TikTok is often thought of as a social media app used by kids to share silly videos. But the reality is that TikTok is quickly becoming a major platform for people to educate others about protecting the environment.
For instance, Philip Aiken has received more than 1.4m likes on the app. But his videos don’t feature cute animals, and there are no celebrities to be seen. Aiken’s posts are about soil restoration. The 27-year-old is one of a growing number of TikTok users discussing the benefits of boosting biodiversity in green spaces and gardens against a backdrop of viral sounds.
“I see it as like planting seeds, and hopefully that germinates and that person wants to learn more,” says Aiken, known as Phil the Fixer on TikTok.
The most-viewed biodiversity TikToks poke fun at monoculture lawns, praise the qualities of moss, provide explainers, supporting indigenous practices, and warn of mass extinction. TikTok has around 800m active users worldwide and is particularly popular with Generation Z: an estimated 60% of users were born after the mid-90s. The images and clips go on to reach new audiences when reposted on Twitter and Facebook. A subculture known as “grass TikTok” – which has gathered nearly 380 million views – has also emerged on the app. Its community interacts with content about plant species.
Top creator Evan Phillips, who has more than half a million followers, rates different types of grass and posts pictures of fans’ gardens; he has even brought out grass-themed merchandise. Another TikTok content creator, Casey Shultis, 18, believes lockdown has further increased engagement.
“People are sitting at home and now have the time to learn more about biodiversity and the environmental crisis,” he says. “I encourage people to understand the importance of planting native biodiversity while also seeing the beauty that comes along with it.”
This story goes to show that while we may write off social media use as a bad thing for the younger generations, the fact of the matter is that it can truly be a powerful platform for affecting change.