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Talia Lichtstein Is TikTok’s “Professional Hater”

This month, TikTok star Talia Lichtstein 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.

Talia Lichtstein is a professional hater — emphasis on professional. Best known for her “Things I Hate” series, in which she, well, describes things she hates, Lichtstein has racked up over 700,000 followers in under two years for her tongue-in-cheek mission to “spread negativity.” Not everyone is a fan, of course — more than one commenter has called her “mean.” But the key part to understanding her comedy is that Lichtstein’s always in on the joke.

Lichtstein is whip-smart and paying keen attention to the world around her. One of the most thoughtful TikTokers on the platform, she’s preoccupied with the harmful impacts of cancel culture and how Gen Z’s commitment to inclusivity can be at odds with their response to people who mess up. “Sometimes we’re a hard generation to please,” she says. “We are so open, but we have a hard time accepting that people are often still catching up to the most ‘woke’ people in Gen Z, with all the best intentions. We need to do a better job of discerning who’s genuinely evil versus who’s an 11-year-old on the internet who just needs to be told what’s okay and what’s not.”

Lichtstein’s analysis of the nuances of Gen Z’s psyche may be part of the reason she’s been able to grow her platform so quickly. Having graduated college earlier this year, she and I commiserate over being 2021 grads who lost a sizable chunk of the college experience to the pandemic. But Lichtstein is gearing up for a move to New York City, with some exciting new projects in the works. Read on to learn more about how Lichtstein straddles the line between kindness and brutal honesty.

1. WHAT’S ONE THING THE INTERNET DOESN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT YOU WISH THEY DID?

Obviously, I’ve made a brand out of the hater thing, but it’s part of the shtick. It’s become a mean, bully persona, like I don’t care about others and just focus on myself. But I really wish the world knew that it’s a shtick. The honesty that comes with hating things is definitely real: the authenticity and the need to shout my opinions in a respectful way. I add this little sprinkle of meanness to it for the comedy, but I’m not that selfish or toxic.

When people from TikTok recognize me in real life, usually I get a DM afterwards: I was scared to say hi, I didn’t know if you’d be annoyed. Or they’ll come to me like: Hi, I’m so sorry, I like your TikTok but I’m sorry, you probably hate that. But I’m not like that in real life! I wish people knew that I wasn’t actually a mean person.

2. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE GEN Z IN THREE WORDS?

Digital, obviously. But I wonder whether I should make that “chronically digital” — we all really need to get off our phones and go touch some grass, as they say on the web. Gen Z is chronically and dangerously digital. That’s an issue that I have.

But we are also extremely inclusive. Inclusivity is front of mind for so many Gen Z’ers, which is a beautiful thing. And that makes the world a much better place.

And for my third word, I think we’re hysterical! I think that Gen Z is so f*cking funny. We get a lot of heat from older generations about how we spend so much time online, but our response is a really funny, sometimes irreverent sense of humor. There’s a very interesting contrast between our mindset of being super inclusive and being sensitive to everybody’s feelings, while also having a mean sense of humor! We’re a very honest generation. Sometimes the dynamic works. Other times, it doesn’t.

3. WHICH ONLINE TREND ARE YOU TOTALLY OVER, AND WHICH IS HERE TO STAY?

The worst trend of all is having a complete lack of tolerance for people who are simply learning and growing and trying to be better people. I don’t want to say “cancel culture,” because there are a lot of people who deserve to be quote-unquote “canceled.” But there are also minor and unintentional offenses. If we really wanted to use cancel culture to make the world a better place, we would be able to evaluate who needs to be educated versus who needs their platform taken away. And a huge trend that I’m noticing, that everybody’s noticing, is that people are very quick to try to boot somebody off the internet. 

As for a good trend, I’m positive Drew [Afualo] said a variation of this in her Next Question interview, but I’m really into calling men out for their stupid comments in a loving way. When I call somebody out, there is no intention of canceling them or attacking them. It’s just to educate and be funny. I don’t think that anybody I respond to is truly evil. But one of my favorite things to do on TikTok is use people’s content that they make for me in my own content. And sometimes, what they say is very offensive or misogynistic. I love that people are becoming braver and responding.

4. WHAT ARE YOU MANIFESTING FOR THE NEXT STAGE OF YOUR CAREER?

I got into TikTok with no intention of becoming a full-time influencer, but because my dream is to work in late-night television. I want to work in political satire, comedic political commentary, and eventually have my own show or be a correspondent on a late night show. I look up to Samantha Bee, Hasan Minhaj, John Oliver, John Stewart, Colbert. You know the crew. That’s the area of entertainment that I always wanted to work in, and I started doing TikTok, if nothing else, as a way to practice. I wanted to have content of myself online that people could see. And it blew up beyond my wildest dreams extremely quickly. So, it’s gotten to the point now where I don’t have to get a full-time job that I hate. I can actually do this as an income while I pursue that career in comedy.

I will always continue posting on TikTok because that’s where everything started, but I will also be hosting my own show on a different platform in the coming weeks, and I will be working in podcasts as well for a different media company.

My advice to others is to speak things into existence! If you think something is possible, say it to as many people as you can. When you make that promise to yourself and to the universe, I really think it can happen.

5. WHAT ARE THE FIRST THREE SONGS ON YOUR SPOTIFY “ON REPEAT” PLAYLIST?

Okay, I’m gonna look at it, and if it’s embarrassing, I’m gonna lie through my teeth. Okay, here it is! Alright, these aren’t that bad.

“Nothing Else I Could Do” — Ella Jane

“Safari Song” — Greta Van Fleet

“Meet Me At Our Spot” — WILLOW, THE ANXIETY, Tyler Cole

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Erica Kam

Columbia Barnard '21

Erica is the Contributing Editor at Her Campus. She was formerly the Wellness Editor (2019-20), the High School Editor (2018-19), and an Editorial Intern (2018). She graduated from Barnard College in 2021 with a degree in English and creative writing, and was the Senior Editor of Her Campus Columbia Barnard (2018-20). When she's not writing or editing (which is rare), she's probably looking at food pictures on Instagram.
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