TikTok’s influence on culture may've reached an all-time high this year. Content creators are using TikTok to make their mark on the world in as little as 15 seconds, sparking conversation among youth on salient social topics. Whether it’s giving lessons on racial history or advocating for environmental legislation, these are the influencers who used TikTok to enact change this year.
Kate Glavan (@kateglavan)
If you use TikTok, you’ve likely seen one of Glavan's videos on your For You Page. Her content runs the gamut from making politics digestible to breaking down the wellness industry or advocating for environmental justice. Kate shares what she calls the “unsexy stuff,” like how to find your local council member, and also starts broader conversations about individual versus systemic action on climate change.
“Should we care about our own carbon footprint, or is that the government’s job? Is it worth recycling if the majority ends up in a landfill? When it comes to these big questions, it’s important to look at what you touch every day and think about little fixes you can make that don’t feel overwhelming,” Glavan told LX.
Through her TikToks, Glavan is reshaping the climate change narrative.
“Part of the battle with climate change is that a lot of meaning gets lost in scientific jargon. We have to talk about it in a way that makes sense and brings people of color to the center of the conversation since they bear the brunt of the climate crisis,” she said.
Kate’s podcast, "What the F*ck is Sea Moss? Debunking the Wild World of Wellness," and her TikTok also expose elitism in the wellness industry and unpack public health issues. “Wellness should be thinking about why my community’s water source is polluted, not buying a $15 green smoothie,” Glavan said.
Jessica Kellgren-Fozard (@jessicaoutofthecloset)
Kellgren-Fozard is a British creator who shares videos on disability and LGBTQ+ inclusivity. As a deaf and partially blind woman who lives with chronic illnesses, she uses TikTok to shine an honest light on what life with a disability entails. Kellgren-Fozard was born with mixed connective tissue disease, hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, among other conditions. As a result, it’s common for her to wake up with dislocated bones, extreme nausea or intense pain. Her content delves into topics like finding the right hearing aid, ableism, queer history and being a mother with disabilities to son Rupert.
Scrolling through Kellgren-Fozard's TikTok, you can feel her warm, inviting energy and positivity. From her thoughts on navigating the dating world to fighting against the stereotype that disabled people are "inspirational," she has given her TikTok followers a front-row seat to the ups and downs of her world. As an advocate for inclusivity and social change, Kellgren-Fozard reached a massive audience this year. (Think: almost 4 million likes on her videos).
Kahlil Greene (@kahlilgreene)
Greene is a senior at Yale University graduating as a history major this month. The Germantown, Maryland, native was Yale’s first ever Black student body president and calls himself a “Gen-Z Historian” on his social media profiles, which focus on race history and social movements. Greene got started on TikTok at the beginning of 2021 with his first post explaining how Martin Luther King Jr. quotes are often whitewashed and ultimately undermine King’s message. Since then, Greene has continued making content about how historical events shape the world around us.
“I try to emphasize the true weight of American injustice. People understand certain countries to have a brutal history but don’t associate those same horrors with the colonization of America and the racial injustices we still face. I try to tie history into what’s going on in the world today, with topics like cultural appropriation and food deserts,” Greene told LX.
Greene's passion for history spurred from his coursework at Yale, where he focuses on social change. He believes that history is vital in providing a template for how to address societal issues and hopes to get youth engaged in the conversation via TikTok. Greene explained: “The racial bias we have today is not new. By looking back in history to times we have faced similar injustice, we can see what worked and what didn’t work to effectively make change.”
Amelie Zilber (@ameliezilber)
At 18 years old, Zilber has cemented herself as one of TikTok’s most influential creators. The model and activist spreads political awareness to her audience of 7.2 million followers. As a middle schooler, she started a newsletter called Two Minute Times, which made complex, current events understandable to youth. Now, she's on a mission to make political activism trendy among Gen Z. Whenever a major news story breaks, you can trust Amelie to have a TikTok explaining what happened and why it matters. This year, she has covered topics like Kyle Rittenhouse, school shootings, Afghanistan and the For the People Act.
Zilber juggles a lot as a TikTok creator, student at Georgetown University and Young Ambassador for UNICEF. Her journey as a political activist culminated in an invitation from the White House earlier this month, where she interviewed politicians. Earlier this year, she participated in the White House’s social media briefing with Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Akram Mohsin (@akramadinas)
Mohsin decided to start posting on TikTok to showcase customers at his family business, a gas station in Fresno, California. The videos of individuals singing, dancing and expressing kindness resonated with TikTok users, and many wanted to help after learning that many of the stars of Mohsin's videos are homeless. Strangers on TikTok started sending Mohsin packages from Amazon, cash donations, clothes and gifts for his friends.
“I started posting videos of the spontaneous things happening in my area, where there’s a lot of homeless people,” Mohsin explained. “My followers first laughed at the content, and then became invested and wanted to learn more about their stories. I recorded videos about their backgrounds and suddenly everyone wanted to help.”
The gratitude, hope and compassion on Mohsin's TikTok has garnered him an audience of 3.7 million followers that’s growing by the day.
“The homeless are still people, they’re not invisible. A lot of people turn a blind eye to the homeless and judge them, but if you go to my page you’ll be laughing from their humor and crying from hearing their stories,” Mohsin told LX.