TikTok is full of new dances, pranks and trends. Each post is anywhere from 15 seconds to 10 minutes – long enough to get stuck in your head but still short enough to keep you scrolling for more.
However, the app is more than just entertainment. In fact, it’s a platform on which many people have found affirming communities brimming with inspiration, joy and warmth. So, many TikTok users have been able to carve out spaces for themselves on the app, using it to invest in their own community, meet people or find inspiration for clothing, food and art projects.
HuffPost asked TikTok users about the communities they’ve been delighted to find on the app. Perhaps one will resonate with you.
Female fitness fans are making their presence known on TikTok with short bursts of information as well as realistic workout goals and activities. And, in many ways, creators on the app have pieced together an alternative version of health and wellness that’s made the outdoors – from sidewalks to hiking trails – seem more accessible and welcoming to all.
Suzanne Villegas, a sales manager in Diamond Bar, California, found a community of other “outdoorsy” people on TikTok that she frequently looks to for workouts and outdoor activities.
“I like to be active, and I like to seek out new outdoor activities, like a new trail,” Villegas says. “I get so excited to do these adventures on my own – all my saved posts become my ‘bucket list’ of hikes that I want to do, workouts I want to try or road trips I want to go on. And I probably wouldn’t have known about these things if it wasn’t for TikTok.”
Queer theory and affirmation
Though media continues to lack queer representation, people on TikTok have managed to build up the LGBTQ+ community there, spotlighting content about queer sex, mental health support, media and fashion. The app gives people access to different queer communities and acts as a space for creative freedom and the sharing of resources.
Jessica Harper, a singer-songwriter from Missouri, found affirmation in her queer identity through the online community at the #sapphic hashtag and beyond.
“The TikToks themselves are fun, but seeing everybody engaged in the comments and women loving women makes me feel happy,” Harper says. “Sometimes, especially being a feminine-presenting bisexual woman, I feel like my identity is erased by others or that I’m not seen as queer or queer enough.”
Harper has queer friends in real life but says that she also enjoys seeing other sapphic adults’ and families’ lifestyles on TikTok because it helps her envision her own life.
“It’s been so affirming to see the possibilities,” Harper says.
Aastha Jani, a student at the University of Southern California, also follows queer and nonbinary creators on the app, citing their videos as one of the things that helped them figure out their gender identity.
South Asian fashion inspiration
TikTok is also a place where South Asian fashion shines. Many South Asians feel othered by mainstream media and have turned to TikTok to see their culture being celebrated, rather than appropriated, and represented accurately through clothing and accessories.
Misha Hassan turns to queer South Asians’ ‘Get Ready With Me’ videos, drawing inspiration from the ways that people often mix Western clothing with traditional pieces.
“I have been getting more and more into self-expression through fashion,” says Hassan, a recent graduate of USC. “Putting outfits together makes me feel like I have more ownership over my presentation to the world, so seeing queer South Asian people do the same and style a piece extraordinarily inspires me and helps me express my identities.”
Similarly, Jani finds affirmation in watching queer plus-size peoples’ fashion videos on TikTok.
“It’s a confidence booster to see people like me be powerful in their bodies,” Jani says. “I feel confident, affirmed and reassured seeing them.”
“A lot of people in [South Asian diasporas] whitewash our culture, which is disheartening,” they added. “It’s nice to see people that are accurately representing our culture and being able to appreciate it. It’s comforting.”
Vegetarian foodies from every culture
TikTok is also a space for young cooks who are passionate about their community’s foods to gather and share the recipes that remind them of home or their upbringing.
For example, Jani finds comfort in watching South Asian vegetarian cooking videos on the app. They look to their feed for quick Indian eats, vegetarian snacks and even Punjabi food.
“Even if I don’t have time to cook the recipe, I love to watch the videos because they remind me of my family at home,” Jani says. “These creators are exposing our culture in such a great way.”
Hassan also turns to TikTok for food inspiration, watching creators mix “random” ingredients into mainstream meals or make something with a flavour profile she hasn’t tried before. She also enjoys watching people make food from their own counties and share the stories and methods behind them.
Hair and beauty inspo for all skin tones and hair types
Viviana Collymore, a recent graduate of Syracuse University, appreciates TikTok’s minute-long videos and often opens her For You page for curly hair inspiration rather than watching a 20-minute tutorial somewhere else. She frequently goes on the app to find products or hairstyles to try out.
Jani also uses TikTok for beauty content, specifically content made by other South Asian people.
“When I was younger, I followed a lot of YouTube makeup gurus, and they were all white. But on TikTok, I see so many other people with brown skin tones recommending brands and products that work on their skin,” Jani says. “The content is niche and catered to me.”