If your friends jumped off a cliff are you going to follow them?

This is an old saying said most likely by your parents when they thought you were going to do something foolish. This saying comes to my mind when people ask me about TikTok, an app for making and sharing short, fun videos. Everybody is on TikTok, why aren’t you?

My thoughts — before jumping off the cliff this week and downloading TikTok — was I don’t need another distraction from social media and I didn’t want to become addicted to watching and making videos. From what I’ve heard people open the app and before they know it hours have passed.

What sparked my interest “to jump” is a TikTok video created by Kaija Lee, a 17-year-old Brainerd High School senior. This TikTok video she produced March 9 has now reached 16.4 million views, as of April 1, along with 47,200 comments and these numbers are growing by the minute.

That is a lot of views, in my opinion, for a Brainerd student just having some fun using the popular social media app. I wish I could get even an eighth of those views on my Twitter account! (My Twitter username is below just in case, just saying!)

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Kaija said the day she created the TikTok video was a typical day in the teen’s life. She was with her friend, Kylie Christenson, a BHS senior, and Christenson’s older sister Cassidy Christenson, who graduated in 2020. Kylie was driving and they were on their way to the newly opened Starbucks in east Brainerd next to Jimmy John’s along Washington Street. It was their first time through the drive thru, they got their order and were ready to be on their way — or were they?

“We got our Starbucks and my friend Kylie was not on her phone, she wasn’t distracted in any way. ... It was a bit sunny out and honestly that turn is so sharp, so she thought it went straight ... and she went right over the curb and got stuck.”

A TikTok video opportunity! The driver behind the girls was already taking a video of them stuck, so Kaija got on her phone and began to make the TikTik creation, as they thought it would be funny.

Kaija took a few video clips to tell the story on how they got stuck and unstuck to music played by Vinny West, a rapper on the East Coast. Video clips included one of herself with her Starbucks coffee, the vehicles in the drive-thru, the stuck car, a close-up of her friend in the driver’s seat and one of the Jimmy Johns workers who came to help get the car unstuck. She added comments with some of the clips to tell the story that included:

  • “Us thinking we were going for a regular morning starbucks run;”

  • “We were holding up the line;”

  • “We were holding up the line. Had shut down the drive thru ...;”

  • “Jimmy Johns workers coming over to help;”

  • “We out.”

“We only were stuck for about six minutes,” Kaija said. “There were a lot of nice people who immediately ran out and started helping us. ... The man in the truck behind us immediately began to help.There were about five Jimmy Johns workers who ran over and said, ‘What’s going on? It looks like a little dilemma going on.’

“It was funny because everyone from Starbucks and Jimmy Johns came out and they all worked together to help us.”

Kaija’s TikTok was complete and posted. The high school senior had no idea how much attention her video would get. She said the comments were overwhelming at first as she tried to respond to them — but after awhile there were so many she couldn’t keep up.

All the comments were not positive, as some people were upset and made comments about Kaija not helping and about putting a video of her shoes in the TikTok.

“I honestly don’t even remember doing it and it was just a quick little shoe video,” Kaija said. “Some people got upset. People were like, “Oh she can videotape her shoes but she can’t help,’ which I completely understand. I really do, but it was just a harmless little clip. It wasn’t like I was sitting out there blogging the whole thing for like 40 minutes. It took less than a minute to make the TikTok.”

This is a computer screenshot of some of the 47,000-some comments made on Kaija Lee's TikTok video. Screenshot / Jennifer Kraus
This is a computer screenshot of some of the 47,000-some comments made on Kaija Lee's TikTok video. Screenshot / Jennifer Kraus

Kaija said when she first posted the video she received a lot of regular, positive comments. Then that night there were a million views and that is when she began getting some “hate comments.”

“It was upsetting,” she said. “My friend and I were lying there and watching all the comments coming in and we saw how mean people are and how rude they can be. I mean you see it on famous people’s TikTok and how they get hate comments and you wonder how they do it.

“It was crazy and I really got overwhelmed so I took the video down for the night because I didn’t know what to do with it ... but now I don’t care. ... People will think what they think.”

There also were many positive comments, and Kaija was flabbergasted when she saw Olympian Gabby Douglas posted a comment this past week. Douglas is a U.S. Women’s Artistic gymnast and she won gold medals in the team and individual all-around competitions in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. According to Douglas’ website, she is the first woman of color of any nationality and the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual All-Around Champion. She also is the first American gymnast to win gold in both the gymnastic individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympic games.

Kaija said she has followed Douglas’s career since she was younger and just “loves her.” She was so excited when she saw her comment, she immediately had to call her older sister who lives in Texas.

Kaija said this by far was her most viewed TikTok since she downloaded the app her sophomore year.

“I joined it because all my friends were joining it,” Kaija said. “I thought it was just a stupid app. The app was really meant for little kids at first, but then it kind of blew up and now it's basically teenagers on the app. I think it’s mainly high schoolers and college kids on the app, but I could be wrong.”

Her TikTok had so many views, she also was contacted by media affiliations who wanted to buy the video, such as ViralHog, which distributes content to major news and media outlets around the world, such as ABC, CBS and CNN. However, she decided against it as she didn’t want to make money off the video, there were too many contracts involved in it and she is not 18 yet.

Kaija posted a part two video of the Starbucks to show them driving through the drive-thru without getting stuck, which received one million views.

Kaija doesn’t have a set number of how many videos she posts on TikTok, stating that it all depends on what’s happening around her. She said she could just be at a store with her friends and see something that could be a good TikTok video. She said it all depends on what she thinks people will think is funny or cool to watch when creating a TikTok video. She said the app also lets you save videos as a draft, so she has several videos saved in her profile app that no one else can see but her.

Kaija said TikTok is in her Top 3 of the social media platforms she mainly uses — joining Instagram and Snapchat. She said TikTok is mainly for entertainment purposes, as it consists of funny videos to make people laugh or videos of people dancing. She said the app is very addicting and she could be scrolling through TikTok videos for three hours and before she knows it, it could be 3 a.m.

 A TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
A TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

According to TikTok’s website, its mission is to inspire creativity and to bring joy with 15 second videos, along with music clips. The app was launched in China in September 2016 and as of February the app had been downloaded over two billion times on the App Store and Google Play.

TikTok has been a source of dance challenges, life hacks and funny videos. People watch videos by scrolling up and down, like a feed, not by tapping or swiping side to side. The videos typically consist of several hashtags, where users are challenging others or making a joke to make people laugh.

TikTok has been through some controversies and investigated in the United States over national security concerns but the success of the app continues. The app is available in more than 150 markets around the world, in 39 languages and the number of users has grown.

According to Reuters, TikTok 2020 revenue was estimated at $1 billion and it is valued at $50 billion.

My bad, as I have not yet made a TikTok video since I downloaded it, even though my research says, “It’s easy to make a video on TikTok.” Research has shown that there are plenty of tools and directions to follow to make a short clip. I will create a video clip one of these days. Right now I am just learning the app and checking out all the videos it has to offer. So far I like some of the hair and makeup tutorials and the how to video clips. I viewed a few odd and end ones and we will see where my TikTok journey goes.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.