First-time voter Elise Joshi joined TikTok about a month ago to help get the word out about climate change. But it was her video that landed on the app’s “For You” page about why she’d be “happily voting for Joe Biden” in November that racked up more than 500,000 views.
This year probably wasn’t what Joshi grew up thinking things would look like when she was 18. She’s navigating her first semester of college at University of California, Berkeley, while wildfires surround her home in Northern California. Then there’s the global pandemic, and protests over racial injustice continuing across the nation. But, she says, she couldn’t think of a better election to vote in for the first time.
“I feel like you always remember the first time you vote,” Joshi says. “This is the most influential election of our lifetime because it determines the next century.”
Joshi is one of 15 million young Americans that have turned 18 since 2016, a major voting block in this year’s electorate. A recent Harvard Youth Poll found that younger voters’ traditionally low turnout may be different this fall: 63% of its respondents, aged 18-29, said they would “definitely be voting,” compared to 47% in 2016.
For many of them, like Joshi, TikTok has become an integral part of that experience. During this crisis-filled year, TikTok has emerged as a space where millions of Gen Zers have turned to take their political activism across the political spectrum. Since being launched in the U.S. in 2016, the platform now has over 100 million active users in the country. Between January 2018 and August 2020, it’s use went up an astronomical 800%. One media analyst called it the “winning social network of the pandemic,” as young creators have broadened its landscape to dance videos, short skits and most recently, a platform to rally on ahead of the November election.