A Guide to Trends on TikTok
The Brief: The short video sharing platform TikTok is changing how memes, internet challenges, and trends are created and spread. Here's a guide to some of the most popular trends and how TikTok fuels their virality.
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.
- Memes that poke fun at the awkward struggles of being a “Third Wheel”
- Often shows someone feeling left out by their friend and their bae
- Memes where users create music or sounds with everyday objects.
- Users often try to recreate recognizable beats from existing songs, like Usher’s “Yeah”.
- Some versions incorporate sound clips from popular songs.
- Often labeled “Tune Dodel Vide Vide” but actually features the song Tourner Dans Le Vide by Indila
- Shows people getting dunked on by life
- Someone dances to melodramatic music, representing bad luck and misfortune “dancing” while making someone suffer
- 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
- Dance challenge created by Taylor Swift from her song “Me!”
- TikTokers replicate a dance between Swift and Brendon Urie from the song’s music video
- These videos imagine teen life in the 20th century
- Full of retro outfits and romantic storylines
- Usually set to the song “New Flesh” by current joys
- Set to the tune of “Boys” by Lizzo
- Showcases the many kinds of boys mentioned in the song
- Introduction videos show people holding up signs
- The signs share personal information and fun facts
- Set to “Introducing Me” by Nick Jonas
- Hashtag sponsored by Disney to promote the release of its Aladdin remake
- Videos include dance routines, comedy sketches, and tributes to BFFs
- TikTok’s version of the Nobody: Me: meme
- Shows the awkwardness of being the only one to do or say something strange
- Students share how they plan to survive finals week
- Mini comedy sketches poke fun at the struggles of high school and college
- TikTokers replicate retro Disney Channel commercials
- Utilizes TikTok’s AR brush editing tool
- TikTok’s take on the handshake memes
- Shows connections between seemingly disparate things
- Set to “Womp Womp” by Valee, featuring Jeremih
- TikTokers pretend that they’re driving a car and then slide backward
- Set to the song “Reverse” by Vic Mensa, featuring G-Eazy
- A hashtag for drag queens to serve looks and realness
- A celebration of drag and promotion for Ru Paul’s Drag Con LA
- TikTokers show off their wacky dance moves
- Set to the tune “Wait A Minute” by Willow
- Based on the “choose your character” option at the beginning of avatar-based video games
- In many videos, a remix to the Super Smash Bros menu music plays in the background
- Shows people choosing between both real and made-up characters, played by people in the video
- Set to a clip from “Go Hard” by Kreayshawn
- About the struggles of being broke
- Proposes questionable life hacks to get cheaper versions of expensive things
- Storytime videos are a genre that goes beyond TikTok
- In these confessional videos, people share dramatic, “true” stories about their lives
- TikTok storytime videos must be 60 seconds or shorter due to time constraints
- These memes parody historical events and figures.
- Most versions feature one person playing multiple roles.
- Usually paired with dramatic music or sound effects.
- 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.
- These videos express regret after having done a “bad thing”
- Set to the song “i just did a bad thing” by comedic musician bill wurtz
- 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
- Created by Brawl Star app makers as a promotion
- This challenge prompts TikTokers to mimic the dances of various characters from the game
- Dancers show off their moves to the song “Chucky Cheese” by MadeinTYO
- #LottaLoot refers to a line in the song “Fill the room with the juice, that’s a lotta’ loot”
- People appear to make a raw chicken egg bouncy and hard to break
- Methods include swinging it around in a sock or putting it in boiling water and then into the refrigerator
- Appears to be a hoax. Most videos show unsuccessful attempts at this “challenge.”
- Shows people turning into eGirls
- The transformation usually occurs after they drink “eGirl juice” or are abducted into an “eGirl factory”
- Set to a slowed-down cover of the Spice Girls’ hit “Wannabe” by Why Mona or to a clip from “Me Me Me” by AntiNightcore
- Shows people doing a twerk/hip thrust hybrid in public places
- Set to the song “Satisfaction” by Benny Benassi
- #ExtraEntrance refers how people often use this dance move to make a public entrance
- A fashion and style trend popularized on TikTok
- Can broadly describe a woman or girl who has an online presence
- Often associated with eGirl factory videos
- Formerly a term used to insult women and girls online
- This already popular dance move went viral on TikTok
- The move, which originated in Texas is usually set to “Hit My Woah,” by A-1 SteakSauce, Lyric Melody, and Big Duece or “The Woah” by Tspeed x 5upamanhoe
- The TikTok version often includes an abridged version of the move that interrupts people’s daily activities
- In this dance move/challenge, people spin around on the floor as if they were food in a microwave
- Usually performed to a clip from the song “Slow Dancing In The Dark” by Joji
- There are various methods for achieving this effect, some of which are more complicated than others
- Often set to “Colors (Audien Remix)” by Halsey, these memes feature three steps.
- Users write directions on their hand and fingers, instructing someone to press, pull, or twist.
- After following the series of instructions, the user’s hand opens revealing a message/item inside.
- Often features the song “Mia Khalifa” by iLOVEFRIDAY
- Popularized through @nyannycosplay’s dance rendition
- #HitOrMissChallenge is when someone shouts “Hit Or Miss” in public and waits to see if someone responds with the next “Mia Khalifa” lyrics
- Based on a line in “Nonstop” by Drake that goes “I just flipped a switch”
- Videos show someone turning off a light, then turning it back on to reveal something silly happening such as a costume change or dance move
- Videos show people lip-syncing to the Overwatch-themed song “No Mercy”
- Considered by many to be a “cringey” trend
- Many videos came out mocking women and girls in these videos for not using the proper video game consoles. These criticisms were often rooted in sexism and the gamer girl stereotype.