The Snowball Effect

Amanda Glynn
July 14, 2021

Scrolling through TikTok, it is easy to see the same trend or hear the same audio over and over again. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve had “Castaways” stuck in our heads, or seen the Marie Antionette filter in our dreams. The app has fostered a collaborative culture, of users feeding off of each other’s videos and ideas creating popular trends, hashtags, audios, and much more. If you’ve ever used TikTok, you’ve probably experienced it yourself - the endless scroll syndrome. TikTok’s unique algorithm of the For You Page (FYP) has the ability to suck users in for hours and hours on end. But how?

A prominent reason behind this phenomenon is the snowball effect. On TikTok, what starts as a singular audio, hashtag, or trend, easily evolves into something larger. Unlike other social media platforms like Instagram/Facebook where a user’s newsfeed is reliant on who they follow, TikTok users have a much wider range of content. With the unique algorithm of the For You Page, TikTok users do not need to follow certain accounts or users to see relevant content. Instead, content appears on the page organically - and 9 out of 10 times, the algorithm gets it right. This creates larger visibility for all creators on the app and makes it easy for videos to become viral, spreading to millions of users quickly. Not only does this algorithm increase exposure, but it also enhances creator collaboration. Ideas and videos are easily built upon by other users fostering an abundance of creativity. This collaboration and building of ideas is the snowball effect. 

A good example is shown by @emwolfee who unpacks the snowball effect on TikTok with a personal viral story. Watch the TikTok here. 

Some might wonder - is the snowball effect a generational fad? In her video, @emwolfee explains that this unique collaboration is due to the wit and creativity of Gen-Z. With a deep understanding of technology and a unique ability to connect with others, Gen-Z is able to adapt quickly to change which gives them the ability to rapidly build upon each other's ideas to create something greater. However, @emwolfee’s video received a lot of negative feedback. Other TikTok users commented that this creativity and culture is not unique or caused by Gen-Z’s influence.The users are arguing that creativity is not a generational thing and that the snowball effect is purely enabled by the internet as a whole.

Regardless of who is responsible for this collaborative culture, it's evident that there is a place for everyone on TikTok - and due to the snowball effect, everyone has a chance of virality and recognition, even when you least expect it.