UK students on TikTok strive for creativity, connection, community

Shelby Fox

Months of quarantine lead to hours of scrolling, and TikTok creators were the driving force behind it.

TikTok, an app for creating and editing videos, was already soaring to popularity in the U.S. when COVID-19 struck, and the ensuing quarantine only amplified the platform. TikTok made its way across the world, and the University of Kentucky was no exception. Several UK students have gone ‘viral’ or become popular figures on the site.

Freshman Zach Hewlett started making videos in early 2019 and currently has 198,000 thousand followers. His first video caused his account to blow up. In the video, Hewlett and his classmates had just found out that his drumline teacher’s wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“We wanted to show that we cared about what was going on,” Hewlett said. “We got balloons, pink flowers, pink bandanas, and we painted our drum sticks pink.”

His teacher’s emotional reaction to the students’ show of support was captured on camera.

“It got like 5 million likes or something,” Hewlett, a mechanical engineering major, said. Since then, he continued to create. But his account was hacked and his previous videos deleted in November of 2019.

“I kind of lost motivation after that,” Hewlett said. “So early pandemic I wasn’t really post-ing a lot.”

But once lockdown settled in, Hewlett rebuilt his profile and “would spend at least four to five hours on TikTok every day, for sure.”

Other students began using TikTok when the coronavirus pandemic began.

“I downloaded TikTok about a year ago, so right when the lockdown had started,” said Emma Rupard, a freshman majoring in marketing. She said she started making videos in April

“because I was bored during the day.”

Rupard (@emmarupard) is a member of UK’s dance team and has 31,600 followers on the app.

“I feel like I’m all over the place,” Rupard said of her content. “Right now, I feel like, primarily stuff about the dance team. Even if it’s right before I go to a game, when I’m dressed up for the game, I’ll just post a quick video. Just anything that comes along in my daily life is what I’ll post. “

Rupard said that the pandemic was one of the main factors in her TikTok use.

“The second the pandemic hit, I was bored and I was like ‘I’m just gonna download it,’” Rupard said. “Ever since then I’ve become obsessed with it.”

Coronavirus lockdown fostered creativity as people tried to stay occupied, and TikTok was the outlet for many students. Since the lockdown, the app has also helped connect people all over the world.

UK junior Tyler Logsdon (@tylerl88) has gained his 72,300 followers on TikTok, where he shares his religious practices and values.

“I make a mix of just a bunch of different stuff, but the main theme of my account would be Christian content,” Logsdon said. His content ranges from basketball videos and motivational quotes to Bible verses and Christian rap.

“I’ll take a trend that’s trending on the ‘for you’ page, and I’ll put a Christian twist on it and like make it my own,” Logsdon, a kinesiology major, said.

Logsdon said his main motive is to spread good messages and be relatable. Even though he goes at his own pace in terms of putting out videos, his account can feel like his job.

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve got to get content out, it can begin to feel like a job a little bit,” Logsdon said. His account has connected to people all over the world who share his views.

“We’ve actually started up a Bible study every Friday night, through just establishing a community of Christian content creators on the app that I’ve become great friends with,” Logsdon said.

“I’ve traveled to many different states now and done different meet-ups and events and things,” Logsdon said. “TikTok, and establishing this community, has allowed me to meet some of the best people that I’ve ever met in my life.”