Gigi Perlman, Grade 10, Staff Writer
The TikTok hashtag “#nyctiktok” has over 175 million views. If you scroll under the tag, you’ll find influencers sharing NYC ‘day in the life’ videos, luxury apartment tours, and five-star food reviews, all while being Ubered from one place to another. These videos are made attractive with filters, young people, and pricey items.
TikTok romanticizes city life. It portrays the idealistic life of white, upper-class twenty-somethings living downtown. New York City-related content has exploded in 2021, and as a result, more people are moving to the city and tourism has boomed, especially after vaccine distribution increased. Young people coming here for the first time are watching these NYC creators’ fun, carefree lifestyle—a false narrative of living in New York City.
Infamous TikTokers @gab_nyc, @theviplist, and @victoriaparis are just a few examples, having amassed over one million followers combined. They dine at high-end restaurants multiple times a week and live in luxury high rises, posting every envy-inducing experience. The portrayal of New York City as an upper-class utopia is far from accurate, and may also be damaging to the city.
New York City has a huge homelessness and housing issue, with 47,916 homeless people living on the streets of New York in 2021, according to Coalition for the Homeless. Rich content creators are only adding to the issue. They advertise and encourage the “city-living” dream that out-of-towners have and push out low-income residents while failing to show what much of the city is made of: ethnic communities, lower- or middle-income communities, and those living anywhere outside of lower Manhattan. Those who can afford the most expensive city in the U.S. and flaunt it as their job are not what makes New York, New York.
Many native New Yorkers find it frustrating. Teenagers in the city, the primary viewers of these TikToks, consistently critique the unrealistic display of their hometown. “Well to newcomers it’s just a false, tourist perception. You aren’t going to get the rich, exciting, and pretty life that only the 1% live,” said HSAS sophomore Kathleen Halley-Segal. “These influencers sell the illusion that living luxuriously in New York comes at no cost or stress. Seeing a fifteen-second video of them showing off a day in their life or apartment tour leaves no one with the question of, ‘How can they even afford this kind of life?’”
The aesthetic of New York City on TikTok goes farther than a single eye-catching video. “There are big issues here that need to be addressed. These rich influencers contribute to them and don’t bother to address that because it’s not fitting to their lifestyle,” Halley-Segal added.
When those who can afford to give back to their communities and share this opportunity choose not to, they actively exclude the voices of those marginalized. It’s the least they owe to their new home.