The Brief: TikTokers are labeling the various "sides" of TikTok including Straight TikTok and Elite/Alt TikTok to highlight the distinct communities and genres forming within the app.
TikTokers are assigning labels for their different interests and communities within the app, calling them the “sides” of TikTok. The two main sides of TikTok are Straight TikTok and Alt TikTok. While Straight TikTok includes top creators, big dance challenges, and mainstream trends, Alt TikTok, also known as Elite TikTok, is host to more bizarre and eccentric content. Alt/Elite TikTok is an umbrella term for dozens of other subcultures including Frog TikTok, Beans TikTok, Retail TikTok, Jason Earles TikTok, Elmo TikTok, and Deep TikTok.
The most vocal proponents of giving names to the many sides of TikTok are members of Alt/Elite TikTok who take pride in their community for being unique and whimsical, reminiscent of the now-defunct Vine. They often drag the people of Straight TikTok for being boring and unoriginal, such as creator Avani who was roasted after making comments about Straight vs. Elite TikTok.
In addition to genres that are unique to TikTok, the app is also host to content with more recognizable labels. Videos on subjects like food, beauty, and pets would typically be considered part of Straight TikTok while content coming from inside prisons may be categorized as Alt TikTok. There’s also Gay TikTok, Lesbian TikTok, Bisexual TikTok, Black TikTok, Plant TikTok, Indie TikTok, Conservative TikTok, Celebrity TikTok, Roller Skating TikTok, Leftist TikTok, Goth TikTok, Cosplay TikTok, and more. TikTokers can find themselves divided based on demographic categories such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and geography because as the app feeds people content based on how they interact with videos, it often groups them with others who have similar tastes, backgrounds, and experiences.
TikTok recently disclosed more information about how its algorithm functions, noting that the algorithm’s ability to cater to people’s specific interests can limit the diversity of content that they’re exposed to. The app’s developers have stated that they’re working on broadening the scope of what users see by including a wider variety of videos on their For You pages. Creators of color, LGBTQ+ creators, and disabled creators have reported being shadowbanned and having their content blocked. TikTok has addressed this, saying that in the past they have hidden content by creators from marginalized groups as part of an attempt to curb bullying and that they are making efforts to establish a “creator diversity council and impact-driven programs geared towards recognizing and uplifting the voices driving culture, creativity, and important conversations on the platform.”
The sides of TikTok are marked by their distinct creators, hashtags, sounds, skit formats, memes, and challenges. The opposing sides interact directly through dialogue about their differences, and indirectly as they use some of the same elements in their videos. As TikTokers sort themselves into groups or “sides,” they highlight the divisions within the app while also building strong communities and subcultures based on interests in particular types of content.