This month, TikTok star Erika Titus is in the hot seat to answer our burning questions. In Next Question, Her Campus rapid-fire interviews emerging Gen Z talent about what it’s like to rule over the Internet.
My 17 minutes speaking with TikTok star Erika Titus probably couldn’t have embodied 2022 any better. The 19-year-old Hawaii-based creator and I covered the current state of the pandemic (she recently recovered from the side effects of her COVID booster shot), how fandom creates community (she attended BTS’s Permission To Dance Tour in November and called it “the best concert I’ve ever been to” — for the curious, she double-biases V and Jungkook), and her worries about the fast fashion industry (no more micro-trends, please!). It became obvious how Titus has racked up 1.2 million followers and counting on TikTok since posting her first video in 2019: She has the same joys and fears as most of her generation, and that relatability has allowed them to connect with her.
Titus describes herself as “nervous” and “quiet” in real life as opposed to her Internet persona, which is known for thrift hauls, comedy videos with rambling questions (if you wear a tampon during airport security screenings, can they tell? TSA, please respond), and candid insight into her everyday life. She films a lot of her videos with her face very close to the camera, or from her bed, so the average viewer might think she’s extremely comfortable with her visibility and audience. She tells me, though, that one of her career goals is “feeling secure in any kind of way online.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a TikTok star who’s built a platform off of being just like every other Gen Z teen is, well, just like every other Gen Z teen (social media-induced existential angst included). Still, it presents a fuller picture of Titus: She doesn’t just turn on a camera and press record. She’s also thinking deeply about the impact of her success on her mental health, and looking at the bigger picture. Read on to learn more about Titus and her take on the digital landscape she inhabits.
1. WHAT’S ONE THING THE INTERNET DOESN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT YOU WISH THEY DID?
I just wish people knew how awkward I am in person. I’m not a very outgoing person in my everyday life. Online, I’m posting a lot about my life, and I just feel like my Internet personality is definitely a lot different than my personality in real life. I’m a lot more quiet.
I’ve actually had occurrences meeting with people that have seen me online, and they’ll be super sweet, and they’ll ask for a picture or something, but I always feel so bad because sometimes I’ll notice… I think they’re kind of shocked by how nervous I am. I’ll be so nervous to take a picture.
2. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE GEN Z IN THREE WORDS?
I would say bold — I think Gen Z’s very bold, just with everything that they do. I’d also say opinionated; not necessarily as a bad thing, I just think that Gen Z genuinely has a lot of opinions on different things. Which is good, because I think that previous generations are a little bit afraid to speak out on certain topics that might be seen as controversial, but I feel like Gen Z isn’t afraid to have opinions on, I guess, previously controversial topics, so I think that’s kind of cool. And I would also say fashionable. I love that Gen Z’s super into fashion and they’re not afraid to express themselves with their wardrobe and I think that’s super cool.
3. WHICH ONLINE TREND ARE YOU TOTALLY OVER, AND WHICH IS HERE TO STAY?
Oh! Oh, I know. I honestly really don’t like when people call things cheugy. I just — first of all, I don’t even like the way the word sounds. It’s kind of a gross word to say. I also just don’t like it because I feel like when people call things cheugy, it’s kind of mean, and I just feel like… especially with clothing, just let people like what they wanna like. I don’t know. It’s irritating, to me, when people are like, oh, these rings are so cheugy, or whatever. It’s just weird. I don’t really like the word cheugy and just making fun of people for what they wear.
I also just don’t think that it’s good, because there are constantly going to be clothing trends, and people will call them cheugy and they’ll go out of style so fast, which I think just is sad with fast fashion already. It just speeds it up, creating new micro-trends and just calling old micro-trends cheugy. It’s just a whole thing.
And honestly, [for a positive trend], I can’t even lie: I love a good thirst trap! I think they’re fun! I know that some people think thirst traps are cringey, but honestly, I think that it’s nice to see people feel confident and show how confident they’re being. Because anybody can thirst trap. Men and women. And I really like that.
4. WHAT ARE YOU MANIFESTING FOR THE NEXT STAGE OF YOUR CAREER?
I think I just want to manifest feeling secure. I was in college, and I was doing fine in my major, but it’s hard to do social media at the same time as doing regular college. And so, I just felt super insecure switching back and forth between those two things. So I’m just hoping that within the next stage of my career, I’ll be settled in and be set enough on social media that I won’t feel so nervous about not doing school, and just mainly just feeling secure in any kind of way online.
5. WHAT ARE THE FIRST THREE SONGS ON YOUR SPOTIFY “ON REPEAT” PLAYLIST?
Let me go check right now. Oh my god, I’m kind of nervous! The second one is kind of embarrassing.
“23” — Wallice
“How To Disappear Completely” — Radiohead
“From These Heights” — Jelani Aryeh
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.