Ben Borgers

The TikTok Peer Group

April 9, 2022

On TikTok, it feels like everybody’s in your peer group.

Maybe it’s because TikTok hand-picks content that you like to see, and often that’s from people in a similar place in life to you. It feels like most everybody whose videos you’re seeing are quite similar to you — for me, that’s overwhelmingly college students, but when I was in high school, it was a lot more high schoolers.

When people post videos celebrating wins, you feel those wins. In a way, it feels like you’re celebrating with a friend. It’s heartwarming.

But when people show off accomplishments, or milestones in life that they’ve achieved, it can feel like you’re behind. It can feel like your peers have achieved something that you haven’t, despite them being similar to you. It’s easy to compare yourself.

Comparison and jealousy have always been hallmark of social media, but somehow I feel like TikTok is even more ripe for it. One possibility is that there’s just so much more content to consume (the feed is infinite and unconstrained by who you’ve added as a friend), which means much more variety of people to be jealous of.

Another possibility is that TikTok is the only major social media platform where you primarily interact with strangers, but kind of interact as if you’re friends. The people you see on the For You page are almost always people you don’t know — but still, it feels like you understand these people, whether you’ve seen videos from them before or you’re just getting one look into their life through a video.

Because of these dynamics on TikTok, you see a ton of people’s life circumstances and it feels like they’re kinda your friends. Or at least your peers.

So they have an interesting power over you. Their accomplishments inspire you to be excited for them, but it can also feel like all your friends are getting somewhere and you aren’t.