are based on and named after the songs used as a video’s soundtrack. When it comes to dance move-based memes, the same song is often used in the background for a specific move. In the case of The Whoah, the move was created before TikTok and then spread on the platform. Other dances like the Microwave Challenge and Drop Dance became well-known on TikTok and then spread to other social media platforms.

TikTok videos and the #YeeHawChallenge are often credited as a significant part of the massive popularity of “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. Many factors were at play in the song’s success including the black Yee Haw Agenda, the song being an absolute bop, and the remix collab with Billy Ray Cyrus. However, TikTok’s role is undeniably significant. As meme culture and more traditional pop culture forms become increasingly intertwined, TikTok is a platform to keep an eye on.

TikTok trends are often hashtag, song, dance, or challenge-based. As the app favors these aspects for a video’s spreadability, creators often adapt their content to fit in with the current trends, while also seeking to create trends of their own.

This guide explores memes and trends that have been and continue to be particularly popular on TikTok.

May 2019

These trends either began or rose to popularity in May 2019.
  • Senioritis refers to a rise in procrastination and tomfoolery among high school or college seniors in the weeks leading up to graduation
  • These videos depict senioritis in various forms including slacking off, senior pranks, and general silliness 
The Complete #Senioritis TikTok Memes

TikTok Trends

Here are some of the most popular TikTok trends and memes in the U.S. since the app's debut.
  • Users explain outrageous theories, often involving celebrities, by solving math problems.
  • They make their calculations using a series of nonsensical numbers. 
  • The results are typically used to mockingly prove a ridiculous conspiracy theory. 
The Complete #FakeMath TikTok Memes
  • Starts with a line in “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo that goes “I just took a DNA test turns out I’m 100% ___” 
  • After swabbing their cheek with a Q-tip, TikTokers share the “results” of their pretend DNA test
  • They fill in the blank with a character trait or identity, some of which are serious, others of which are jokes
The Complete DNA Test TikTok Memes #DNATest
  • A more positive take on the softboy stereotype
  • Shows someone transforming from an eBoy or eGirl into a softboy or softgirl
  • A celebration of softness and tenderness
  • Associated with springtime and flowers
The Complete Soft Szn

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