Student Q&A: The effects of going TikTok viral
How one viral post turned @IzzyBashara from TikTok creator to LGBTQ advocate
Can you imagine stepping away from your phone after posting a quick 6-second video and coming back to hundreds of notifications and views? What would you do?
This is what happened to rising junior, Izzy Bashara last month when she posted a video onto her TikTok profile. TikTok is a new social media platform where users can unleash their talent, creativity, and even activism in the form of short, highly consumable videos. Izzy’s post suddenly received a frenzy of attention and now has over 200,000 views. Not only did she have to quickly learn how to navigate the positive and negative effects of instant popularity, but she also became an immediate mentor to students looking for advice on a sensitive topic: sexuality.
With so many students trying to go TikTok viral, we sat down with Izzy to hear the full story, the effects of going viral, and how she is using social media to support the LGBTQ community.
📱 Tell us a little bit about what happened!
Izzy: I’ve been on TikTok for a while now, and I’ve always posted comedy videos for my 90 followers. But about a month ago, I posted a comedy video about Game of Thrones. The video went viral in a matter of minutes, and that one video currently has over 200,000 likes. Right now, I have about 20,000 TikTok followers, and I gain about 1,000 followers a day.
🔍 So, obviously your TikTok is public since people can find your video. Once you went viral, did people start following you on your other social accounts as well?
Izzy: Yes, I saw growth on my Instagram too, but when this happened I changed my Instagram settings from public to private. I didn’t want all the DMs on both accounts and it was just safer to keep one private.
👀 Tell us more about your new followers. Who has been reaching out to you?
Izzy: My followers are mostly middle school or early high school students ages 13 to 16 coming from all different sexual orientations. (In the video caption that went viral, I mentioned I’m bi-sexual.) People mostly message me about how to talk to their loved ones about their sexuality. It is heartwarming to me that my page has become a safe place for people to talk and process. That’s what my account is for.
✅ Were you a role model for your followers before or did you become one as you gained popularity? What do you hope these students learn from your account?
Izzy: I started to become a role model once the video went viral. I wasn’t super open about my sexuality before. But now I’m giving advice to younger students who need someone to talk to.
For example, there is one girl who didn’t know how to come out to her parents. She didn’t know if they would be supportive or not, but she didn’t want to lie to them. I talked to her and asked her if she felt safe in the situation. For me, the main thing is their safety and if it’s better to share once they’re out of the house. She ended up deciding to wait but she continues to use my platform as an outlet to talk about it.
☀️ What advice would you give to students who receive hateful messages on social media?
Izzy: I do not recommend responding. One, they want you to respond and pick a fight with you. Two, I don’t think it’s worth your time arguing with someone who will take time out of their day to be hateful. Three, by not responding you aren’t giving them what they want – which is an argument. Just block them. I block everyone who sends me a hateful message.
🤔 What is something unexpected you learned over the past month?
Izzy: I’ve noticed that as my platform grows, the less hateful messages I receive. I’m not exactly sure why, but I do know that at the beginning of this month, which is Pride Month, I saw a lot of things going around on TikTok about “Operation Pridefall.” It was a group of people allegedly going to target the LGBTQ community and flood their comments and inboxes with hateful DMs, trying to hack accounts, etc. Most of the creators who have been at the receiving end of that have been creators with smaller fan bases. I think they’re trying to go after people not as well known. Maybe that has something to do with it.
⌚ Now that you’ve gone viral and gained so many new followers, how much time do you commit to social media each day?
Izzy: In the beginning, since it was all new, I was super wrapped up in it every day. But over the past month, I’ve set limits on my phone so I’m not spending so much time focusing on it. It depends, but my total screen time yesterday was only 30 mins. During quarantine, I’ve been working on reading, signing up for classes, planning for college, and focusing on things other than my phone.
💡 What advice would you give to a 5th or 6th grader about using social media?
Izzy: I recommend setting time limits on your phone specifically for social media. If you’re spending a lot of time on your phone, like 6 hours a day, you don’t have to automatically set it to something drastically low like 30 minutes. Steadily decrease the limit. When you hit that limit, it’s your signal to go do something else.
🗓 What does the future hold? Do you think you will continue with your social channels as you graduate from high school?
Izzy: Yeah! Right now I’m thinking I want to study journalism in college. I want to continue to advocate for LGBTQ rights via journalism and on my social media channels.
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