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From the painstaking period of waiting for states to finalize their electoral votes to the numerous accusations by incumbent Trump of election fraud to Biden finally being announced president-elect late in the week—there’s no doubt in any American’s mind that this has been a tumultuous period. While blue supporters can, for now, breathe a sigh of relief, what can’t be ignored is the social response to the election happenings, especially on the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok. On the days leading up to the election, many users of the platform were expressing their worst fears for a certain outcome of the presidential race.

TikToks like this one by user @slipxknot1 demonstrate what seemed to be a widespread fear of violence, revolution and/or apocalypse after the results of the election were to be announced. While the particular video I linked here errs more on the side of satire than others, last weekend and even earlier, numerous similarly fearmongering videos rose to virality. Users shared videos of themselves preparing for a “Purge-like” situation, while others posted footage of businesses in large cities boarding up their windows days before the election. These videos, mostly created by younger individuals, were quickly and rightfully shut down by other TikTokers, such as in this video by @arrestzoelaverne and this one posted by @pso515 for being fearmongering and dramatic. As with most viral trends, parodies arose and discourse continued until it was overtaken by the next trend of the week and almost entirely fizzled out. But this type of fearmongering and hyperbolism is no rarity on an app like TikTok.

phone with tiktok logo on the grass
Photo by Kon Karampelas from Unsplash

Some level of concern regarding this election is beyond reasonable, as the inclination of Americans to take to the streets in sometimes violent protest has shown itself many times this year so far. However, the implication that the capital of Washington, D.C. might somehow devolve into a “Divergent-like,” factioned warzone is, frankly, a bit dramatic and the kind of lofty speculation that absolutely should not be allowed to take hold on a platform where 62% of users are younger than the age of 30 with more than half of that number being between the ages of 10 and 19 (without even considering children younger than 10 who have registered for the app under a fictitious birth year.

To put it blatantly, younger people are more likely to be influenced by this type of fearmongering, and even then to stoke the flame. I, myself, am in no way excluding myself from this generalization. In fact, the reason I realized how drastic of an issue fearmongering is on the app is due to my own anxious feelings I had in response to this short-lived trend. Coupled with the nervousness I had already been feeling in response to the election, this projection of a worst-case scenario made my mind run amok at first. As I gradually calmed down and realized that worrying would do me no good (and it didn’t, after all), I could only hope the same for my younger or more worry-inclined peers that they could realize the same.

Emily Richardson is a psychology and sociology double major at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has contributed to a number of independent publications and has a passion for music, writing, and social issues.
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