By Adina Bruce, Features Editor
Renee Lisbon contributed to this article.
If you’re not on it, then you’ve definitely heard of it. TikTok has been making waves in the tech world as a new frontrunner in the digital race to grab our collective attention. Alongside the chaotic content that includes dance crazes, lip-syncing and viral trends, students at Yeshiva University have been using the platform as a way to create a stronger campus culture.
TikTok was previously known as the music and dance sharing platform Musical.ly, changing its name after being acquired by Chinese tech company ByteDance. TikTok videos are often short clips, synced with trending background music, texts and voice-overs, also known as ‘Sounds.’ Recently TikTok announced it has reached 1 billion users.
As students fully return to campus, TikTok has been utilized by some students to create content specifically about YU. The form and structure of these TikToks differ among creators, but all feature unique and creative ways to interact with and comment on the larger YU community.
Dalia Adams (SCW ‘23), known on TikTok as ‘dalia.elyse’, has been making videos about YU and Judaism since moving to the dorms in November 2020. With almost 500 followers and over 23,000 likes, Dalia makes videos that reflect on the experience of dorming, taking classes and dating at Stern. Sometimes featuring her roommate Rikkie, Dalia often answers specific questions people have about the dorms, campus and YU in general. Talking to the YU Observer about why she makes her TikToks Dalia answered, “I enjoy making those kinds of videos because I found that a lot of people were able to relate to them and it was fun to see so many people in the comments and in my messages saying that they had the same experiences. A lot of people also asked me questions about YU and told me that they found my videos helpful, so I thought why not continue?” After some time, Dalia says that her account fell into a comfortable rhythm so that “half of my content became answering questions and the other half was lighthearted videos so that people know not to take everything so seriously.”
Remy Greenblatt (Katz ‘24), known as ‘remygofficial’, with 1400 followers and 56,800 likes represents the Wilf campus. Many of his videos feature classic TikTok trends and dances. When asked by the YU Observer why he makes videos about Judaism and YU he answered “It helps me connect with the students at the school who can relate to the type of video that I make, and to meet other students … it also helps me connect to the Jewish community at large.”
Run by Talya and Temima (SCW ‘22) (who did not want their last names included for privacy reasons), ‘berenbathrooms’ is a humorous account featuring the many different bathrooms on the Beren campus. “We always found it funny how colleges advertise how pretty their campuses are, and felt that YU needed to start showcasing their beautiful bathrooms. YU ranks #5 on the list of least diverse colleges, but it does have the most diverse bathrooms (probably)”, the two content creators told the YU Observer.
Creative and amusing, TikToks often feature an unprofessional style that enables trends to be easily reproduced. Dalia describes the process of creating her TikToks as “I’ll usually just be scrolling through the app and I’ll find a sound that inspires an idea.” Similarly Remy says he will “start with an idea, listen to different sounds on TikTok and see how it connects with my idea.” Talya and Temima have a slightly more involved process: “First we film a bathroom, we just pick one and pull something out. We try to get a lot of shots, like a shot of us walking in, a shot of the sink, a shot of the stalls … Afterwards we will adjust the clips of the video because sometimes the shots will be too long or there will be something awkward. And then after that we will go through each shot with our roommate Elisheva and try to make a joke for each shot and record it.”
While the TikTokers featured don’t have quite enough followers to be considered “TikTok famous” some of them have reached some notoriety on the YU campus. “My roommate and I do get recognized more than I thought I would on campus … I’m much more shy in person than in my videos so these initial interactions were kind of shocking for me. I was always worried that I came off as stand-offish because I never knew how to respond to people who recognized me. I never want to come off as snobby or rude especially because that’s the opposite of everything I promote on my account. I love meeting new people though and I definitely think that is one of the most fun parts of all of this” explained Dalia. Similarly Remy describes that sometimes “I have been noticed by students at YU because of my TikToks and some have asked me if I’m the TikTok guy.”
Although offline interactions are described as pleasant, like many Jewish content creators on TikTok, TikTokers at YU have described having to deal with antisemitism on the platform. Dalia described how “during the huge rise in anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, I was getting a lot of threats for a few months and one or two people stuck around who I have since blocked.” Remy said how “ I get a lot of negative comments. I have had anti-Semitic comments, hate comments and comments that people say that make fun of what I am doing.” However, he says that he also gets “positive comments like I love your videos, keep it up, love your content, so inspirational etc.”
Despite the wealth of content available and being made at the moment on TikTok, these YU TikTokers are filling a specific niche of entertainment. “It is so fun seeing YU related TikToks appear on my fyp (for you page)! With an algorithm of thousands and thousands of videos, I love being able to relate to them as I scroll. Added bonus if they’re (semi) viral!” Rebecca Hyman (SCW ‘22) told the YU Observer. As Temima and Talya explained, “The whole account … are all inside jokes with the YU community … I think that’s why it resonates with so many people, everyone likes to make fun of their school and understand the references. It’s another thing where people can say ‘I go to YU and I know this inside joke and reference’ ”. As TikTok continues its trajectory it is almost certain that YU-TikTok is here to stay.